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Managing Your Outsourced Partner

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Managing Your Outsourced Partner

Categories: Articles, White Papers

Managing Your Outsourced Partner

 

By Bruce Schwickrath, Managing Partner

Lean Six Sigma Project Management LLC

 

Abstract

Have you seen in a outsourced contractor's GANTT chart a long and intriguing bar generically called, “project management,” spanning from the beginning to the end of the project, and then wondered what deliverables are actually delivered to produce that task and to who? How many times has a contractor quickly convinced you that a particular deliverable was “90% complete” and then it remained “90% complete” until the end of the project? Have you ever wonder how this contractor is going to perform on this contract and what will they do when unforeseen issues or problems occur.  

Do you understand that the contractor's goal is to “deliver” a working system and make a profit, while your true goal is to “make sure your users use” the system and it meets the strategic objective of your company.

These are some of the issues that differentiate the management of outsourced projects, often characterized by a trial of strength between the client and the contractor, in which each party has his or her own goals and expectations and they don't always match. The contractor will always tell you that they are your partner in the objectives of your company. But the reality is the contractor needs to earn a profit so they can survive as a business.

This paper focuses on the client's point of view and comes from the real-life experience of managing companies that have chosen to fully outsource the development of their projects, leaving in-house only to manage the relationship with the contractor/ partner.

I will use the nine of the ten Knowledge Areas in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), to explain the typical issue of managing outsourced projects. The tenth area is Stakeholders Management and that is usually included in the contract established between both parties.

For each area, I will first introduce the client's Expectations (what the client expects to happen); next I will illustrate what can actually happen, Reality (what the unprepared client risks to receive); and then the Proposed or suggested approach (what the client should do to address the risk).

In an ideal world, the client and the contractor have a common interest: to build a product that is compliant with the requirements of the client, so that the client will get what he or she needs and the contractor, while getting the price agreed on, will continue to do business with the client.

The hard reality, the client and the contractor have many conflicting interests, such as:

Sometimes the real interest of the client is not the product itself, but an underlying business objective, market share, market credibility in reaching new customers and expanding the business. The contractor wants to deliver a good working product to the client but doesn’t care if the product achieves the strategic objective.  

You want the best possible quality for the product to be built, whereas the contractor tends to minimize the effort and time spent on the project. You expect the contractor to dedicate his or her best resources on his project, whereas the contractor has many projects in execution for different clients; therefore, he or she needs to balance his or her own best resources among several clients.

 

Nine Outsourcing Tips Using Nine of the Knowledge Areas

 

1. Scope: Keep the “Empty Boxes” out of Your WBS

Expectations: The client normally expects the contractor to present a comprehensive WBS, which enlists all the deliverables necessary to build the product. Furthermore, the client expects that the WBS will contemplate task and deliverables for all the applicable Project Management Knowledge Areas (e.g., Risk Management, Communication Management, Human Resource Management, etc.).

Reality: “Project Management,” “Risk Management,” and “Communication Management” are visible on the WBS, but it is not clear what the specific deliverables to be produced in each work package are. These generic WBS elements are often “empty boxes,” because they do not produce any deliverable: they are useless for monitoring and controlling, because there is no way to measure their progress. The main cause of these “empty boxes” is that the contractor wants to demonstrate to the client that he has properly taken account of all the project management aspects but he is reluctant to commit himself to any of the specific deliverables needed to carry out these tasks. For the same reason, the contractor tends to omit the description of any of the ancillary project deliverables, such as project management reports and documentation.

Proposed: To avoid the problem, ask yourself: What are the specific deliverables I will need to monitor the product and what metrics do I need? and request a “truly deliverable oriented” WBS; in other words, a WBS in which the lowest elements (or “work packages”) are “true” deliverables. For example, if there is a work package generically called, “Project Management,” it should be further decomposed in all the specific project management deliverables you expect from the contractor (e.g., “Project Management Plan,” “Issue Register,” etc.). Similarly, if there is a work package called generically, “Communication Management,” it should be decomposed in all the specific communication deliverables to be provided by the contractor (e.g., “Communication Plan,” “Project Monthly Newsletter,” “Monthly Stakeholders Meeting Minutes,” etc.

At the end of this process, you should have gotten rid of all the WBS elements that do not have a measurable deliverable (that is a “truly deliverable oriented” WBS): this will be the foundation if the capability to objectively measure the progression of the project.

