Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In
Daily Tips for Consultants
Blog Home All Blogs
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.

 

Search all posts for:   

 

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 

#697: Consultants Need Business Continuity Plans

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Given that I am an independent consultant, is it really necessary to have a formal business continuity plan?

This all depends on what you mean by a business continuity plan. Traditionally such a plan is created to manage an organization through a disaster such as a fire, earthquake or other unusual and catastrophic event. This is the old "disaster recovery plan," which has been expanded to accommodate more organizational components (than just saving financial or data records) and more preparation and even training. The goal is to minimize the disruption to the business in the event of a disaster.

As a solo practitioner, your systems are likely to be fairly simple and a formal plan may be overkill. Conversely, many small businesses have quite a few systems or assets to protect and operations to provide for. You may have computer files that call for offsite backup, ongoing client communications that need redundancy, a base of operations in which to work during recovery, etc. Being small doesn't mean you don't need planning, it just means the scale of response may not be as big as for a bigger business.

Furthermore, there are hazards you face that larger businesses do not. Illness of the entire staff (you) is little different from the impact of pandemic flu keeping a company's whole workforce off the job. Your business may be less complex but there is greater risk of entire systems being compromised, such as when your laptop (the company's entire IT department) gets flooded when a pipe bursts.

Tip: Make a list of your critical systems and a list of what is the worst (and second and third worst) things that could happen to compromise them. How will you market and deliver services to your clients under each of these situations? What can you do to both prevent their occurrence and speed up response and recovery? Maybe it's not a formal plan, but at least you will have thought this through. Ask to see a friend's plan and see what each of you have missed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  planning  practice management  risk analysis  security  your consulting practice 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#685: Consultants Need to Understand Type I and Type II Errors

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 28, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011
I always hear about Type I and Type II errors in business and how important it is that consultants understand these concepts. Why should I care about this?

People are referring to a statistical concept where a Type I error is a false positive and Type II error is a false negative. For the statistician, a Type I error is rejecting the null hypothesis when it should have been accepted. For a businessperson or consultant, a Type I error is seeing something that is not really there. Type II errors are missing something that is really there (and potentially company making or breaking).

A Type II error (false negative) can be serious when looking at competitive markets or human resource issues such as culture or employee opinions. Inadequate surveys or incomplete analysis may lead a consultant to conclude that there are not serious competitors or impending revolts among employees when, in fact, there are. Depending on the situation, a Type II error may result in serious losses for a company or put it out of business.

False positives are of most interest to consultants engaging in diagnostic or investigative activities, in two ways. As a consultant whose job it is to find problems to solve or opportunities to capture, we are looking for something on which to act. Maybe a process is "broken" or a market is "large and available" to your client. In either case, you may identify something that is not really significant enough to expend resources on. Alternatively, as a result of your activities, you conclude that your impact is significant when it really is not. In both cases, you have overstated the significance, or even existence, of your role to the client. Understanding Type I and Type II errors gives you good perspective on your role and significance to a client.

Tip: Think in terms of medical testing when you consider how you are going to control for Type I and Type II errors. The worst outcome when looking for a serious disease is to conclude it is not present when it is (Type II). To accommodate that, we use screening procedures that are relatively fast, cheap and for which we can tolerate a Type I (false positive) error. As a consultant, you may want to develop protocols that let you quickly tease out potential problem areas and for which you recognize there may be Type I errors. Those items that show up may be real or, more likely, false positives. Then you can proceed with more focused and rigorous protocols to look more closely at an issue, recognizing that what you want to avoid is a Type II error (false negative). You don't have to be a statistician to understand the concept and how your ability to mitigate risk on behalf of your client is a significant value added.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  assessment  assumptions  consulting terminology  consulting tools  diagnosis  information management  recommendations  risk analysis  statistics 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#656: Project Failure Early Warning

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 19, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011
Most consulting engagements go according to plan and deliver great value to the client. However, we all have had projects that go off the rails, either because of something we or others did. How can I know well ahead of time when a project is headed for failure?

