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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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#531: Think About Networking in Terms of "Net Positive"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011
I occasionally get tired of having to go to networking events for my consulting firm. It is part of our overall marketing effort for senior consultants but is it effective for every consultant to participate?

Depending on your type of consulting practice, networking by every consultant in your firm may be more or less effective, but this depends on what you expect from it. If you believe that networking is a "have to" type of activity instead of an "opportunity to" activity, you are likely to be disappointed by your time spent doing so. I have two thoughts.

First, the strongest elements in a network are deep relationships. Take the time to find the right people to make part of your network, considering that half of the people you meet may not be right for your, or their, networking needs. Let "slow and steady" be your guide. The more times you connect with a person, the deeper your relationship.

Second, every individual benefits from a personal network, regardless of how "connected" your firm is. If your senior partners build powerful networks, that's great, but you still need to develop your own. Your personality, consulting approach and emerging needs extend beyond those of your firm.

Tip: Approach networking as an opportunity to help others, not rack up a collection of business cards. Your value as a networking partner is invisible until you make the offer to provide it to others.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  marketing  networks  trust  your consulting practice 

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#465: Social Media Can be Anything You Can Create

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 24, 2010
Updated: Friday, December 24, 2010
I am not a technological Luddite but I can't see how all this social media is useful for business. Beyond "having" a presence (website, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, Ning site, blog(s), Twitter, and syndication), it seems a colossal commitment of time that could be used to create product or deliver services.

Is social media useful for your own practice or your client's business? As any consultant can tell you, "it depends." Despite Pew Research findings that only 27% of US Internet users bother to read blogs, even back in 2008 we were still adding new blogs at a rate of 40,000 a day. Venture capital firms invested $60 million that year for startup blogging companies. Apparently blogging has enough value to attract capital. Finally, Twitter is berated by many as a waste of time, but Dell attributes more than $6.5 million of revenue last year from their Twitter presence (and that was more or less unintentional).

What is often missing in the "What Good is Social Media?" discussion is how it is being used. These technologies don't exist as add-ons - they are genuinely creating new ways to communicate in speed, content, interactivity, and functionality. But "being in social media" is of no value unless you are using it to further your current business goals. For example, a LinkedIn profile only has value as a reference point for your participation in (or starting and moderating) LinkedIn Groups. Setting up your own Ning social network is only as valuable as the community you create and maintain.

Tip: A great example of how digital media could transform our interaction is to look at a YouTube video of the "Digital Nativity" (easier if you know the Christian references to the story, but you can get the point even without them). There is "old school" ways of doing things and "really, really new school" ways. The market demands more than just good consulting services. It (legitimately or not) sees your engagement with the social and business community as evidence of your value and the transparency it affords as a measure of trust. Social media, done well, is one way to create that presence and trust.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  collaboration  communication  marketing  social media  technology  trust  website 

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#438: Consulting Humor: Do No Harm

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Third of five very telling jokes about consultants and how to avoid them being told at your expense.

The (original) Hippocratic Oath applies to management consulting just as it does to medical consulting. It states, in part: "I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone."

A doctor, engineer, and a consultant were arguing about which of their professions was the oldest.

The doctor explained, "The Bible says that God created Eve by removing a rib from Adam's side. Obviously this was surgery so it is easy to see that medicine is the oldest profession."

The engineer said, "Wait a minute. Before Adam, God created the heavens and the earth from chaos. You have to agree that this was a magnificent example of engineering, making it the oldest profession."

The consultant smiled and said, "Yes, but who do you think created the chaos?"

Takeaway: This is a painful reminder that there are consultants whose advice has indeed made a situation worse. This is often caused by lack of experience and skills in diagnosis, or not knowing the most feasible and realistic approach to acting on a client situation. This is another example where certification would help assure a client that a consultant has competence in a broad range of consulting skills and behaviors needed to make capable and effective diagnoses.

See more at (or contribute to) IMC's Consulting Humor blog

Tags:  consultant role  ethics  professionalism  reputation  trust  values 

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#412: Think Twice About Accepting an Assignment from Your Client's Competitor

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I have been working for a year with a major manufacturer. A few days ago, I received a call from my client's direct competitor, inquiring if I would be interested in performing some ad-hoc analysis for them. Although I certainly do not want to jeopardize the great relationship I have built with my largest client, accepting this assignment might result in obtaining more significant work from them in the future. Can you foresee any potential ethical issues with accepting this offer while continuing to work with my current client?

When you consider accepting simultaneous assignments (or similar subsequent work) with competitors, there is always a risk that either side might suspect some type of impropriety or conflict of interest, even if you don't. The IMC Code of Ethics (COE) provides guidance in avoiding such conflicts by recommending that members fully disclose details of the proposed assignment to both clients and obtaining express, written permission from both parties before accepting the work.

If either party raises concerns over the proposed work arrangement and these concerns cannot be resolved, the consultant should express a willingness to reject the new assignment (or withdraw from both assignments, if necessary). I have done this whenworking for two cllients who were facing each other in court. A full and advance disclosure and offer to withdraw resulted in both clietns accpeting my continued work for them, both noting that my CMC designation and commitment to ethics made a difference to them.

Even if the new arrangement is fully disclosed and permission to proceed is mutually granted, actively working for competing clients may have unforeseen risks. For example, a conflict of interest could develop from the unintentional sharing of client- proprietary information. You must be extremely careful not to apply specific solutions designed for one client to those of a competitor without mutual, express permission. Breaches in confidentiality may also result from carelessness (e.g., casual conversation overheard in public) or even by not employing proper data safeguarding (e.g., passwords, encryption, document destruction, etc.).

Tip: Following the COE, and then some, is the best way to avoid client dissatisfaction with your services and potentially irreversible damage to your professional reputation.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  trust  your consulting practice 

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#362: Keep Your Ego in Check When Selling Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 3, 2010
What can a consultant do with a client whose experience or that of his or her peers leaves them with a sense that consultants are arrogant and their advice needs to be viewed skeptically?

Regrettably, there are some consultants (like in any profession) whose attitude and presumption of being the expert will leave clients with the feeling you describe. The seemingly regular stream of negative newspaper stories and expose books on the consulting profession do not help the image of the consultant. However, you can mitigate this impression by your own behavior, both during the selling process as well as during the engagement. Both have to do with checking your ego at the door.

It is understandable to promote your successes when marketing your services, but clients only want to hear about what you did for the client, not how great you were in doing so. Remember, it is about them, not you. During the engagement, provide information and suggestions, not dictates. There are consultants who present findings as definitive and recommendations as conclusive. Both findings and recommendations are your best professional advice but reserve some humility that you might be in error and that it is in both the consultant and client's interest to arrive mutually at the best solutions possible.

Tip: "You Should..." are two words that are NOT music to the ears of your client. Without sounding unconfident, phrase your recommendations as "Our best research and analysis leads us to this finding and, based on this evidence, we recommend you consider ABC as your best option." Clients are at a (hopefully small) risk when taking your advice - don't compound it by sounding arrogant.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  professionalism  trust 

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