 

2. Quality: No Quality Without Metrics

Expectations: The client normally expects the contractor to produce “high quality deliverables”; similarly, the contractor tends to fill his bid with “high quality” promises and references that demonstrate the “quality” he is capable of delivering.

Reality: When the time of the final delivery of the product comes, no one agrees on the meaning of the word “quality” or “good”. The client tends to remember how great the old product was, whereas the contractor will focus on the vagueness of the requirements and every deviation request from the original built product: this translates into endless negotiations between the two parties. The looks at delivering the good enough solution to minimize the cost of labor

Proposed: The only way to avoid misinterpretation in the meaning of quality is to define in advance and in a measurable way what the expected quality of every deliverable to be produced is. The key words of the previous sentence are “in advance,” “measurable way,” and “for each deliverable,” which means that, before starting to build the product, the client should define, for each deliverable (and also for each “ancillary project deliverable”), the way we will measure quality. This means finding one or more metrics that will be used to measure the quality of each deliverable, where a metric is a numerical value assigned to an attribute (e.g., the response time of a system to a specific input, the number of bugs found in a software module, the number of testing iterations expected, etc.). This is hard work for the client, but it pays off when it is time to evaluate the final product, because it avoids any dispute in accepting the product and also it makes clear to the contractor when each deliverable is ready to be submitted, reducing the temptation of “gold-plating.” Using the customer field acceptance value would be a poor metric and the contractor can’t fix all the issues.

  

3. Time: Plan to Rework to Avoid Reworking the Plan

Expectations: The client expects the contractor to submit every deliverable in advance, so we will have adequate time to review and approve it. The client claims that the time needed to review and approve each deliverable is correctly taken into account in the GANTT chart produced by the contractor.

Reality: Often the project GANTT chart produced by the contractor has only one bar for each deliverable; therefore, the contractor takes all the time planned to produce the deliverable and submits it near the last day—little or no time remains for the client to review, correct, and approve the deliverable. If the project has an “immovable” deadline, this results in the following dilemma for the client: accept a faulty deliverable or delay the project? This situation implies two common omissions: the first is that the activity of approving a deliverable takes time and the second is that the first version of a deliverable almost always needs something to be corrected. The average project manager spends about 80% of his or her time on unplanned rework so, omitting to plan at least one rework cycle is condemning you to reworking the plan!

Proposed: In order to reduce the risk of project delays, the policy to plan adequate time for the rework cycle of each deliverable is very effective. You need to allow time for the following steps to be completed.

  • Production
  • Review
  • Correction
  • Approval

The key aspect here is to break down the GANTT bar of each deliverable into four separate GANTT bars, one for each of the previously enlisted activities. Furthermore, for the riskiest deliverables (e.g., the deliverables that are likely to contain defects, like software modules, functional requirements specifications, etc.), a good practice is to plan more than one “review-correction-approval” cycle, in order to take into account the higher probability of finding new defects in each cycle.

 

4. Cost: The “90% Complete” Syndrome

Expectations: The client expects he can objectively judge the progress of the project. He is also confident that, in the execution phase of the project, he and the contractor will easily agree on the completeness percentage of the deliverables.

Reality: Close to the planned delivery date, the contractor affirms that the project is “almost 90% complete,” but then it remains “almost 90% complete” until the end; this is commonly known as the “90% complete” syndrome. The causes of this problem are as follow:

  • To judge the progress of the project, only a rough impression is used;
  • The closeness of the delivery due date optimistically alters the perception of the remaining work to be done; and
  • There is a natural discomfort of the contractor's project manager to communicate a delay to the client.

Furthermore, the client and the contractor have a huge different perception of the completeness of the product: the client has a 0%-100% scale (i.e., because the product can't be used until it is finished, the client considers it 0% complete until the final acceptance), whereas the contractor has a perception of the completeness of the product that's proportional to the man hours spent working on it divided by the man hours estimated.

Proposed: A way to overcome the “90% complete syndrome” is to apply the following EVM practice:

  1. Assign to each deliverable of the WBS a fraction of the total cost of the project, proportional to the number of man hours estimated for of each deliverable; and
  2. Assess the completeness of each single deliverable, using an objective completeness criterion.

There are many kinds of objective completeness criteria and the following ones are the most common:

  • 0-100: the deliverable is 0% complete until final acceptance;
  • 50-50: the deliverable is 50% complete at the start of production and it gets 100% at final acceptance; and
  • Units complete: the percentage of completeness of the deliverable is proportional to the number of a particular unit produced (e.g., the number of the lines of code, the number documentation pages, etc.).

