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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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#157: Using National Trends to Identify Consulting Opportunities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As the economy rebounds, where can I find broad targets for my consulting services?

Race car drivers accelerate coming out of a turn instead of waiting for the straightaway. This is also a good model for consultants. What areas of the economy and your market are going to be slow to recover or never recover? Which of your clients will you stand by if it takes longer to get back to their former strength? What trends were you counting on that are picking up strength or were shut off by a changing economy? Now is a great time to be looking at national trends to see where you can begin to cultivate opportunities.

Many major trade organizations publish occasional "state of the industry" summaries. Recognizing that these are promotional to some extent, they still contain good information on current structure, capacity, demand for products, and changes in production practices or consumption of its products. Look at the State of the Carwash Industry as an example. Here is an industry that many management consultants might consider "under the radar" as a prospect but the industry faces some challenges for which you might be able to provide value. Go to the trade associations to which your clients belong and see what they have. Also consider government reports that address more macro trends or longer term trends. These reports, even if they are not in your industry, can provide some deep insights into how the economy is changing and where your opportunities may lie. For example, a report on measurement of productivity in the construction industry highlights a lot of opportunities for consulting work related to assessment, performance measurement, and project evaluation (if that's your area of interest and expertise).

Tip: If the trade association for your industry has no such "State of the Industry" research, and you feel reasonably sure you know a lot about the industry, suggest teaming up with the association's research staff in developing such a report. This is something their members would value and what better way to get known as the "industry expert" than to have the implicit endorsement of a trade association.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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#155: How Do Things Even Get On Your "To-Do" List?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 16, 2009
Updated: Saturday, October 17, 2009
Is anyone else overwhelmed with client service, family, business development, community participation, practice management, sleep and carving out time for one's self? Sure, time management suggestions help, but how do I shrink the list?

Maybe the answer lies inside the question itself. We all have "to-do" lists that can get pretty large sometimes. The question may not be how to work faster and more efficiently to whittle down the list, but how to keep things from getting on the list in the first place.

Take a look at the list you have now. If you have multiple lists, lay them out in front of you, or consolidate them. Now consider each goal you have for yourself for the coming year or two (e.g., family, business, health, spiritual growth). Rank each list task by what goal it serves and whether this activity delivers long term or short term value. Finally, for each goal, check off the tasks that were not ones that you generated yourself. How many tasks made it onto your list as requests from others? Are these dominating your list, and are they more important than ones you have placed on your list?

Tip: It may be even more important to make sure we are not unnecessarily inviting things to go on the list. We often add to our lists because we have an idea for something we'd like to do or think we should do. However, we do not often enough take time to compare it to other items on our list or that could be on our list for a given goal. Both before adding tasks and frequently afterward, review your tasks by goal and reorder and allocate time relative to how effectively they will reach some goal. Be particularly ruthless about tasks imposed by others that really don't advance you toward your goals. It is OK to remove tasks that really don't belong there.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  guidance  planning  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#151: Creating an Engagement Playbook

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 12, 2009
How important is documenting your consulting processes? I don't plan to write a book, nor are my clients the same from year to year.

In most cases, you would advise your clients to follow evidence-based management, so why wouldn't you do the same for your own practice? Even though many of our engagements are designed for each client, there are many similarities in our approach, execution and follow up. Over the years, whether we were or are in a large firm, small firm, internal practice or as an independent (often most of the above) we will develop our own best practices. Documenting these approaches allows us to jumpstart new engagements, bypassing most of the design phase. A "playbook" of project templates, evaluation formats, checklists and resources is one way you build differentiation and efficiency.

Reviewing your past practices, combined with regular reading and research about consulting and management, can lead you to steady improvement in your consulting. One place where you generate some of the most dynamic advances in your best practices is when you work with other consultants. Working with the same team may polish your approach, but working with other firms in partnership is where you test alternative approaches. It's like having in-house R&D.

