Posts Tagged ‘clients’

Be Known For The Things You Do – And For Those You Don’t

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

In last week’s post I spoke about one of the reasons I started ProfitPATH 12 years ago.let your business be known for the things you do - and for those you don't

I wanted to create a company that did things differently to the way in which management consultants traditionally behaved.

To act as a guide, I made a list of all the things consultants I’d hired over the years had done that had annoyed me – and said we’ll do the opposite.

While I’ve often spoken about the list, I’ve never actually publicized it.

Now I’ve decided to change that. As a start, I thought we’d replace some of the outdated content on our current web site with the list.

I had to dig through some really old files but I found the original piece of paper on which I’d written the list.

Here it is.

We exist to help business owners achieve the results they want for their companies.  To do that we will:

1.   Tell clients when:

•  We don’t know how to do what they need. We will focus on what we do best.
•  They can do something by themselves. We will not bill clients for unnecessary work.
•  We don’t understand their requirements – even if it makes us look silly. We will not risk missing their expectations.
•  They ask us to provide “silver bullet” solutions. The Lone Ranger may have those – but we don’t.
•  We can’t provide what they need at the price or to meet the schedule they want. We will not “agree now, modify later”.

2.  Adapt and use tools and processes that we know deliver results. We will not use clients as guinea pigs.

3.  Design our services so that we can see the results of our work. We will not write reports and walk away.

4.  Find ways to link our compensation to the results of our work. This will be hard but we will not give up.

5.  Allow clients to terminate a project at any time – without a financial penalty.

6.  Always offer references. Where possible from clients of a similar size, in a similar industry.

7.  Submit proposals which contain absolutely no surprises – because they include only things we’ve already discussed with the client.

After seeing the list again I’m proud of how we’ve run the business.

However, I’m wondering what, if anything I missed.

What do you think?

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy The Elusive ‘Silver Bullet’

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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Let’s Hold Consultants Accountable For Results

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

For a Scotsman, true accountability occurs when results are linked to compensation.Let's hold consultants responsible for results

So I’ve tried various ways of linking our payment to our performance for most of the 12 years that I’ve owned ProfitPATH.

Why? In addition to the one above, there are 2 other reasons.

First, the people we work with are all taking risks. If we are to be credible, why should we be risk exempt?

Second, when I worked in corporations I hated paying consultants before I knew if their recommendations would deliver the results I wanted. When I started ProfitPATH I swore we wouldn’t do that.

It’s relatively easy to link our fees to our own performance.

We make sure the deliverables are clear and give the business owner what they want. We also tell our clients that they can stop an assignment at any time without any financial penalty. Just pay us our fees up to that point.

Linking payment to our clients’ results is a little more complicated.

Why?

Because of the number of things we have no direct control over. They include, for example, everything from the economy (be honest, did you guess the last crash would come when it did) to how they arrive at the profit line on their income statement.

But just because it’s complicated, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

And so we’ve experimented with a number of things. Like deferring a portion of our fees until the outcome of our recommendation becomes clear; or linking part of our payment to the achievement of a result.

There are other ways to hold consultants accountable.

A client can, for example, refuse to act as a reference; or communicate their disappointment as widely as possible; or withhold part, or all, of the fees. But these are all post completion options.

Other alternatives, that we recommend, are frequent, regular progress reviews. When coupled with the “terminate at any time with no penalty” policy I mentioned above, these reviews carry some weight.

Holding us accountable is part of my wider belief that the management consulting industry needs to take some of its own advice. It has to change its business model.

Now Clay Christensen, author of “The Innovators Dilemma” and one of the leading thinkers about innovation, has weighed in. A Harvard academic, and former consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, he believes that the consulting industry is ripe for disruption.

He’s joined by Ron Ashkenas, managing partner of a consulting firm and academic at Berkley, whose article first set me off on this rant.

I’ve been convinced for years that change needs to happen. It’s encouraging to see thinkers of their caliber saying similar things.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience

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10 Commandments of Business Development

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

10 Commandments of Business Development

I’m not enjoying the after-effects of the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

And I’m certainly not a fan of the banks, investment and other, which I believe were a significant contributor to the mess.

But, while my wife may disagree, I like to think I keep an open mind.

So when I saw an article talking about how Goldman Sachs grew from mid-tier firm to global player in a few decades I had to peek.

John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm in 1970, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts:

1.   Don’t waste your time going after business you don’t really want.
2.   The boss usually decides — not the assistant treasurer. Do you know the boss?
3.   It is just as easy to get a first-rate piece of business as a second-rate one.
4.   You never learn anything when you’re talking.
5.   The client’s objective is more important than yours.
6.   The respect of one person is worth more than an acquaintance with 100 people.
7.   When there’s business to be found, go out and get it!
8.   Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one?
9.   There’s nothing worse than an unhappy client.
10.  If you get the business, it’s up to you to see that it’s well-handled.