Given the “deliverable review cycle” presented earlier (production, review, correction, and approval), the following deliverable completeness criteria are the best compromises between the two parties’ expectations:

  • 20% when the contractor starts working on the deliverable;
  • 60% when the client finishes the review and the contractor has to make only minor corrections to the deliverables; and
  • 100% when all the comments have been incorporated and the deliverable is approved by the client.

In this way, the contractor gets a consistent advance payment at the beginning of the work (20%), he gets more than half of the value of the deliverable when he has to make only minor corrections to the deliverable (60%), but he's still motivated to make all the corrections to get the client's final acceptance (100%). Using the EVM process and apply it to the details within the contractors schedule provides feedback on how they are progressing, provided the minor tasks are divided into 2 week steps maximum.

 

5. Procurement: The Carrot and the Stick

Expectations: The client always expects the contractor to strive to deliver on time. He assumes that the principal interest of the contractor is to make the client happy, despite the cost necessary to achieve his satisfaction.

Reality: In a fixed-price contract, if the contractor starts spending more than was planned, he will begin to lose money and, if there are no penalties, he will progressively leave the client to “his destiny.” This is a common situation that arises when the contractor has failed to estimate the effort of the contract and there is no way he can cut the scope to accommodate for the mistaken estimates. The effect is that, in the beginning, the client will notice that the more valuable resources of the contractor will show up less often, while, at the end, when it will become clear to everyone that the initial estimates where mistaken, the contractor will leave only novice resources to work on the project. In the beginning the contractor will be poor estimator of the amount of time to do the work because they don’t understand the hidden areas of the work and poorly defined by the client.

Proposed: In order to reduce the risk of getting practically abandoned by the contractor, remember to incorporate in a fixed-price contract a balanced set of bonuses and penalties (i.e., “carrots and sticks”): the bonuses encourage the contractor to deliver in advance, and the penalties discourage the contractor to endlessly delay the delivery. For example, you could think of a financial bonus for each day the contractor delivers in advance and at the same time a financial penalty for each day of delayed delivery. The same concept could be replicated with regard to the quality of the deliverables: for example, you could contemplate a bonus/penalty for the limited/excessive defectiveness of the deliverables (like software modules). You could also apply this to a Time and Materials contract using the estimate as the target price. The stick in this model would be that if they exceed the estimate then the allowable profit would be reduced for each day it is late or over cost. Until the contractor develops some experienced with estimating your work, the best method to use is cost plus fixed fee and have them develop an estimate that you compare to your internal estimate for the work needed to complete.   

  

6. Communication: No Sponsor, No Party!

Expectations: The client expects that once a new product is delivered, users will love and use it. There is a natural tendency in the client to assume that the final users of the new product will love it, just because it has been designed to fulfill their needs and it works just “as designed.”

Reality: Often the new product goes live, but the final users don't want to use it. The causes of this rejection could be very different, like the natural resistance to change, cultural issues, communication deficiency, and so on. This is especially true in the cases of internal projects, where users are “forced” to embrace a new system and to change the way they work, without any evident benefit. Moreover, the principal interest of the contractor is to satisfy his direct client: he has no immediate interest in satisfying the final users of the product to be built.

Proposed: The key factor in getting user acceptance is upper management sponsorship: “No sponsor, no party!” You should strive in every way to get upper management sponsorship or no one will follow you. Of course it is important to dedicate attention to communication and organizational change management, but without a committed sponsor, no user will ever consider embracing any change: If the boss doesn't believe in the proposed change, why should the final user do so? The other element is the look and feel of the application and this needs to be consistent and controlled by the client using professional resources.

 

7. Human Resources: Put the Contractor in Your Shoes

Expectations: The client expects the contractor to share the same goal. A comprehensive statement of work has been compiled and a detailed contract has been stipulated, so the work to do is clear to all the involved parties.

Reality: Although the contractor's objective is to deliver a new product (i.e., the “project objective,” like a new information system, a new process, etc.), the (often unstated) client's goal is to reach a “business objective.” Clients start projects to reach business objectives like increasing revenues, cutting costs, complying with regulations, etc., not just building a new product. If the contractor isn't conscious of the real business objective, there is a high risk that the product he will build won't help to reach it.

