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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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#677: Is Consulting All You Do?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
My consulting career is going pretty well, with a full book of business and a growing staff. It does occupy a lot of time and there are times when I feel like I am giving up on other experiences. Does a successful consulting practice preclude other activities?

Consulting can be time consuming, but doesn't have to overwhelm other aspects of your professional life. In its traditional form, consulting involves building relationships, developing professional skills and technology, and applying them through time spent solving problems. As a professional who brings together experience, skills and perspective, it doesn't have to all be time intensive one-on-one consultation with a client.

There is a range of opportunities to use your expertise in other ways:
  1. Writing - Take on a column, blog, book, white paper, etc. to bring new perspective to your practice, build your visibility and create some lasting value from your expertise.
  2. Speaking - At any level, speak to trade associations, business or consulting conferences, or to community groups about topics related to your area of expertise.
  3. Research - Conduct some data collection, surveys, analysis or other approach to generating new information about your area of expertise or interest.
  4. Volunteering - Give back to your community by offering your management and consulting skills to local nonprofit organizations.
  5. Productizing - Turn your expertise into tangible products such as book or DVD "how to" guides.
  6. Starting Another Business - There is no reason why you can't extend your work into non-consulting businesses related to your area of expertise, as long as you manage conflicts of interest.
  7. Partnering With Other People - Find individuals with whom you have not worked before and who you respect to develop new partnerships with, getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps a new way of practicing your consulting.
Any of these approaches is a way to freshen your consulting business and develop some new perspectives outside of the traditional day to day advice business.

Tip: Perhaps overlooked by many consultants are hobbies. Consider ways to pursue your passion in areas totally outside of consulting. For example, if you are a process consultant, you might enjoy furniture making, where details, procedures and materials combine just as in process reengineering but to produce a tangible object. If you thrive on platform speaking, maybe you could lend your passion to teach acting or storytelling. There are lots of examples but each hobby or other pursuit allows you to use or utilize your skills and interests in something other than consulting.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  community service  mentor  pro bono  publishing  teaching  teaching/training  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#674: White Papers Have Multiple Avenues of Value for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Is there any value to consulltants in writing "white papers"?

White papers are short written discussions of topics, usually about trends in a subject or (presumably) an authoritative guide of how to do something. Companies use them to describe their position in the market or about how their products or services work. A consultant may write a white paper to describe their consulting services but more often it would focus on developments in their industry or functional discipline. The intent is to show a command of the subject matter, an innovative perspective, or a solution to a difficult problem.

The problem many consultants have is that they think of this as a book report or summary of the literature on a problem in their area of specialty. Many also do not think they have enough information or perspective to write anything groundbreaking. This is OK, because writing white papers has other benefits and can take time to develop a skill in writing them.

Having white papers benefits you in two ways. First, it can focus your thinking about your industry or discipline by forcing you to articulate the key factors that are driving an industry or important current issues in your discipline. This makes sure you are on top of these issues and not just relying on conventional wisdom. You'll have to defend your conclusions and recommendations in the white paper, so they had best be on target. Second, a well written and insightful white paper is an effective marketing piece. Sent to a prospective or current client, a white paper will almost always elicit a comment, thank you, alternative perspective, or inquiry about your services. In any case, you win by engaging a client in a discussion about their business, with your insight as the topic of conversation.

Tip: Pick three topics: one about the primary industry you consult to, another about an emerging issue in the general economy likely to affect this industry, and a third of how your primary technical discipline is undergoing changes (these are illustrative so you can choose others). Commit to writing a white paper on each in the next three months. Develop an outline, ask colleagues for feedback, conduct a short survey or some research, and then draft a 3-5 page version. Have colleagues or clients review the draft. Look for alternative or contrary views on your selected topic. Tighten the writing. Take the best of these three papers and identify colleagues, clients or prospects (or media) you think would appreciate hearing from you and discussing the topic. Based on the resulting exchange, refine the paper and post on your website. You now have a good first white paper - and some perspective on how to make the next ones even better. Having five to ten white papers enhances both your credibility as an expert but also makes sure you are on top of emerging trends in your industry.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  professional development  publishing  reputation  writing 

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#610: Simplifying Your Writing to Better Communicate

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 15, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 15, 2011
It is sometimes a little tricky deciding how complex to make my client briefings and analysis reports. Clients generally want precise and explicit language but reports that may be made public or for various audiences are best simpler. Are there any rules or advice about what level of reading difficulty is best?

First, take Albert Einstein's advice to "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." It is hard to go wrong writing as simply as possible, as if you were trying to explain your findings and recommendations to a 10th grader. Some consultants will bristle at this suggestion, claiming that their sophisticated analysis must mirror the complexity of the client's situation or market or strategy and all their communication demands complex language. This defies both logic and experience. Any consultant leaning on complex language probably lacks sufficient understanding of the basic principles and processes about which he or she is speaking.

Second, drifting into consultant-speak is a sure way to lose touch with your audience. You may have a vigorous discussion with your technical counterpart or the CEO using technical language, but it is the customers, staff, and other stakeholders who must eventually accept and act on your recommendations, If you want your findings and recommendations to live past the first reading of you report, put them in plain English.

You can use any of several automated tools to train you to streamline your words. These tools analyze your text for length and complexity of sentences and number of syllables per word. One document readability tool I like lets you enter text and gives Flesh Kincaid and other readability indices. This tool is really useful by telling you which sentences most violate simple language rules. Readability is stated as a grade level (i.e., number of years of education needed to understand the text). For example, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is at grade 13.4 (one year of college) while Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" is at grade 2.9.

Tip: Analyze your website, client reports, engagement letters, press releases and client communication. You will likely be shocked at how many of these communications are at college level. Use these analyses to simplify your writing. I suspect you will lose nothing of the meaning by streamlining the language.

P.S. This tip has a readability score of 11.2. A rewrite could simplify and clarify sentences without reduucing quality.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting terminology  information management  interpretation  presentations  publishing  recommendations  speaking  website 

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#401: Understand Misconceptions About Publishers Before You Write That Book

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 27, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 27, 2010
I want to publish a book but people who done it tell me getting a publisher is not always easy. What do I need to know as a "reality check” before I get going? Isn’t getting a publisher the best way to go? 

Many people fail to realize that signing a contract with a book publisher comes with its own set of problems. Contrary to widespread assumption, a commercial book publisher typically does not take care of its authors with much help in either promotion or distribution.
  • Misconception 1: A book publisher will aggressively promote me and my book, ensuring my book the widest possible visibility.
  • Misconception 2: A publisher will make sure my book gets on the shelves of all the nation’s bookstores, especially the largest ones.
  • Misconception 3: A publisher will endorse, print, and communicate my ideas the way I conceive them and arrange them.
  • Misconception 4: A publisher will provide me with a sizable monetary advance, allowing me to take time off from my regular work so that I can focus exclusively on the book.
  • Misconception 5: A publisher will keep my book in circulation long enough for it to find its audience and build a following.
  • Misconception 6: A publisher will keep the book updated by coming out with revised editions.
If you have any of these thoughts, then you need to work with a publisher or a publishing advisor.

Tip: For a reality-check for you so you'll know what you’re getting into, check The Expert's Edge: Become the Go-To Authority People Turn to Every Time(McGraw Hill) by Ken Lizotte CMC.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  publicity  publishing 

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