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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#357: Prepare a Disaster Plan for Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Despite the increasing incidence of somewhat spectacular natural and intentional disasters, the evidence clearly shows we are poorly prepared - either as individuals or as communities (or nations). Aside from helping my clients become better prepared, is there something we should be doing as a consulting firm to prepare?

Most people are optimists, believing that the worst will not happen to them. However, ask anyone who has recently been through an earthquake, weather related disaster, flood, near-miss of a terrorism incident or the regional economic devastation of an oil spill (for example). They will tell you also that they didn't think they needed to be prepared - or as prepared as they later realized. Your consulting firm is no different. How ready are you to withstand the impact, and recover from, a similar unexpected event?

From the simple (power surge that fries your hard drives and on-site backup systems, or a flood of your facilities) to more complex (outbreak of flu that keeps you or your staff out of work for several weeks, or a lawsuit that prevents you from using a technology or IP on which your practice is built), you need to have thought these events through. No one thinks it will happen to them and neither do you. It is time to lay out the events from which you can currently recover and ones you are unprepared for.

Tip: Take a cue from Ready.gov for business. Use these checklist and suggestions to help your own business as well as those of your clients. Who knows, you might even develop a new practice area in managing risk and disasters for a new groups of organizations.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  risk analysis  trends  your consulting practice 

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#353: The Value to Consultants of Role Playing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Our consulting team recently went through a bad experience with a client presentation where one of the client team harassed us about details of the engagement that weren't germane to the presentation, which really took us off our game and made us look bad. How should we have dealt with this?

Without more details it is hard to say but consultants do face this occasionally from hostile client staff. This is often a person who has something at stake by your being called in or as a result of your recommendations. First, regardless of how they behave, they are still the client's representative and you owe them a certain amount of respect. Second, this is the kind of thing you would have discussed with your client sponsor during project planning. Dealing with resistance among staff, either during the engagement, at a presentation, or after you leave are considered standard topics on which to advise clients.

However, this does not mean you can't defend yourself against a hostile client by being prepared. If you suspect you are going to be ambushed, an excellent tactic is to role play the presentation with one member of the consulting team acting as the hostile staff member. This will both give you a chance to surface possible objections and challenges and make sure you have the data, logic and response ready. A second benefit of role playing is to give you confidence that you have an even more solid handle on your findings and recommendations than you would otherwise.

Tip: Expanding your role playing to include a strong challenger (the original basis of the "devil's advocate" to challenge candidates for sainthood) goes beyond just a traditional dry run. Make sure you are ready for anything during your preparation by anticipating the worst and role playing to be sure you deliver a solid response.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding  engagement management  meeting preparation  planning 

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#347: You Are Not Too Busy to Plan Your Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I suspect I should follow the advice I give to clients when I tell them they need to rigorously plan their future. However, I think consulting is different, in that I am always attuned to changes in the market and client needs. If I have the advantage of always being on top of evolving needs and am agile enough to respond, why should I prepare a complex, formal plan? Besides, that is just time I could be billing or relaxing.

The notion of "planning" warrants some explanation. Dwight Eisenhower said, ""In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." It is not necessary to (a) create a complex, formal plan as you say, (b) spend a tremendous amount of time planning, or (c) consider a plan an immutable commitment of action for a long period of time. Planning is about making yourself aware of your capabilities (both strengths and opportunities for improvement), alternative scenarios in the market, and risks - al in the context of some explicit objectives and principles. It is a longer view than your perceive and adapt approach you imply. It is the habit of thinking in a structured way about your possible futures, but doing so with an eye to a desired future state. Your past success in adapting to a changing market is not necessarily a confirmation that you are making progress toward your goals.

Tip: Pick a planning framework and commit to quarterly planning sessions, preferably with a colleague or two, if not your advisory board. Annually this could be a half or full day, and quarterly a hour or two to review and defend your choices. It is about habit and progress toward a goal, not just staying alive in business for yet another quarter that is the mark of success.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#297: The Future of a Strategy Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Strategy consulting work seems to have dried up for our firm, as well as for many colleagues. Should we develop other practice areas?

The principles of management have not changed, nor have the needs of organizations for consulting services - in the long run. However, the nature and timing of what is most important in their need for advisory services does change over the short term. In challenging economic times, cost management and revenue growth rise to the top of the needs list. When new legislation is passed in a market, legal advice is needed. When the future is unclear and even survival is uncertain, many managers dial back on grand strategy development in favor of activities that will get them through the next quarter.

Strategy formation has already started to return as a legitimate and needed service. The recent Management Consulting Recruitment Channel Report 2010 by Top-Consultant says, "Strategy consulting, often the quickest to be hit in a downturn, can also be amongst the last to recover during an upturn. In many respects it’s the most discretionary type of consulting spend there is – and this has spillover effects on the hiring trends within strategy consulting. Given this, it is therefore heartening for the industry as a whole to see a general consensus that strategy consulting hiring will gather pace this year – one of the strongest indicators that as an industry we perceive the worst to be very much behind us."

Tip: Consulting services ebb and flow with client needs so, like your investment portfolio, consider offering a portfolio of countercyclical advisory services that serve your industry in lean and rich times. Your clients are (should) not just be clients when they need a specific service. They, and you, are better off if you can provide a continuum of services that are available when they need them.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  planning  practice management  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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#290: Presentation Disasters

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 23, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 23, 2010
I recently attended a seminar held by a fellow consultant. During the presentation, his computer ran out of batteries and he had forgotten his power supply. The material he was presenting to the group abruptly stopped and he was forced to continue the seminar without the benefit of his slides. Unfortunately, the rest of the seminar was not well received, as the presenter never truly recovered from losing his material. What a nightmare!

A/V problems occur, and when they do, it's better to be in the audience than leafing through the projector manual and fielding "helpful" suggestions from the audience. This is classic risk management - making sure the worst case doesn't happen.

First, be able to walk through your material without the A/V. If you understand the material well enough, even with a few notes to make sure you cover all items, then you will not miss a PowerPoint "crutch."

If that's not possible, always test the computer and projector in advance with a dry run. Go through the list of failsafe items: your power supply, laser pointer, three pronged adapter plug (the $0.50 part that could save the day), a flash drive with a copy of your presentation. If possible, make sure there is an extra projector and/or computer available just in case. Always bring a paper copy of the presentation with you and, if possible, some handout copies for the audience.

Don't panic. This can be as uncomfortable to the audience as it is to you. Finish your thought with confidence and then decide how to proceed. If a hardware change is necessary and possible, calmly ask for a short break to make the switch. If you are prepared for what to do in these circumstances in advance, it should be as simple as executing your plan for continuing your presentation.

Tip: Even if you are ready to restart, this doesn't mean the audience is. Even a few minute break can bring the mood and attention of the room to a dead stop. The sign of a pro is, when you restart, to rewind your presentation a bit and review the few minutes prior to the event. Make sure the audience is in sync with you by summarizing the top few points of the presentation (your roadmap) and making sure everyone is back on board before you proceed. Given that you are in a break, this is a good time to offer to answer any questions. Your goal is to make it like it never happened.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meetings  planning  presentations 

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