Proposed: You should try to “put the contractor in your shoes.” This could be done in two ways: first by clearly explaining your business objective to your contractor and, second, by linking contractor penalties and bonuses to the achievement of your business objective. For example, if your business objective is to increase sales by 10% and you plan to reach this increment by developing a new customer relationship management software, you should contemplate a percentage of the payment of the contractor at the delivery of the new system and a percentage after six months from the delivery, only if the sales have increased by at least 10%. In this way, the contractor will strive to build a customer relationship management software that will attract new customers, helping you to reach your business objectives.

 

8. Risk: Risk Management Should Have a Cost

Expectations: The client and the contractor have identified a lot of risks and, after that, qualitative and quantitative analyses have been made to prioritize the “riskiest risks.” A risk response plan for each identified top risk has been developed: the client expects to be secure from any “known unknowns.”

Reality: In “hard reality,” although there is a detailed risk register containing a long list of prioritized risks and correspondent risk response plans, no actual time and money are set aside to put the risk response plans in action. Similarly, no risk mitigation activities are incorporated in the project GANTT to reduce the probability of the risk and, similarly, there are no buffers to compensate for the delay, when the risk materializes. This is a situation that happens, for example, when the project GANTT is developed and approved (sometimes even included in the contract!) before completing the risk response plan.

Proposed: To avoid bad surprises during project execution, risk response plans should be incorporated into the project GANTT (e.g., adding risk response tasks) and in the project budget (e.g., adding budget for risk response tasks). Of course, in this way, the total length of the project is likely to increase (just as the total project cost), but by doing so, the project manager will have a true cost and time to get it done with no exceptions. In fact, in the rare case of not having any risk to materialize, the project probably will be completed before time and under cost. Remember you don’t accept all risks and use probability of occurrence. In the usual case of the materialization of some risks, the project manager has the time and budget to handle it.

 

9. Integration: No Checklist, No Lessons Learned!

Expectations: At the end of the project, a “project retrospective” has been done with all the stakeholders involved (internal and external). A long list of “lessons learned” has been developed and saved in the “lessons learned database,” so the client expects to repeat successful practices and to avoid mistakes in the next project.

Reality: When the next project begins, no one looks into the huge lessons learned database and the same mistakes are repeated again and again. This happens mainly because it is very time consuming to find the right lesson learned for the specific work you have to do at the moment. Furthermore, in the beginning of a new project, the project team is oriented to the future and looking back to previous projects seems only like a way to distract from the work to be done.

Proposed: The best use of your “lessons learned” is doing the following:

  1. Relate every lesson to a specific type of deliverable (e.g., classify lessons for time plans, lessons for budget, lessons for risk response plans, etc.) and also divide it into the correct project phase.
  2. Create a checklist for each type of deliverable (a kind of “deliverable checklist”; e.g., “Time Plan Checklist,” “Budget Checklist,” “Risk Response Plan Checklist”, etc.) and phase checklist.
  3. Incorporate the lessons learned in all the relative “deliverable checklists”

In this way, you will have a deliverable checklist for each of the planned deliverables. Before working on a specific deliverable, it will be very easy to open the checklist and see how the experience from the past can help you with the specific work you have to do at the moment. Given the number of previous experiences to take into account and the frequent lack of time in executing projects, one could say that “if a lesson is not in the right checklist, you have not learned it”.

 

Conclusions

Managing outsourced projects is quite different from managing “in house” projects and requires excellent skills and knowledge to pursue a win-win strategy rather than ending up with wasteful conflicts between client and contractor. This interface person needs to have supply chain management and an acquisition experience in addition they need to be Project Management Professional certified so they expect and understand quality deliverables from the contractor. Setting expectations from the contractor is an important first step so everyone is working on the same page. Understand the contractor you are working with is critical to develop trust a confidence in that contractor. I also believe understanding the maturity of the contractor and the system used to develop your deliverable is imperative. The best way to define the contractor’s maturity is to have them appraised by an independent auditor. The preferred method is to use the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) model. CMMI is a process appraisal program. Administered by the CMMI Institute, and was developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). It is required by many DoD and U.S. Government contracts, especially in software development in understanding the contractors ability to perform and deliver to the contract. CMMI defines the following maturity levels for processes: 1- Initial, 2- Managed, 3- Defined, 4- Quantitatively Managed, and 5- Optimizing. I supported the DoD in working with contractors that failed to meet a minimum of 3- Defined. CMMI is meant to help organizations improve their performance of and capability to consistently and predictably deliver the products, services, and sourced goods their customers wants, and when they want it with the highest quality. CMMI is also a cost improvement methodology when applied to any organization. It improves the quality of the product and work, focuses the team on what need to be done, and provides management with the correct oversight and review.

