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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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#657: Surround Yourself With the Right People

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have pretty good professional and personal networks. They provide a good way to refer work to others and receive referrals as well. How can I move my network up a notch?

First, be clear (this means writing it down) what you think is the goal of your network(s). People use them in different ways and the "next step" could be different for each network objective.

Objectives could include referral targets, useful to you because companies will come to you because you can always find the right consultant (if it isn't you). A network can also provide you leads, assuming you are clear about what type of leads you seek and those in your network are clear about your needs. There is also a network of people who can provide you technical, market or trend information when you don't need expertise, per se, in the form of a consultant. There is a use for a parallel network where you are the source for information, be it for media, government, nonprofit or other "non-consulting" entities, for whom your expertise is valuable.

Tip: Given list of your objectives, name five people for each objective that come to mind immediately as the people who could help you or be helped by you. If you can't come up with five, do a little research or ask others in your current networks who they consider their dream team of advisers and contacts they want to be in their networks. These should be people you wouldn't normally consider in your network; they would be more visible, more influential, and more in need of your services or information.

Pick only one off the list and contact them with a few ideas of how you could work together. Spend a few weeks developing this new addition to your network and evaluate your approach to growing your connections. Every few weeks (your pace may vary), pick another person and work them into your network. Based on this success, reevaluate the others on your network and recalibrate how helpful you can be or they can help you.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  networks  referrals  teaming  virtual teams  your consulting practice 

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#222: The Value of Consultants Playing "Second Fiddle"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Having spent decades building my firm and procedures, I enjoy designing and managing my own engagements. Why should I team with others and compromise my standards and practices?

I can certainly understand your pride in the processes and practice you have developed. However, part of our value as consultants comes from the continuous advancement of our skills, perspectives, independence and objectivity. Part of that is not becoming stale in our skills or limited in our perspective. Whenever we have opportunities to learn new consulting skills or behaviors, we should take them.

Whenever we can expand our scope or perspectives, we should also do so. One way we can do this is to work with other consultants on teams. Sharing the design or management of an engagement helps us see that our approach is not the only one. Even when we don't agree with the other consultants on the team, who is to say that there is not some value in seeing how other industries or disciplines look at a management issue? Being part of a team does not require you give up your standards or professionalism, just that you let someone else take the lead.

Tip: There is something to be said, regardless of our level of experience, for playing "second fiddle" on a consulting engagement. After so many times of running the show, we are in a different position when we are asked to take direction from another experienced consultant. Seek out opportunities where you are providing just subject matter expertise and not serving as engagement manager. You will be surprised at how clearly you might better understand how your own approaches could be improved.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  engagement management  learning  roles and responsibilities  teaming  virtual teams  your consulting practice 

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#204: Meetings Away From Your Office

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 24, 2009
When I was with a large firm, we always had lots of space for meetings. now that I am on my own, getting appropraite meeting space near my office or out of town can be a challenge. How do other consultants handle meetings space in or out of town?

The first option is always a client's space, unless they don't have it or when meeting in that space is inappropriate. This is certainly convenient for client staff. If this doesn't work, or if we are talking about a nonclient, then there are a number of options. You are hardly the first person to face this challenge. A whole industry has grown up around providing on-demand meeting space.

Considerations on choosing an approach include: one-time or multiple use? Include services or just a table and chairs? Budget? Need audiovisual technology? A few hours or several days? Secure space or not? Here is a basic list of options:
  • Airport - join one or more airline clubs, which offer common or private space. Pick the airline with clubs in the cities you are most likely to do business, and the clubs with the greatest accessibility. Some clubs provide daily access or use of your premium credit card for access.
  • Hotels - Sometimes staying in a multi-room suite is cheaper than renting a meeting room. Some hotels have public areas in which you can find a quiet corner for a small group meeting.
  • Restaurants - Depending on your needs, you may be able to arrange with the restaurant for a private room or corner table.
  • Business Clubs - Some have reciprocity with clubs you may belong to, others are member-only.
  • Professional Meeting Space - All kinds of choices here from corporate rental to residential centers. Regus is one of many companies with facilities in hundreds of cities.
  • Other options - libraries, museums, universities, government facilities, and other seemingly public places often have rooms for rent, or free usage.