One of the best ways to increase the probability of project success is to be vigilant that project failure is right around the corner. Despite our omniscient plan and exceptional project management skills, we do not control all aspects of a project. Client leadership, staff resources, the client company's market, communication miscues, lack of needed skills and other glitches can thwart an otherwise good plan.

Your project management plan, which you must develop jointly with your client, should address project risks explicitly. What if the client cannot provide the specified corporate leadership? What if the needed resources are not made available to you? What if your attempts to work with staff are resisted? What if you are not able to provide sufficient skills or resources to meet your commitments or resolve shortcomings elsewhere in the project? What are the biggest risks to project success and what (specific) mitigation or response steps are you both willing to make?

Tip: No one likes surprises. At the beginning of the engagement and, as often as you mutually deem appropriate, discuss how the project is proceeding and what risks have increased or new ones have surfaced. Make sure each major task area has been assigned as to both responsibility and accountability (often not the same person). This is no time to be either shy or proud. List every risk you can think of. Finally, stay well ahead of the plan by putting in place people and skills needed to assure project completion according to time, budget, quality and outcomes.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  project management  risk analysis 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#618: How to Get Your New Ideas Off the Ground

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I have lots of ideas about new consulting services and ways to market them. The problem is that I am so busy keeping up with my current business I am not sure what to give up to carve out time to try some of these new lines of business. It's not that I can't prioritize, but more that I am not sure what ideas are worth investing in.

In some ways, the fortunate consultant doesn't have many new ideas to try out. Their business just runs itself and evolves slowly as needed. The truly cursed consultant generates a steady stream of new ideas about practice management, marketing, client services and even entirely new lines of business. There's not enough time, capital, mindshare or energy to tackle even a few of these. The first of many decisions is to understand what risks are involved with trying new ideas (e.g., psychic or financial risks of failure, conflicts or branding risks of succeeding, among many others). What holds many of us back is not having a clear sense of both the path and the outcome of trying out such ideas.

That's just the pregame warm-up. The real issue is actually how to get off the ground what is likely to be a more complex, time consuming and costly idea than you planned. Is the concept really complete? Do I really have the capital? Who will backstop my current business while my attention is diverted? Can I jointly launch several of these ventures? If this sounds like a business plan, you're right. What keeps many of these ideas in the draft stage is a lack of thorough analysis of design, deployment and operation. Once we know exactly what is involved, a lot of these ideas either make no sense (so we can stop worrying about them) or they are obvious investments (and we can get started).

Tip: There’s one more step. Even after we have a competent business plan, we sometimes need a kick in the pants to get moving. No amount of risk or business analysis will give you this. It is all about personality, enthusiasm and feedback from your peers or the market. 99% is a smart collection of articles and (blissfully short and non-pedantic) videos about making ideas happen (there's a book by the site owner as well). Whenever you need some juice for your ideas, watch a few videos on areas like discipline, bias to action, focus and collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  decision making  intellectual property  motivation  planning  risk analysis  your consulting practice 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)
 

#492: The Possibility of Liability Comes With Your Recommendations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Am I liable if I make a recommendation that doesn't work out for my clients?

Yes and no. You are always going to be held "professionally" accountable (or measured) by your client based on your performance. Whether there is a presumption of legal liability depends on the kind of consulting work you do and how you position it with assumptions, disclaimers, etc. This is both a business and legal question. For the legal portion consult your attorney and check out The Consultant's Legal Guide published by Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tip: As a matter of good business, make sure you have both boilerplate disclaimers and qualified recommendations. Larger consulting firms have more to lose than independents simply as a matter of financial resources/exposure. Errors and Omissions insurance can be a useful risk mitigation strategy, at least to moderate the downside financial exposure incurred with a litigious client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  legal  recommendations  risk analysis 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)
 
Page 1 of 2
1  |  2