Posted on: September 01, 2016 05:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Building Your Client’s Trust to Build Your Practice

Building Your Client’s Trust to Build Your Practice

 

By Bruce Schwickrath

Project Management Special Interest Group

BRUCE@PMSIG.org

 

Lack of trust is the number one reason prospects do not buy from a certain provider.

 

Trust is cited by over 50 percent of the clients as the single most important factor in evaluating your company and your ability to perform. Remember if a client or potential client has a need, they will not engage you if they do not trust you. How do you gain the trust of current and prospective clients, as well as colleagues, subordinates, and others with whom you do business?

The Three Elements of Trust (How does the client see you)

The diagram below illustrates the inter-relationship between the three core elements of trust. Whenever a person is perceived to act in a way that undermines trust in any of these areas, trust overall is diminished.

Three Elements of Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competence: The element of competence is what I call “domain specific” in that it depends on what area of expertise or skill you are assessing someone to be trustworthy in. For instance, you might trust me as a PMP to manage a project, but you wouldn’t trust me to give you a root canal (for good reason!). So the question to ask here is, “Does this person have the ability, knowledge, relevant experience and resources to perform this specific task in this domain of expertise?”

Reliability: Reliability is about whether you can count on someone to manage and honor their commitments. Or put another way, to do what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. So you may trust someone to be competent at a particular task and sincere in their intention to do it, but their track record of unreliability, whether it be tardiness or sloppy work, keeps you from trusting them completely. The question to ask, “Can I count on this person to keep their promises and get the task done properly and by the agreed time frame?”

Sincerity: Sincerity relates directly to our assessment of someone’s character; to their fundamental integrity.  Of all three elements of trust, sincerity is the hardest to build, and the most pivotal in our decision whether or not to place your trust in someone and it’s what we want, need and expect from those who are in a position of deciding to give you an opportunity to work for them. Sincerity is also the most difficult element to repair when damaged, which explains why infidelity has a far greater impact on a marriage than a spouse who simply forgets their anniversary. So the question to ask here is, “Is this person genuine and someone who means what they say with a strong sense of integrity?”

 

One of the best ways to build trust is to always deliver on promises and commitments. When you commit to follow up on an issue, take ownership and do just that. A common mistake and “trust-buster” is failing to regularly communicate status and not keeping interested parties informed. You know how frustrating it is when you are waiting for information that is vital to your business; so avoid becoming the cause of frustration for your clients, prospects, or colleagues by using great follow-up skills.

 

Another way to build trust is to establish ongoing relationships by keeping your clients and prospects top of mind all the time and demonstrating that you are thinking about them and their business concerns.

 

In each of your work relationships, at any point in time, the other person has a certain degree of trust/ value in you.

 

1.    What determines your personal trust value?

·         Trust is based on perceptions and interpretations this is not always fair. Sometimes someone’s perceptions are not an accurate reflection of your intentions, but it is what they think.

·         You can’t “control” trust value (since it is based on others’ perceptions), but you can “affect” it through your actions. While you can’t make someone trust you, you can take actions that are more likely to promote a sense of trust.

2.    Your personal trust is influenced by the other person’s perceptions of your:

·         Ability – Does he think you are capable of “delivering” on your commitments or meeting the expectations?

·         Integrity – Does this person think that your principles/values are acceptable?

·         Intent – Does this person believe that you will look out for their interests and needs?

3.    Your trust value can be influenced by events outside your immediate control.

4.    A person’s prior experience at work or outside of work has an impact. Prior experiences can shape the way we perceive and interpret our world.

5.    An action taken by a company or by someone else can influence your trust value. 

6.    Different people can perceive the same action in different ways. For one person the action can result in an increased trust value; for another, it will cause a lowering of your value.

 

By putting your client’s needs first and always remembering “the relationship value is greater than the engagement value,” you will build trust more quickly and help to secure clients for the long term. The client needs to know you before they will trust you. As your client’s trust builds, your reputation will grow, your referrals will increase, and your practice will expand, allowing your firm to flourish even in difficult economic times.

