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CONTENTS

Other Works by Alan Weiss

Books

Best Laid Plans

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

Getting Started in Consulting (also in Chinese and Russian)

Good Enough Isn’t Enough (also in Spanish)

The Great Big Book of Process Visuals

Great Consulting Challenges

How to Acquire Clients

How to Establish a Unique Brand in the Consulting Profession

How to Market, Brand, and Sell Professional Services

How to Sell New Business and Expand Existing Business

How to Write a Proposal That’s Accepted Every Time

The Innovation Formula (with Mike Robert) (also in German and Italian)

Life Balance

Managing for Peak Performance (also in German)

Million Dollar Consulting (also in Chinese)

Money Talks (also in Chinese)

Organizational Consulting

Our Emperors Have No Clothes

Process Consulting

The Ultimate Consultant

The Unofficial Guide to Power Management

Value Based Fees

Booklets

Doing Well by Doing Right

How to Maximize Fees

Leadership Every Day

Raising the Bar

Rejoicing in Diversity

Audiocassettes, CDs, Albums

The Consultant’s Treasury

The Odd Couple® (with Patricia Fripp)

The One-Day MBA

The One-Day MBA Part II

Winning the Race to the Market

Newsletter

Balancing Act®

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For Koufax the white German Shepherd Dog and Buddy Beagle, more formally Sanford von Koufax of Ebbets and Buddy Beagle of Las Brisas, who embrace me in their unending joie de vivre.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My gratitude to all of those people who have participated in my Private Roster Mentor Program since its inception in 1996. As in any pursuit, you learn more as the teacher than as the student, and their grand array of professional and personal challenges, as well as their trust in and candor with me, have enabled me to constantly hone my craft and build my skills.

Sincere appreciation to my agent, Jeff Herman, who has placed a half-dozen of my books, including my two best sellers.

INTRODUCTION

During my 20-year career as a solo practitioner who works with major organizations, consulting firms, and other solo practitioners, I’ve been asked two questions far more than any others: How do I establish value-based fees, and how do I manage my time so that I build a seven-figure practice with no employees and plenty of leisure time?

The first question I’ve answered in several books and scores of articles and interviews. But the second has never been comprehensively treated until this Toolkit.

I’ve included herein, with my permission for you to appropriate and modify for your purposes (and a web site to visit to download whatever forms you need), checklists, forms, and templates that will save you an enormous amount of time (I estimate more than a month a year) and dramatically enhance your professionalism and productivity. You can read this like a book, or refer to it like a reference manual, or seek out methods to improve still further those areas in which you’re already proficient.

There is no particular sequence that’s important; the sections are not in any particular order, but instead serve to organize elements within common boundaries. I’ve tried to provide maximum support with minimum interference. Most elements have a brief narrative explaining the “why,” then a checklist, commentary, and one or more templates (where appropriate) to demonstrate the “what” and the “how.” The “when,” of course, is up to the reader’s needs, interests, and, frankly, discipline.

The commentary sections are my biases about what might make the best sense, and I have no financial connection to any of my recommendations (other than perhaps coincidentally owning stock in some of the companies). You needn’t follow my specific recommendations, but I think I owe you my best experiences.

My intent is that you use the checklists as appropriate for daily and short-term planning and quality assurance, and use the templates as needed for actual tactical implementation. For example, the templates for creating an article, a follow-up letter, or an invoice can save you hours of time every week.

I stipulate here that you may have some better ideas than I in some of these areas, or can think of additional areas that need treatment (and I urge you to write to me or the publisher so that we may consider these possibilities for future editions), but I believe that there are a dozen or more techniques here that you can use immediately to improve your business and your life. Hence, the goal is neither all-inclusiveness nor perfection, but merely success. Select those forms and checklists that improve your approaches, and your success will increase immediately.

Although this is a different type of book for me, that goal of success is a common theme through all of my work. People told me that I could never succeed as an independent consultant, much less make a million dollars and more working out of my home. I didn’t believe them, because they had no evidence that I couldn’t succeed, and I despise that kind of projected pessimism. They were wrong, but they would have been right if I hadn’t chosen to go my own way.

I’m here to tell you that you can succeed more than you ever anticipated—more than I have succeeded—if you simply apply those aspects of this book that for you, personally, represent immediate improvement. I’m happy to be on that journey with you, and wish you the same marvelous experiences I’ve enjoyed in this great profession.

Alan Weiss, PhD

East Greenwich, RI

June, 2005

SECTION 1

Office and Practice Management

The material in this section deals with the elements of running your home or remote office, support for your practice, and daily routine. You may choose to skip this part if you already have a lean, mean consulting machine in action, or you may choose to apply it as a quality control check. But if you’re just starting out, read carefully and slowly!