I love them. They’re full of common sense and they’re very practical. Written in 1970, these 10 commandments add to my belief that the basic, common sense principles of business never change.

Here are 4 things that business owners today can take from them.

First of all, being clear about what business they want and avoiding the temptation to grab every deal that comes along in order to increase revenue. Only take deals that provide good margins, with companies who pay on time.

Hold out for the first-rate piece of business. That’s the one that allows a company to do what it’s good at. Second-rate deals require the company to reinvent its core competency at short notice, for difficult customers who are price shopping and who never buy from the same vendor twice.

Companies, and sales people, that really understand that it’s the client’s objective that’s important, don’t have unhappy clients. Hard driving entrepreneurs sometimes forget that in their rush to achieve their objectives. As a service provider, I try never to take on an assignment unless I understand the deliverable. For example, I’ll say to a client: “Imagine we’ve just finished your offsite and you’re telling me how pleased you are that we achieved your goals. What has happened, what do you have, that’s making you say that?”

Finally, the last of Whitehead’s principles emphasizes the importance of focusing the company culture on customer satisfaction.

Mark Graham, who wrote, the article says that he’s built his business by putting integrity first, even if it seems at times he has to sacrifice short-term profits. He’s right – and that could be the 11th commandment.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Fast Growth in a Slow Economy

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Things Really Good Consultants Say

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I am so excited!

There’s an absolutely fabulous article on the Inc. magazine web site. Okay, everything they publish is good. But this article is way up there.

The point the author makes is that consultants who get results and deliver a great service say certain things while they are pitching for business. Business owners who listen for them can dramatically reduce their risk when selecting or hiring a consultant.

Why am I excited? Because we say these things all the time – we really do!

Here are my favourites.

1.    “I don’t know.” Why would you say anything else? The client is going to figure out that  you don’t know what you’re talking about sooner or later.

And we’re not in business to learn at a client’s expense.

Consultants should only offer services in areas with which they’re intimately familiar (no I won’t use the “expert” word, I dislike it intensely). That’s because they’ve spent a long time acquiring skill and experience in the topic. And they’re still learning and staying up to date in the field.

Our field was originally strategy development and execution. To that we’ve recently added succession planning

2.    “You can do that on your own.” I’m going to meet a client later today and tell him just that. Why? Because he has the expertise to complete some of the project steps in house.

I appreciate it when the people and companies I deal with try to save me money. Why wouldn’t our clients feel the same? And the time that we save by taking this approach we spend looking for things that truly only we can do.

It’s also our policy to bill out at the rate of the person who does the work. So if we use support staff to complete a task, we bill it at their rate, not mine.

Yes I’m a Scotsman but I like to live up to my name as the “canny Scotsman”.

3.    “I still don’t understand the requirements.” I’ll risk appearing slow to understand at the front end of a project to avoid risking missed expectations at the back end.

Despite the number of years I’ve been in business it never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily misunderstandings occur. One bad assumption about what was meant can lead to great frustration – and damage to our reputation.

So, if there’s any room for misinterpretation it’s better to ask a clarifying question.

4.    “We’ll want to come back later to see how things turned out.” The challenge for our profession is that the consulting assignment could be finishing just as the real work is starting.

Call me nosey but, while some consultants will walk away at the end of the project, I want to know if the work we did produced results. That’s as important for us as it is for our clients.

If we’re not getting results we won’t be in business long. And I’d like a lot of warning and an opportunity to do something about it before that happens.

We offer review meetings as an option for our strategy development and strategy execution services. Even if the client opts not to use us to structure and facilitate those meetings I’ll often ask if I can sit in for part of one and listen.

The article which caused my state of advanced excitement is called “8 Things Great Consultants Say” and it’s written by Jeff Haden.

I think he’s really hit on 8, if not the 8, differentiating factors of really effective consultants.

So what do you think? Want to share some experiences?

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Things Really Good Consultants Say

I am so excited!

There’s an absolutely fabulous article on the Inc. magazine web site. Okay, everything they publish is good. But this article is way up there.

The point the author makes is that consultants who get results and deliver a great service say certain things while they are pitching for business. Business owners who listen for them can dramatically reduce their risk when selecting or hiring a consultant.

Why am I excited? Because we say these things all the time – we really do!

Here are my favourites.

1.    “I don’t know.” Why would you say anything else? The client is going to figure out that you don’t know what you’re talking about sooner or later.

And we’re not in business to learn at a client’s expense.

Consultants should only offer services in areas with which they’re intimately familiar (no I won’t use the “expert” word, I dislike it intensely). That’s because they’ve spent a long time acquiring skill and experience in the topic. And they’re still learning and staying up to date in the field.