 

If you have any suggestions please contribute or contact me at ( bruce@pmsig.org ). Thanks.

Posted on: July 05, 2015 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to Start Your Own Consulting Business

By Bruce Schwickrath

Project Management Special Interest Group

BRUCE@PMSIG.org

 

What is a Consultant?

Consulting involves services that are provided for a specific topic or area ofinterest such as marketing, financial, business and management.Consulting focuses on problem solving, strategies, action plans, andaccomplishing very specific goals.

 

A consultant will provide an analysis and somerecommendations for the improvement of a certain process such as software selectionor workflow design. A consultant is brought in to provide advice and recommendation not to sit on a line and build a product for the client.

 

A consultant will work with either one individual within anorganization or with a group of people within an organization.A consultant will provide a solution for the client, such as exactly which road totake to get somewhere.

 

Consulting focuses on problem solving, strategies, action plans, andaccomplishing that are very specific. The consultant is the expert and brings the knowledge and expertise to thesituation that makes the difference in the client's failure or success. Consultants solve the client's present day problems by providing teaching todevelop knowledge and expertise.

 

How do you grow your consulting practice? What skills do you need?

 

Many longtime career professionals join the ranks of consultants to stay active during a prolonged search, to build experience for a career change or to fulfill an entrepreneurial dream. Experienced professionals bring a wealth of expertise, industry knowledge and contacts to their new business, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. When you’re an employee, you can just focus on doing the job. When you are a consultant, you have to do the job and sell the next one. You may be very talented at doing whatever service it is you are pitching, but can you get new projects? You can call yourself a consultant, but most clients want you to help them solve problems and grow their business. Pay attention to the outcomes the clients wants.

 

Here are 23 steps to becoming a consultant.

 

1. Start with your own skill-building — You cannot be an effective consultant if you don't bring value to the business owner. Be relentless in your ongoing skill building. You become more in-demand and can charge higher fees based on the breath of knowledge and expertise. 

2.  Find a way to exploit specific knowledge gaps —Your prospective clients likely aren't lacking smart or opinionated talent. Rather, they seek outside expertise because they're exploring unfamiliar problems, markets, and/or methodologies. They need objective insight that their in-house people can't provide. That's where you come in; successful consultants fill pressing knowledge gaps.

3.  Check your experience level — A business owner will not trust their business to a consultant who has never owned a business before, or to a consultant who doesn't have a high level of expertise in a specific topic area. You need at least 5 years' full time experience with your specific topic area in order to call yourself an expert.

4.  Determine your Big Why — Figure out why you want to be a consultant and define your specific target audience. What is your motivation?

5.  Do people know you are in business, and do they know what business that is? —Your network might still think of you as someone from a large corporation and not realize you want consulting work. Even if they know you are open for business, do they know what your business is? Have you educated them?

6.  Are people comfortable referring or hiring you? —Establish your credibility as a consultant/freelancer/expert in your space by writing, speaking, and getting quoted in the press. You don’t have a big company brand anymore to bestow upon you instant recognition. You have to proactively build your presence as an individual or new business.

7.  Determine what "success" looks like for you personally — Keep your eye on the target. The definition of success differs from person to person. Take some time to visualize all the ways that a successful consulting practice will manifest in your personal and professional life.

8.  Write a business plan — Go through all the same steps you would go through with a client, and work on your own business model design. Things to consider: what legal format you'll use, what are your mission and vision statements, what are your offerings, your pricing and profit models. Include the resources you will need to succeed, like money, time, skills/knowledge, equipment, and people resources. Set goals and milestones for the next 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.

9.  Write a marketing plan — How will you stand out from the crowd? How will you connect with your audience and build rapport and trust? Will you use traditional marketing techniques only, or combine traditional and internet marketing? Which techniques will bring the best results? How much will you invest in marketing (in both time and money)? What are the goals of your marketing?

10.  Sell results, not services —Price by the hour and you'll be viewed as a commodity. Instead, keep clients laser-focused on the lasting value you create, and bill based on scope of work and end results.

11.  Learn people skills — You will be working with human beings who have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Learn deep listening skills and how to ask meaningful questions to get clarity and provide focus. Learn how to hold clients accountable for implementing their action plans, and how to deal with difficult client situations.

12.  Choose a focus or niche — Determine if your specialty requires you to have a license or certification (financial and tax advisors, legal advisors, insurance advisors). Will you focus on a small topic area, or will you be an expert who can help clients with most of their challenges and projects? Will you work with a particular size business based on number of employees or revenue? Will you work only with local clients, or will your consulting business be national/ international?