Tip: Use your IMC connections to contact someone in the city to which you are travelling and ask for their recommendations.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meeting preparation  virtual teams  your consulting practice 

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#150: Managing "Pickup" Consulting Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 9, 2009
I know clients increasingly want the right team of experts and don't want to pay for people just because they work at the same company as the star consultant. However, isn’t it problematic to assemble and manage a team of people you don't know?

That's the point of having a robust network of talented and ethical consultants. Yes, assembling and managing a team of independent experts is an acquired skill and takes some hard work. It is much like playing pickup sports, where many individuals, who have neither played together nor faced the other team before, create a team that has to perform. Each individual is a talented and successful individual in their own right, usually capable of running the team themselves. In pickup games, however, adaptation, flexibility and humility are required to weave together a team that often can beat a team that has played together a long time (the 1980 US Olympic hockey team playing the USSR comes to mind).

I am not minimizing the risks of managing such a team and recognize that it takes some extra work that a larger company may not have to do. However, there are benefits for both the consulting team members as well as for the client. For the consultants, each member must clarify and defend their cherished positions, methodologies and assumptions, in contrast with that situation if they were working with the same people they always do. This really keeps you on your toes and rapidly advances your expertise. For the client, the self-assembled team brings robust, innovative and validated thinking to a problem that a larger firm, usually having developed a branded standard methodology and using in-house research for which they usually consider a strength, cannot provide. These are the kind of comments clients who are trending toward use of boutique and independent consultants make when talking about their need for nimble, creative and cutting edge thinking.

Tip: Your ability to attract and serve these kinds of clients and win sizable engagements that used to automatically go to larger firms all comes down to your network. You need to know well and spend time with consultants from a range of disciplines and get to know how they work, what they know and their ethics. Certification is one good marker of a candidate for your future teams, but spending time in professional associations, doing pro bono work, and just talking over an issue you or they have will give you a sense of whether they are the right person you want on your "pickup" team.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  innovation  networks  practice management  proposals  sales  teaming  trends  virtual teams 

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#121: Will a Virtual Team Really Work Well Together?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 31, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I have just completed a bid on a project for which we assembled a half dozen specialists. Only a few of us have ever worked together before and I have some concerns about our ability to work well together when the project starts.

As clients look more for the right expertise, whether or not it is in a single firm, virtual teams are becoming more common. It is often best to work with people whose ethics you trust and technical skills you respect and people with whom you have already worked. However, this is not always possible and, on some highly specialized tasks, you must assemble the best people even if you don't know them. This is usually the responsibility of the engagement manager, who plumbs his or her networks to create a team. There are two ways to get a sense of how well a virtual team is actually going to work.

First, to what extent do you trust the ethics and business skills of the engagement manager? Is this someone with whom you have worked before? Was anything said or done during the development of the project approach or costing that gave you pause about this person? Would you trust this person to take over one of your engagements and expect good client services from them with your best clients? If so, then you passed the first test.

Second, how was it to work with the other team members? Was it a professional experience, with clear and easy communication? Did each person deliver on their responsibilities and effort, or were some reluctant to do their share? Were they respectful and generous in their approach to offering criticism and suggestions? Even if you have never met them, can you create a mental picture of them with some comfort? If so, then this bodes well for a professional and productive engagement.

Tip: When you find yourself invited to participate in an engagement pursuit, make a mental (or written) list of the criteria you would use in selecting a business partner. As you begin to work with the virtual team in developing technical and costing approaches, check off which individuals meet your criteria and which ones fall short. If you are not getting any information about a particular person or about one of your important criteria, dig a little deeper. Soon, you will have a good idea whether your new teammates are ones you can trust and respect. If they come up short in several areas, reconsider (quickly) if being part of this team is in your best interest.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  collaboration  consulting colleagues  ethics  marketing  proposals  teaming  virtual teams 

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