Our field was originally strategy development and execution. To that we’ve recently added succession planning

2.    “You can do that on your own.” I’m going to meet a client later today and tell him just that. Why? Because he has the expertise to complete some of the project steps in house.

I appreciate it when the people and companies I deal with try to save me money. Why wouldn’t our clients feel the same? And the time that we save by taking this approach we spend looking for things that truly only we can do.

It’s also our policy to bill out at the rate of the person who does the work. So if we use support staff to complete a task, we bill it at their rate, not mine.

Yes I’m a Scotsman but I like to live up to my name as the “canny Scotsman”.

3.    “I still don’t understand the requirements.” I’ll risk appearing slow to understand at the front end of a project to avoid risking missed expectations at the back end.

Despite the number of years I’ve been in business it never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily misunderstandings occur. One bad assumption about what was meant can lead to great frustration – and damage to our reputation.

So, if there’s any room for misinterpretation it’s better to ask a clarifying question.

4.    “We’ll want to come back later to see how things turned out.” The challenge for our profession is that the consulting assignment could be finishing just as the real work is starting.

Call me nosey but, while some consultants will walk away at the end of the project, I want to know if the work we did produced results. That’s as important for us as it is for our clients.

If we’re not getting results we won’t be in business long. And I’d like a lot of warning and an opportunity to do something about it before that happens.

We offer review meetings as an option for our strategy development and strategy execution services. Even if the client opts not to use us to structure and facilitate those meetings I’ll often ask if I can sit in for part of one and listen.

The article which caused my state of advanced excitement is called “8 Things Great Consultants Say” and it’s written by Jeff Haden.

I think he’s really hit on 8 (if not the 8) differentiating factors of really effective consultants.

So what do you think? Want to share some experiences?

How To Keep Control When You Work With Consultants

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Marie Wiese at Marketing CoPilot wrote in her blog last week that CEO’s begrudge – even hate – spending money on marketing services or marketing consulting. She says that’s because marketing feels like a series of unconnected projects and tasks with vague un-measurable results.

We often encounter similar objections when we meet business owners. Some haven’t worked with strategy consultants and just don’t know what to expect. Even those who have are concerned that they are getting into a situation over which they have no control.

Consulting assignments have a reputation for expanding beyond their original scope and budget. Then there are the results – or apparent lack thereof. Entrepreneurs and business owners who, by nature, want to be in control find this hard to deal with.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Start by asking for a written proposal which contains the following 5 sections:

1. Our Understanding of the Situation. Look for a detailed description of the situation you now face and the factors which created it. This section should echo your discussions with the consultants – and should be written from their notes of those discussions.

2. Scope of Work. This should contain a step by step explanation of how the consultants will help you deal with the Situation. Ask for the full assignment to be broken into steps and laid out in a table with 3 columns:

  • A description of exactly what will be done by the consultants in each step.
  • A clear statement of the deliverable or deliverables for each step.
  • The resources that both the client and the consultant must provide in order to secure the deliverable(s).

3. Schedule. This section contains the estimated time required to complete each step. The consultant may provide a range of times if they perceive risk, e.g. they have not been able to examine documents being provided by you. Insist, however, that the lowest and highest estimates of the hours required, and the factors which determine them, are clear.

The Schedule should include a proposed start date and may have a target date for completion.

4. Fees and Payment. Preparing the Scope enables the consultant to determine who – e.g. partner, senior consultant, or research associate – will do the work. Completing the Schedule enables a realistic estimate to be made of the time required. Applying the rate for the person doing the work to the hours required to complete it generates the fee for each step. This section should also contain the total cost of the assignment. Ask for it to be broken out by partner etc.

Travel costs – e.g. mileage, air fares – or other expenses should be shown separately. (Note some consultants bill their clients for the time they spend travelling, others do not.)

We always include the statement, at this point, that no additional costs of any type will be incurred without the client’s prior approval.

Usually taxes e.g. HST are excluded from fees.

Make sure the proposal is clear on how and when the consultant is to be paid. In most cases, we send our clients an invoice when we complete a step and request payment on presentation. In this way they are constantly in control of how much they are spending on us.

5. Termination. Insist that you have the right to terminate an assignment at any time. Clarify the financial terms attached to termination before the work begins.

We tell our clients that if, if the deliverable(s) for any step are not completed, they can terminate the project at the end of that step. In that event we simply expect to be paid for the work we have completed.

There is no reason why entrepreneurs and business owners should not be in control when they work with consultants. Getting a clear, specific, written proposal will get you off to a good start. We’ll talk about other ways to stay in control in future posts.

Most consultants just want to deliver results – and we don’t want to be hard to deal with.

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