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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #3: December, 2003

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC
  • For the New Year, begin by scheduling your vacations and key family needs (graduations, recitals, etc.), mark them on all your calendars, and work around them for the rest of the year.
  • Plan to add one new consulting specialty to your repertoire next year: coaching, products, surveys, focus groups, etc.
  • Examine your overhead, using your accountant, if necessary. Do your expenditures really make sense in terms of return? Examine subscriptions, memberships, leases, contractors, staff (see below), etc.
  • Bite the bullet, and consider a major update of any computer and related electronic support that is three years old or worse. That's about the limit at which improvements outweigh the time investment and cost of upgrading.
  • If you are earning above $500,000 or so, consider working a four-day week, and simply eliminate Friday or Monday as available dates on your calendar. It's often more rewarding to shift time to personal pursuits than it is to earn another clump of money. (Alternative: Plan to stop working when you're in the office by mid-afternoon. If you are currently working on weekends, well, there's something wrong.)
  • Don't hate me, but if you are using full or part-time staff, consider reducing head count and utilizing sub-contractors, vendors, and pay-for-performance arrangements (the same applies to retainer relationships, such as PR firms). Staff on payroll seldom makes sense for operations with less than $2 million in revenues.
  • There are still quite a few family-owned, non-public firms with revenues in the high hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. They are excellent prospects, and highly approachable via third-party introductions. (The family usually has very close ties to many influential people in the community.)
  • While it's almost always inappropriate (given corporate ethics policies) to provide clients with gifts for the Holidays, it's always acceptable to make a donation to a "neutral" charity (e.g., United Way, Salvation Army, inner city private school) on behalf of the clients of your firm as a group. You can then inform your clients of your gift with a Holiday card. (Don't send Holiday greetings by email.)
  • We (a partner and I) recently completed the first part of a strategy project-a two-day retreat-in one day. The client's seven top people gained a full day of time (as did we) and since we're not paid by the day, there was no penalty for being more efficient. Never charge by a time unit if you can possibly avoid it.
  • At six in the evening, with my travel agent closed and no access to the Internet, I was able to use my physical Official Air Line Guide to find a faster way home the next morning. Don't over-rely on electronics.
  • Suggested Reading: Doing Our Own Thing, John McWhorter, Gotham Press: 2003. This is a fascinating examination of how the erosion of standards in language, music, and the arts has damaged our society and "dumbed down" the populace. To look at it another way: Here's how easy it is to stand out in any crowd.
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