13.  Write a book — The people that write books or article have created marketing content. You don’t have to look far to see what a well-received book can do for your business.

14.  Give a presentation — Get out and give a presentation to a local or international professional group. When you stand in front a group and speak about something you are passionate about and know, you are recognized as the expert. Ues this social meeting to network the room and find work.

15.  Provide a sample of your work not just the overview — The hard thing for many consultants is “giving it away for free” but that is how you reach new audiences today. If your website is still brochureware, you can’t compete. Post a little tidbit of your work that you can give away for free.

16.  Organize your own business — so that you have maximum efficiency. Use templates, automation and sales scripts. Take time early in the setup of your business, if you are out of control how are you going to help your client. The perception the client has on how your business is running will determine if you get additional work.

17.  Get your ego out of the way — While your work can and should be meaningful to you, you are not a consultant to pump up your own ego. You are a consultant to serve your clients. You are going to advise them, help them to determine the pros and cons of each course of action, and then allow them to make their own decisions. You cannot stop them from making unwise decisions or from not following through on an implementation plan. They are paying for the advice and can choose to modify or ignore your suggestion.

18.  Be honest about your own areas of personal development — No one is perfect. Sometimes we procrastinate. Sometimes we get distracted. Sometimes we let anger or fear get the better of us. Sometimes we don't communicate as well as we could. Discover your weaknesses and either learn how to overcome them.

19.  Learn problem solving, decision making, project management, and time management skills  — These four skills will provide the backbone of the assistance you will offer clients and help you run your own business successfully.

20.  Learn from the masters — Why reinvent the wheel? You can discover savvy shortcuts by paying attention to the leading consultants in your industry. In any consulting business there are always several people who have risen to the top of their profession. Study their offerings, their marketing methods, the way they run their businesses, and the way they work with clients. Determine if those methods would serve you and your clients, too.

21.  Are you overly focused on social media or other technology and not exploring all marketing avenues? —Just like the jobseeker who spends all day on Monster.com and thinks that is an exhaustive search, some business owners spend all day updating their website, blogging, or posting to social media and think that’s all the marketing they need to do. Social media and technology are important tools, but not sufficient in themselves. When you are starting out, offline contact is critical to building trust. You need to network and meet people.

22.  Do you go where your customers are? —While it is nice to have the camaraderie of fellow business owners, make sure all your networking isn’t just with fellow business owners like you. You can learn there, but you can’t sell there. Make sure you go where your customer is, not just what feels good. This is true online, as well – ensure that the blogs and communities you interact with are filled with customers, not peers.

23  .Do you maintain your sales and marketing even when you’re busy? —A big mistake is to sell, sell, sell and then drop everything to complete a project you just sold. When that project ends, you have to sell like crazy again and start from scratch. Instead, you need to make sure that you still call on prospects even when you have work to do.

 

The list above is no way totally complete and is just a sample of things to consider when you want to start a consulting business. If you have any suggestions please contribute or contact me at ( bruce@pmsig.org ). Thanks. 

Posted on: July 05, 2015 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Using trust to build a consulting business

Categories: Blogs, Discussions

Do you have your client’s trust?
 
Lack of trust is the number one reason prospects do not buy from a provider.
 
Trust is cited by over 50 percent of the clients as the single most important factor in evaluating your company and your ability to perform. Remember if a client or potential client has a need, they will not engage you if they do not trust you. How do you gain the trust of current and prospective clients, as well as colleagues, subordinates, and others with whom you do business? Join our Fireside chats a great way to learn from each other.
 
If you have any suggestions please contribute or contact me at ( bruce@pmsig.org ). Thanks.
Posted on: December 19, 2014 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Coming new fireside chats

Coming new fireside chats focused on the consulting business
 
A new way of interacting with our PM network - be part of our new fireside chats on starting your own consulting business! 
 
Fireside chats are a great way to learn from each other and be a part of a informal coaching sessions. You will get the opportunity to discuss with experts their experiences and issues in establishing a consulting business. These sessions will be a conference call between experts and people looking to learn more about the business. We need your help to make this successful! If you wouldlike to help please contact me by emailing me at ( bruce@pmsig..org). We need people at all skill levels so apply today! Sessions to start soon.
Posted on: December 19, 2014 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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