Category Archives: Management

The Futility of Flame Wars

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I recently witnessed a cringe-worthy flame war between two consultants on a blog. You’ve probably seen your share too.

Most flame wars start with a spark: someone leaves a critical comment on a blog or in some other forum, which provokes a response from the author. Then the criticizer adds fuel to the fire with another comment, more strident than the first.

Before long, the author and critic abandon the original disagreement and start sniping at each other. Finally, the exchange deteriorates until the combatants are disparaging each other’s expertise, credibility, or position in the industry.

Here’s my question for the flame throwers: Why do you do it?

Maybe you think a flame war will attract people to your site. But most will come just to watch a fight or pile on–not the readers you really want.

Debate is fine, but you’re not going to resolve a disagreement with a flame war. Once it starts, no one is listening or responding to anything other than the personal flaming. Any legitimate issue goes up in smoke.

Besides, such exchanges make you look petty and petulant to readers and prospective clients. You won’t endear yourself to many clients by insulting your colleagues.

If you’re tempted to start or jump into a flame war, consider this: you’re not as right and the other person isn’t as wrong as either of you think.

And no one wins a flame war–there are only losers.

The Trade-Offs in Consulting

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I hear from many of you about jumping into consulting, either by joining a firm or starting a business.

The good news is that this is a great time to be in the consulting business. In the US, for example, forecasters predict that Business and Professional Services will be the second fastest growing industry in the next ten years.

But consulting is not right for everyone. Over time, I’ve asked countless consultants what they like most (and least) about being in this business. Their answers always involve a discussion of trade-offs.

If you’re considering a career in consulting, here are some of the trade-offs people talk about:

  • Within a few months, you know every consulting joke by heart. In spite of all the wisecracks about the profession, your clients trust you to help solve their most complex problems.
  • You live with uncertainty, never completely sure of your next project. That next project always materializes, though, and it’s often more interesting than you could have imagined.
  • Clients tell you that your price is too high more often than you think is reasonable. Even so, you still win your fair share of profitable work at the fees you want.
  • You often travel to locations that you’d never visit if it wasn’t for client work, but you quickly learn how to appreciate things about new places.
  • You always wish that you had one more week to wrap up your project. As a result, you become a highly-skilled project manager who knows how to hit any deadline.
  • Clients rarely return your calls as quickly as you’d like. When they do call, though, they’re ready to engage with you.
  • You have to make personal sacrifices, including traveling at inconvenient times, missing family events, and working long hours. On the other hand, you enjoy a degree of independence in your work that most people never experience.
  • Your projects get tangled up in clients’ political drama, leaving outcomes in doubt. But, eventually, you watch your clients’ businesses and people change for the better as a result of your work.
  • You die inside when one person’s poor word choice in a meeting sets your client relationship back to square one. But, in the long-run, you develop lifelong business and personal relationships with your clients and colleagues.

Those are the trade-offs consultants mention to me most often. What would you add to the list?

Emmanuval Silks shuts shop in Kochi

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KOCHI: A year-and-a-half ago, Bollywood Badshah Shah Rukh Khan opened the showroom of Emmanuval Silks in the city, dancing to his hit number ‘Chammak chalo’ and for a reported Rs 2-crore fee. The ‘chammak’ it seems didn’t last long as the management closed down the showroom on Monday, citing ‘heavy losses’.
According to sources, the management decided to close the showroom after running up huge bills. The showroom, which opened in December 2011, was the third one of the Thrissur-based retail garment chain. It had planned to open showrooms in other cities too.
The showroom, which spanned over an area of 5lakh sq ft, had around 300 employees. Sources said that over 250 employees were relieved by the management after paying a month’s salary. The remaining 50 employees have been transferred to its Thrissur showroom. Sources said the shop had run up heavy losses over the last year. While the monthly rent of the building was around Rs 60 lakh, the company had to shell out Rs 30 lakh monthly on electricity alone, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the labour department said that it was unaware of the development. “We have not been informed by the management about the closure. The management can relieve employees by giving one month’s salary, if they wish so,” said an official with the labour department.
However, T O Byju, one of the promoters of Emmanuval Silks, denied the closure of Kochi showroom. “We closed down the showroom on Monday for renovation. Our plan is to convert it into a shopping mall to move with the changing times,” said Byju.

[ View Original Article at timesofindia ]

Finding the Real Decision Makers

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We all know that clients buy perceived value when they hire an outside service provider.

Your efforts during the sales process contribute to your client’s perception of value, of course, but other sources of influence can be equally critical to your client’s buying decision. Before most people make a big purchase, they seek advice from those they trust–colleagues, mentors, a boss, or even a family member.

I’m not talking about people who have an “official” role in approving the sale, but those in your client’s network who are likely to get your client’s ear. It’s possible that you’re not aware of these people and how they could shape the sales process.

Not long ago, for instance, I worked with a prospective client on a project that never got off the ground. Why? I found out later that one of the client’s influential colleagues questioned the project’s value and that was the end of it.

It’s not always possible to know which individuals could sway a client, but you can ask questions to help identify them and their potential concerns.

For example, to understand the perspective of your client’s colleagues, ask how your proposed project fits with other ongoing or planned initiatives. Is your project complementary to others or competing? You can also ask directly how your client’s colleagues view the value of your proposed project.

To get a better understanding of how the client’s staff might influence the buying decision, you can ask what the most influential staff people think of the project–and the potential organizational change it would bring. Will they view the project as essential, somewhat important, or just another initiative?

You can come up with similar questions to figure out how your project may be viewed by others in your client’s network.

Use the answers to these questions to shape a value proposition that includes the impact of the project on the people who aren’t directly involved in the decision process but who are important to the sale.

How Small Firms Can Win Big

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In the last few years, the global consulting firms have had a mixed ride. Client litigation, strategic missteps, regulatory constraints, and firm spin-offs sent “newco” firms into a tight market in search of the next mega-client.

The big firms are leaner, but many have familiar handicaps: top-heavy organizational structure, burdensome overhead, high rates, and reluctance to pay top people the premium they deserve for enduring the consulting lifestyle.

Refugees from the big firms have spread into the industry, forming their own firms and joining others to take on Goliath. Except for clients who are joined at the hip with large firms, in many cases, small firms are winning.

The fact is that clients aren’t defaulting to the big-name firms like they used to, and many of the blue-chip brands are competing for work against tough, smaller firms.

Clients are looking for results, and they don’t care where those results come from. If a small firm offers a better, more experienced team at a lower cost, clients will take it. A past relationship with a big-time firm won’t sway the buying decision like it did in the past.

This is a golden time for smaller firms, but only if their marketing is on target and their people are superb.

Realizing this, the big firms are using their deep pockets to upgrade talent and bring focused services to clients, as they continue to pitch the one-stop-shop advantage. Reading firms’ public declarations confirms that the big firms will also continue to push hard into the middle market.

Even so, the narrow, problem-focused small consultancy can grab a fair share of the work from the giants by bringing talent, solutions, a track record, and a reasonable rate structure.

This battle is far from over.