EQUIPMENT

The checklist describes the basic and advanced equipment required for a home or remote office. Whether you own, lease, or share some of this equipment is dependent on your personal situation and finances.

There are subcategories where the equipment can be further specified. As a rule, high technology demands ongoing upgrades and replacements, but not constantly, since you will use less than 25 percent of the capabilities of many devices (e.g., people using word processing extensively may not utilize graphics editing, and those with a personal digital assistant (PDA) device may use it to track expenses but not receive e-mail).

Prices are highly volatile, and I won’t make an attempt at a budget. However, if you are setting up an office for the first time, assume a $5,000 minimum investment. If you have an existing office, assume an annual $2,500 upgrade/addition cost, and an additional replace cost of about $5,000 every three to five years, depending on your need (or craving) for the latest technological breakthroughs.

Generally, purchasing warranties on equipment is not a good investment, since the reliability of machines and technology is good and most warranties that cost extra are nothing more than profit items for the provider (in many cases more lucrative than the equipment sale).

I’m ignoring the obvious: You will need a comfortable chair, roomy desk, organized files, and the like.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

I think that Apple computers are the best investment. On average, you can use one for five years with appropriate upgrades before having to replace it. They don’t get viruses and are intuitive, idiot-proof, and absolutely reliable. Apple’s service is good, which is all you can expect in the high-tech industry.

Microsoft Office offers a highly convenient suite of software services, useful separately for the average person, but highly integrated for the techie.

Once upon a time it made sense to lease equipment, but today the purchase prices are so reasonable that you might as well buy what you need and simply deduct the expenses from the company receipts. It’s easier, for example, to buy a new fax machine than to fix a broken one.

Pitney Bowes owns the postage meter market for all practical purposes. The equipment works well, but the service is mediocre. The best place to buy copiers and fax machines may be Staples.

Make sure you have a backup, old-fashioned dial-up modem connection. That way, if the cable fails, which it can do, you aren’t isolated and can still access e-mail and the Internet, albeit much more slowly.

CLIENT FILES

These days files should be physical and electronic. You need to retain client publications and reports that are in hard copy (and where scanning is not feasible). However, virtually all correspondence can be captured electronically.

In either medium, organization is everything.

CLIENT FILE CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

Physical files are still required, despite the computer. They serve as an excellent backup and as a repository for items not easily entered on the computer (e.g., a payment stub from the client, a physical manual, etc.). You may want to take the checklist and actually staple or tape it to the front of your main client file area so that you can ensure a comprehensive file.

I recommend that you retain physical files for three years after ending a client relationship; if the relationship is ongoing, purge older material every other year. Keep all computer and electronic files on a CD or other media indefinitely.

INSURANCE

Counterintuitively, life insurance is not a primary business need, though it’s obviously an important part of your life planning. But you have much more of a chance of becoming disabled with disastrous results for your family as a solo practitioner and provider.

Disability insurance, like almost all insurance, is least expensive when purchased through a group. Individual policies can be expensive, but are nonetheless a mandatory business investment (though they need to be paid from after-tax income, not company money, so that the proceeds are tax free if ever needed). Normally, disability policies will pay a maximum of 80 percent of the prior year’s (or average of the most recent several years’) income. It’s important to be vigilant about this, since consulting income can vary so much, especially on one’s personal W-2 form. Although more expensive, disability policies that pay benefits until you can resume your prior work, rather than simply resume any work, are far superior. Otherwise, you may find your disability payments suspended because you are qualified to work at much lower-paying jobs than your consulting work.

Long-term care (LTC) insurance has become increasingly popular and protects you and your spouse should you become infirm in older age. Policies may provide for extensive home care, with the benefit of avoiding institutionalization and remaining with loved ones. Normally, LTC insurance can be paid for by the firm with pretax money, making it an excellent investment and deductible expense.

Liability insurance protects you should you be sued for negligence, such as a participant injuring himself during a workshop by tripping over a computer power cord you are using. It will also cover you should you break a client’s computer, for example.

Malpractice insurance—often called errors and omissions (E&O) insurance—is another mandatory coverage. This protects you should a client sue you for bad advice (e.g., you advise a strategy approach or financial investment that results in a huge loss). In an increasingly litigious society, this coverage is crucial. Moreover, many major organizations (e.g., Hewlett-Packard) won’t permit you to work for them unless you show evidence of an in-force E&O policy. Premiums are generally based on the volume of your business.

Make sure that your business equipment is covered by your homeowner’s policy if your office is in your home, or by renter’s or lessor’s policies if you have space in someone else’s facility. (That includes shared space that your accountant or attorney is providing for free.) If your homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover your business equipment, you can usually arrange for either a rider at small extra cost or a separate policy with a firm specializing in such coverage.

