Monthly Archives: July 2008

Million Dollar Consulting Tops Poll

Million Dollar Consulting topped a list of books preferred by members of the Institute of Management Consultants in a current poll:

The July 15 Daily Tip presented a list of our favorite books on consulting and asked readers for their own suggestions. Here are the most cited books.
Reader’s suggestions In no particular order:

Thinkertoys (Michalko)
Million Dollar Consulting (Weiss)
Leading Change (Kotter)
The Mckinsey Mind (Rasiel)
Shenson on Consulting (Shenson)
The Knowledge Society (Drucker)
The Trusted Advisor (Maister)
The Consultant’s Calling (Bellman)
The Achievers (Bell)
How to Become a Successful Consultant in Your Own Field (Bermont)
How to build a successful consulting practice (Phillips)
The Emyth Revisited: Why Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It (Gerber)
Managing the Professional Services Firm (Maister)

Million Dollar Consulting got the most mentions as the complete book consultants use both to start their practice as well as to serve as an ongoing reference book.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A psychic needing to use a cell phone. A jogger running with his dog and a sack of crap in their hands. How many people do they mean when you see the “Men Working” highway sign? You will have to listen to this podcast to hear Alan discuss these items among others and establish the connection.

Click on arrow below for podcast to start

and now also on iTunes

Click Here for entire podcast series table of contents

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Virtual Success

Here’s an item from today’s New York Times, “As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual”:
“Corporate training and education is a field many companies are moving online, in part to trim travel costs. Darryl Draper, the national manager of customer service training for Subaru of America, used to travel four days a week, nine months of the year, presenting educational programs at dealers nationwide. Today, Ms. Draper rarely travels and nearly all of her training is done online.
“Previously, Ms. Draper estimated, in six months she would reach about 220 people at a cost of $300 a person. She said she now reaches 2,500 people every six months at a cost of 75 cents a person.”

Brave new world.

The “virtual meetings” suites are becoming more common (Accenture is creating a couple of hundred to eliminate tens of millions in travel expenses) and much more user-friendly every day. Many people say that, two minutes into the meeting, they forget the other parties aren’t actually physically in the room.

By using technology you can reduce your labor intensity as well as increase your revenues. You can personally obtain software as well and/or rent or borrow facilities.

• Virtual meeting environments
• Webinars
• Teleconferences
• Podcasts
• Video on the web and on DVD
• Downloadable courses complete with A/V
• Fax-on-demand
• Email coaching with guaranteed response time
• Phone coaching with guaranteed response time
• Conference calling (there are free sites)

You get the idea. Nothing beats face-to-face communication, perhaps (and certainly not in the marketing process), but you don’t always need the ideal, do you? You may want to travel for excitement, enrichment, and opportunity, and that’s fine. But there are fewer reasons why you must these days.

Organizations are drastically reducing their travel, even with their own customers, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t expect similar relationships with their consultants. After all, shouldn’t you be state-of-the-art?

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Business of Consulting | 6 Comments

The Weakest in the Herd

News item: Business bankruptcies jumped by 17 percent in the second quarter of 2008, higher than at any time during the past two years, according to McClatchy Newspaper analysts. From April through June, over 15,000 U.S. businesses ceased operating, with the most frequent filings in Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Maryland, and Connecticut, according to an Oklahoma City data company (Automated Access to Court Electronic Records).

Analysis: The weakest in the herd are the ones which fall to predation the fastest.

Discussion: During boom times, egregiously bad management somehow manages to stay afloat because the water is so buoyant. (I’ve seen this repeatedly in my consulting career.) During “average” times, many of the weaker entities go under. And in tough times, most of them do. (Except for government organizations, which simply use up more good tax money to support lousy leadership.)

Taking it to the solo practitioner level, you have to be strong in ALL times, meaning you have to utilize sound business practices, so that you’re not lingering at the periphery of the herd with a sore foot, an empty stomach, and a cheetah drooling at you from the bush.