Tip: Create a hardcopy loose-leaf notebook or electronic equivalent of practice management, marketing and engagement processes. If you haven't already done so, start building these with generic versions of each project's documents. Every time you conclude a project stage, look at how you might adapt or improve your playbooks. This might mean adapting an existing component or adding an alternative (e.g., marketing approaches for very different types of clients, process flows for different industries).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting process  engagement management  intellectual property  market research  planning  practice management  quality  your consulting practice 

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#126: When to Drop a Service from Your Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, September 7, 2009
We offer several services to clients around teambuilding, organizational assessments, and leadership and culture transformations. We occasionally introduce new services and products but are unclear which ones will be winners because each seems to have some clients who like them. How can we tell which ones to invest in and which to drop if they all sell reasonably well?

There are emotional and logical aspects to this problem. First, you developed a new service because you saw a need in the marketplace and/or you had a capability and a passion to provide a service. Your company committed resources to its development and market testing then, with high hopes, you launched it to at least modest success. This is the emotional part, having invested both desire and hope into a new way to provide services.

The second, logical, part is the financial aspect of running your business. You are a consultant because you want to help clients improve their leadership and culture, but you do so as a business. In any "helping profession" like management consulting, many of us would provide the services we do for free if we were independently wealthy. Hence the quandary when we deliver a service in which we are emotionally invested but one that does not produce much in the way of profits. The trick is to set up the conditions for deciding to invest or terminate before you launch, and stick to them.

Tip: Part of your planning for a new service must be the profitability of that service. If you are selling a service at a bare minimum, you are starving other services for which you could be making a much larger profit - and whose value to clients is much larger. Two points. First, you need to really understand how much a service is costing you to provide. This means tracking full costs of marketing, administration, and delivery and weighing this against revenues and risk. Second, set some standards for how you will evaluate your service's profitability and when. Usually, if you don't have a demonstrably successful product launch (when enthusiasm is highest and you target your best prospects) the likelihood for increased profitability is lower. Be realistic about your natural inclination to think "costs will decrease with experience" and “more clients will come once they hear about this service." This may be true, but if your service doesn't make the grade with your best shot, drop it and improve your most client-valued services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  market research  marketing  planning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#120: Are You Worrying Too Much About "Restoring" Your Consulting Business?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 28, 2009
I have been working really hard over the past year to get my consulting practice back on track. What new hurdles will consultants have to overcome until the market comes back?

Two issues come to mind. First, many in business recognize that economic conditions have been difficult over the past year. Our clients have challenged us to serve them better with innovative approaches to streamline processes, improve revenue and find new markets. Regardless of what challenges they face, our job is to use our skills and experience to help clients navigate into new markets in new economies, adopt new technologies, leverage new social and business relationships, and figure out new financing . . . get the picture? The theme is that economic disruptions, especially this one, accelerate changes that would have eventually come. They also create disruptive conditions to create new opportunities and challenges that no one expected.

Second, why should our consulting practices be any different than the business of our clients? We face the same accelerative and disruptive forces they do, so it stands to reason that our business would evolve like theirs. One aspect of this situation is that many parts of our business also may not be the same as they once were. While some aspects of our practice might look the same, there are distinct changes in consulting. Engagement sizes seem to be decreasing, clients are more selective about choosing for individual talent than firm pedigree, more are using pricing models, participative compensation or value pricing, and many clients are building internal consulting practices again. We are more likely to restore our consulting practice to health not by doing more of what we used to do but by doing what we advise our clients to do - create a new practice.

Tip: Do some research on the consulting marketplace and what clients need from consultants. Kennedy Information and Top-Consultant research and write about emerging consulting trends. Attend conferences like Confab where you can connect with experienced consultants in a range of fields who are successfully refining and building their practices. Write a business plan for your business that focuses on innovation instead of restoration.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  customer understanding  innovation  market research  planning  practice management  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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