Finally, consider personal umbrella coverage. This is usually a several-million-dollar policy at relatively small cost that kicks in when you have a claim against you that exceeds your normal automobile, homeowner’s, or other coverage. It is very effective last-resort insurance. (We’ll talk about incorporation in Section 8, but for now be aware that you must incorporate in some form. You do not want litigants pursuing your personal assets, so you must create a firewall of protection. I’ve heard even some lawyers claim that incorporation isn’t critical for professional services firms. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Incorporate as a limited liability company, Chapter C corporation, or Subchapter S corporation.)

INSURANCE CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

I’ve had the best experience dealing with insurance brokers who can offer coverage from a wide variety of companies, seeking out the best deal for me. Therefore, my malpractice coverage might be with one company, but my liability coverage with another.

Group coverage is always less expensive, but not always attainable. If you have group disability coverage, for example, make sure the policy allows for transition to a personal policy, even at increased cost, should you leave that group for any reason (or if it disbands or is denied renewal insurance, which sometimes happens to trade associations).

Regularly ask your broker to investigate better deals, since all of these products change periodically due to a competitive market. Don’t stint on insurance coverage of any kind. My experience is that Provident Life provides good individual disability policies, and Philadelphia Indemnity offers competitive malpractice coverage. But if you give your business to just one or two brokers who handle the full array of coverage, you’ll probably find the best coverage at the best price.

PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE

We all require specialized help. I just love it when someone says, “There’s a software package that will allow you to create your own web site or your own PowerPoint slides,” because even if I could master the technology, it would require $50,000 of my energy and the results still wouldn’t be as good as with a professional. (Can you imagine if someone offered a book such as The Substitute for a Consultant Book, which sold for $29.95 and enabled business executives to become their own consultants?)

The checklist details the major types of professional assistance, and my suggestion is that you develop two philosophies:

1. Try to create a long-term relationship to maximize familiarity, speed, best prices, priority treatment, and so forth.
2. Always develop a backup and provide a bit of work in case the first philosophy is undone by circumstances (a rift, they leave the business, larger customers usurp their time, you outgrow them, etc.).

Bear in mind that you’re paying for these services, so that even the expert you’re employing needs to be sensitive to your objectives and position. The best financial adviser won’t be effective if he or she doesn’t take the time to understand your family situation, retirement plans, alternative sources of income, investment comfort, and the like.

PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

I’ve not mentioned specific fees here because you often get what you pay for, but all of the financial and legal people are going to charge by the hour, ranging from $75 to about $250. You’re actually better off this way, even though it’s a dumb way for them to run their own practices because they charge by a time unit, not value.

I haven’t mentioned the obvious in the checklist, which is to get references and talk to each professional. Never use anyone in the family or someone’s uncle Louie.

Your travel agent will probably assess a $25 or so charge for each transaction, since most travel providers have stopped paying commissions. These charges are reimbursable by your client if you’re traveling on client business, and are company deductions for taxes in any case if you’re traveling for marketing purposes.

You can, of course, make your own reservations through a wide variety of Internet sites, but beware of saving $100 on a ticket at the expense of three hours of your time.

I’ve found that law firms with a variety of services in one practice are better choices than doing business with separate firms for trademark, incorporation, litigation, and so on. But I do like to use separate firms for tax purposes and investment strategy.

I’ve also omitted “virtual assistants,” those people who are shared resources in a remote location and may do correspondence, billing, follow-up calls, and the like. I find most of them a needless expense who don’t represent you well (how can they, when they represent two dozen or more people?) and you’re better off with a local part-time student if you absolutely need help with typing, filing, and so on.

Many people will tell you that you can do things such as file for trademark protection over the Internet. But the fact is a good trademark attorney will cost only a few hundred dollars more than the Internet site and will be much more capable of ushering your application through, dealing with challenges, doing a thorough search, and so forth. After all, this is your intellectual property and brand you’re trying to establish and protect.

TIME AND SPACE ALLOCATION

The second most popular question I’m asked (after the question about how to set fees based on value) is: “How do I best allocate my time?” I’ve found that a physical calendar is vital. That is, electronic devices are inadequate, because they are not constantly in front of you, you can’t view a year in one glance, the amount of text is condensed or abbreviated, and so forth.

There is a rubric that you can’t deliver and market at the same time. That’s totally false, provided that you have planned your time and activities well.

Your space allocation needs to maximize your time efficiency and privacy. I’ve found that even relatively small rooms can become great offices. Keep frequently used files in proximity, but keep infrequently used files in a more remote area (climate-controlled storage, spare room, climate-controlled garage, etc.) so that space isn’t wasted.

