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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #9: June, 2004

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC
  • Examine the current projects you're working on, and ask yourself if there are any aspects at all that have proved to be unnecessary, invisible to the client, and/or of minor value. If so, make certain that you don't include them in future projects. This is a key to lowering labor intensity.
  • How much time do you invest in creating and refining visual aids, especially PowerPoint presentations? For non-technical presentations of less than 90 minutes, slides are virtually completely unnecessary. Are these merely a time-wasting crutch that has become a necessary evil?
  • Tell your customers, clients, suppliers, colleagues, and acquaintances that if they do not receive an email response from you within a certain time frame (e.g., 48 hours) they should resend the message or request on the assumption you haven't received it. This will prevent hard feelings, avoid lost opportunities, and shift the burden to the sender to ensure that a message has been received.
  • Never "nickel-and-dime" a client. It's far better to say "expenses are included in the fee" than it is to charge 32 cents per mile for a 40 mile commute each time you visit. If your projects are so small that you feel constrained to charge for courier, phone, copying, etc., then you have a fee problem, not an expense reimbursement problem.
  • I'm at odds with some people on this (Surprise!) but I feel the client is the person paying your fee, with rare exception. It is not the impersonal organization, nor all the employees in it. That doesn't mean you blindly conform to the client's requests, but it does mean that your ethical responsibility is to help that person as best you can.
  • Don't leave long voice mail messages. Many people can't scroll voice mail, and they may be in a car or in a public place. Leave your name, phone number spoken slowly twice, and a ten-second message (or simply, "Please call me").
  • If you have never had a client confrontation, never had a disagreement with some heat, never had to compromise on a position with a client, then you simply haven't been pushing hard enough, haven't been an independent resource, and probably haven't done much to prompt repeat business.
  • Keep a supply of varied greeting cards in your office. When you learn of a client birthday, death in the family, daughter's wedding, son's graduation, etc., you can immediately write out your message and pop it in the mail with proper timing. This beats having to remember to shop for the right card later. (Make sure you keep postage stamps for these envelopes, since they shouldn't be metered.)
  • Don't eat at your desk. It's unhealthy, messy, and stressful. If you can't take 30 minutes or more to dedicate some time to lunch there's something wrong with your day.
  • Men, before a meeting with executives: nails manicured and shoes shined. Women: Hair under control, no dangling jewelry, single briefcase.

Suggested Reading: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I know it's not a business book, but it will certainly create some perspective next time you're feeling sorry for yourself because a prospect said "no

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