Want to sharpen up your solo operation? Here’s how to be a herd leader or, better still, over the horizon and way out in front:

1. Use sound fiscal practices. Deduct all that you legally can using pre-tax money. Have a smart accountant and attorney, who understand professional services practices, help you organize in that way. Stay on top of all receivables. Remind your buyer, not the lower level accountants, when a payment is overdue. Maintain a cash reserve and a substantial credit line with your bank (which you should pay down to zero when conditions merit).

2. Use smart business acquisition practices. Cold calling doesn’t work in this business, sorry. (Do YOU buy things from people who call out of the blue? If so, that’s part of your problem.) I don’t care who tells you they solely cold call, and I don’t care if you hit one in a thousand. You must create a “marketing gravity” to entice prospects to come to you, so that proving your credibility and even explaining your fee are not the key considerations. Build an expertise and intellectual property that are irresistible.

3. Use intelligent help. Too many consultants insist on making mistakes that others have already made—sometimes 20 years ago. Find people who are smart and successful and learn from them.

4. Use a support system. It’s tough to have a lot of confidence if your own personal relationships aren’t working. Whether family, friends, or colleagues, build a trusting support network which can help you with your objectivity.

5. Use your head. You can’t make $10,000 a week by addressing envelopes at home, or by taking part in a “multi-level marketing effort,” or by allowing some broker or agent to represent you. Nor can you learn from those who haven’t been there and done it themselves. It’s forgivable to make personal errors when you’re in the trenches, but it’s unforgivable to listen to the hot air and poor advice of those who have never been in the trenches (and succeeded).

The businesses going under were weak to begin with. Tough times merely accelerate their demise. You need to be strong at all times. There are people having banner years right now, in the midst of all the turmoil.

Are you one of them?

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Cape May Journal: July 18

Tomorrow we head back north, after a near-perfect seven days (upper 80s, light breeze, water temperature around 70°). I’m looking at the Atlantic as I write this, over our balcony, those sticking it out still on the beach (including my wife).

We visited the boardwalk at Wildwood while we were here, bordering almost a half-mile of white sand beach. (That’s the distance from the boardwalk to the ocean!) The boardwalk is two miles long, so we parked at one end and walked four miles (it used to be eight, since our kids would insist that we go up and back twice).

There were a lot of families out, but mostly buying hot dogs and pizza. The stores were mostly empty and even the more expensive rides were not heavily patronized. There are vacancies at virtually every motel and bed and breakfast, which is unusual in the middle of the summer. Wildwood is a very popular family destination, now way overbuilt with condo units, but with some of the finest beaches (along with Cape May) on the northern east coast.

It’s incredible how enduring the seaside ritual is. The Congress Hall, a sister property a block away of massive size, supported by faux Greek columns, has a sign announcing its privilege of catering to vacationers since 1816. That is not a misprint. I guess the original visitors came by coach and horse at a time when it took days just to go from one end of Manhattan to the other. (John Adams would habitually spend an uncomfortable month getting from Boston to Washington, which tells me he was using I-95, always a mistake.)

We’ll probably make next year’s reservations before we leave tomorrow. Despite the vacancy signs, I want to keep things just the way they are.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Cape May Journal: July 15 The Dolphins

The dolphins swim south every morning here, presumably in search of breakfast. Sometimes, around the middle of the day, you can see a group cavorting off shore, apparently having found fish (or maybe just playing soccer). In the late afternoon, they head north again, probably to catch Jay Leno after the news.

Some days they are easy to spot, coming as close as 20 yards off the breakers—intelligent, slick torpedoes mocking the waves. Other times, you have to be looking carefully. I was testing my telephoto lens yesterday on a buoy marker, when a dorsal fin appeared next to it in my rangefinder, and an entire family hove into view.

The whale and dolphin watching boats often lumber by and stop, rocking like drunks, people hugging the rails. The dolphins put up with it sometimes but, ironically, there are always more dolphins when the boats are nowhere to be seen. (There is some law at work here: Heidinger’s Principle, Shroeder’s Cat, the Hawthorn Effect, something, about mere observation influencing the behavior of the observed, so that you never can really witness a natural state.)