TIME AND SPACE ALLOCATION CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

If you’re setting up a room from scratch and have the funds, a designer can do wonders. Mine actually asked what kind of equipment I’d be using and designed a curving, built-in credenza under the windows that accommodates all of my electronics, phone, postage meter, and so forth. I can swivel from my desk to the credenza and perform 90 percent of my work without ever having to leave my chair.

I’ve found that Filofax makes the best personal calendars, and they have space inside for a PDA. I use a Palm PDA for two purposes: to store all contacts and phone numbers, and to track expenses. This is synchronized with my computer, so that expenses are easily printed for reimbursement by clients, and contacts are shared between my PDA and main computer.

Long file drawers that pull out laterally are less intrusive than the traditional files that pull out directly at you, and a unit of four can accommodate your client files, reprint literature, testimonials, financial records, and so on.

Make it clear to your family that when the door is closed you are “at the office” and are not to be disturbed. Use remote controls for the stereo or television so that they can be quickly shut off if you want to answer your phone.

These days, voice mail is quite acceptable (as long as messages are promptly returned) and you can usually subscribe to one for about $50 or less a month, complete with options for the caller. These can be remotely accessed while traveling.

Don’t skimp on your office. You’ll be spending a lot of time there and it therefore must be a comfortable—and comforting—place.

NOTES

This person may or may not be your financial planner.

To download sample templates and checklists, go to . For more information, visit .

This is the individual who creates your brochures, publicity pieces, product covers, and the like.

Rolltop desks are excellent because they have scores of compartments in which to store things.

If the deadline is early April, the item should be in the March folder, for example.

SECTION 2

Sales and Marketing

The material in this section deals with the elements of promoting your value, finding clients, and closing sales.

WEB SITE

Web sites are important marketing tools, but in the vast majority of cases, true corporate buyers aren’t surfing the Internet making purchasing decisions. They are buying based on references, referrals, personal contacts, and visibility. Nevertheless, it’s important to be on the Web as a consultant for credibility, to gather names, to sell products, to sell to different types of buyers (e.g., individuals seeking coaching help), and so on.

There is one thing worse than not having a web site, and that’s having a poor web site. You needn’t have a state-of-the-art web site with all the bells and whistles such as streaming video, but you should have one that aesthetically and contextually represents you well and attracts people. One of the key techniques for accomplishing that is to continually provide additional value—new position papers, self-tests, bibliographies, links to other sites—that compels visitors not only to return frequently but also to refer others to the site.

The number of hits you receive doesn’t matter. What does matter is the word of mouth and buzz that you create so that people then contact you directly as a result of the site (which is why you want to ask new contacts, “How did you hear about me?”).

A web site is a primary tool, above all, in developing your brand or brands.

WEB SITE CHECKLIST

COMMENTARY

Your web site name may or may not reflect your own name and brand, based on availability and other issues. For example, my web site name is the same as my company name, . However, by using a service such as NameSecure (), you can arrange for other entries to be forwarded to your site if people seek you in another fashion. Thus, since my name is so well known and is really my brand today, if someone were to enter , the person would automatically be forwarded to . This service costs well under $100 per year.

The secret to a web site that evolves and is of high value is the relationship between you and your web designer. Unless you are a technical whiz yourself, don’t attempt to run your own site. Even if you do a half-decent job, it will consume far too much time. (Most web designers charge by the hour and are very inexpensive because the field is so crowded and competitive.)

Here is my rule: You write all the copy and decide what appears, and allow your designer to determine how best to position and present it, and what technology makes the most sense (e.g., animations, dropdown menus, etc.). Obviously, your logo, company colors, and other consistent patterns should be incorporated.

Web sites are organic—they evolve not only as technology evolves but also as your practice evolves. Start with a simple but high-quality base and you can build upon it with ease. Make sure you also purge the site of older material; otherwise you’ll create the equivalent of a Web junk closet.

See the Appendix for an example of the home page of my web site, or simply visit (or !).

E-MAIL

It might seem off to specify what e-mail should look like, but this communications device is often underutilized or brutally tortured.

On an incoming basis, you should use filters to block as much spam as possible, or at least send it to a junk folder where you can quickly review it later (in case something legitimate was accidentally screened out).

On an outgoing basis, you should always have a signature file, so that someone can contact you easily in return by means other than e-mail if preferred. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me in an e-mail to send them a product or package, but haven’t included their physical address, necessitating further e-mail and inevitable delay. Some potential buyers may want to pick up the phone and call you or visit your web site, but they aren’t going to do that if all they have is a return e-mail address.

Also, a signature file allows a brief mention of a product, service, teleconference, or appearance that will be sent with every e-mail, and that means you may reach thousands of people a week, so that even a 1 percent return rate becomes quite interesting at zero cost.