New England Patriots fans, famously, bring signs to the games with the Miami Dolphins stating: “Squish the Fish.” Dolphins, as any third-grader knows, are not fish, but are mammals. I’m supposing that anti-mammal signs would not make sense in New England since at least half the fans would appear to be mammalian. (They are also fanatical about bringing large “Ds” and large symbolic fences to the games, cleverly holding them up to signify “de-fense.” Unfortunately, in the Superbowl, there weren’t enough “Ds” or fences in the vicinity to stop the Giants’ winning drive over an exhausted and aged Patriot defense, er, D-fence.)

In any case, I’m with those who feel that Dolphins are highly intelligent. They hunt in packs for efficiency, are careful and protective with their young, and leap out of the water at times in what has to be some kind of aquatic Olympic event. They look completely adapted to their environment, and have been known to chase off sharks.

My feeling is that all they lack are pockets, but you can’t have everything. At least I’ve never seen a group of them holding up signs saying, “Squish the Fish.”

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Mentor/SAC Meeting

Att: Northern California SAC /Mentor Group members
Second Million Dollar Consultant Teleconference

Join Simma Lieberman, John Weathington and Jennifer Selby on Monday, July 21 at noon PST when Nancy MacKay will be talking about how she became a million dollar consultant  using the Alan Weiss business model. Please RSVP  if you  plan to attend. If you  would like to continue to be notified of SAC/Mentor teleconferences and dinners, please let us know so we can put  you on our mailing list.
Call-in info for Monday-
Conference Dial-in Number:(616) 347-8200
Participant Access Code:1005787#
Thank you,
Simma Lieberman

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Cape May Photo Journal: July 15

(Click on images to enlarge)

The Purple Martins:

Cape May Architecture:

Morning stroll route to the newspapers:


Ocean road at 7:30 am:

Good advice at all times:

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The Fifth View

What does the price of milk being more expensive than oil have to do with Iran and buying milk in an alley? Listen to this podcast from Cape May for Alan’s spin on current news items.

Click on arrow below for podcast to start

Click Here for entire podcast series table of contents

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Cape May Journal: July 14

Maria says to me that it’s astounding that I can hugely enjoy both Cape May and Nevis, the Sandpiper and the Four Seasons.

Hey, life is about having fun.

I crossed over from the beach and visited the rest room by the outdoor pool today, where there is a nearby pond of carp and a sauna, and where I rarely venture, and found to my horror that yesterday, coming in from the blinding sun, I had visited, well, utilized, the women’s room! (I wondered why there were so many stalls and no urinals, but I was in a hurry.) I’m fortunate not to be under arrest, I suppose.

About two-thirds of the vehicles here are SUVs, and there are some large families here. Gas prices? Recession? Mortgage crisis? If you didn’t read the newspaper, you’d never know.

You place a flag in the sand here and a woman clad in white shorts and a tee shirt quickly arrives with a menu to take your lunch order. They should run the world this way.

On the beach, a man politely approaches and asks, “Are you a professor?” Too startled to create a fabricated story, I said I was not.

“Well,” he observed, “you’re reading ‘The Classical World’ (by Robin Lane Fox, a disquisition on the Greek and Roman civilizations) and I use it in my course at Dennison University. I can’t imagine anyone reading it for pleasure!” I responded that I was alternating among it and two science fiction books, which I pulled out of my beach bag for him.

“You are a rarity,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, I am,” I admitted, grinning.

I’ve been freezing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kat bars to have with my Davidoff cigars out on the balcony at night, which has turned out quite nicely.

Tonight we were at one of our favorite restaurants (anywhere), The Pier House. Almost everyone who walked in took a long look into the Bentley. One foursome lingered over the car, leaning in almost close enough to set off the alarm (some kind of sonic system I don’t even understand covers the car with the top retracted). They saw me laughing from the window, and stopped by.

“We saw ‘Million Dollar Consulting’ in the back seat,” they said. “Did you get that car by reading it?”

“Actually, no,” I told them, “I wrote it!”

“I old you!” said one guy to the other.

Their wine was on me.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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