Frequently Asked Questions and What to do About Them!
Question: How can I be a better time manager?
Answer: Who isn’t walking, talking and checking their i-phones these days? How about the guy who was texting, holding a pizza box, eating the pizza, and driving his truck all at the same time? Multi-tasking has become an art form but do we really have less time and more to do or are we just getting worse at managing time. Maybe time management isn’t about managing time at all—maybe it’s about managing work.
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 3, Issue 4. October 2012.
For more information on handling consulting issues see in Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
 Mind Manager (http://www.mindjet.com/products/mindmanager/
Question: Do I really need liability insurance?
Answer: Consultants see liability insurance as complex, time-consuming, and expensive, so we tend to avoid the issue until faced with a contract that requires it. Ironically, our clients force us to think about our own risk as well as theirs.
Professional Liability Insurance and Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance are the same thing. It protects you against being sued for losses a client may suffer due to an error, omission or negligent act arising out of the services or advice provided by you or your firm either now or in the future.
There are two types:
a) Claims made: protects only against claims occurring during the policy period (the less expensive option);
b) Occurrence: protects against claims based on the policy period even if made years after the negligence occurred or the policy has expired (more expensive but more comprehensive).
What to do about it? Buy it!
Gail V. Barrington
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 3, Issue 2. April 2012.
For more information see:
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Question: What should I do with my files?
Answer: The longer you have been a consultant, the more serious the file management issue becomes. The thought of all your papers, files, reports, and binders stacked in teetering columns on every surface in your office gives me nightmares. Why? Because in the long run this lack of organization will cost you both time and money.
Where is that critical document you need for your current proposal? What did you do the last time you hired a research assistant? How can you develop an abstract for the upcoming conference by tomorrow? Filing is not about filing at all, it is about retrieval.
From project to project it may seem inconsequential but managing your files (both electronic and paper) is an important part way to preserve your own intellectual capital, retain your corporate memory, support good decision making, and provide an evidence trail. Think of this pedestrian task as knowledge generation, capture, retrieval and translation. Develop your own knowledge management system.
Gail V. Barrington
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 3, Issue 3. July 2012.
For more information see Chapter 17: Managing Knowledge in Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Question: How can I build a strategic alliance?
Answer: Strategic alliances can provide you with a competitive advantage. By creating a relationship with an individual or group that has different and complementary skills and competencies, you can pursue larger, more complex projects, provide more varied services, and reach a broader geographic area. In return you can decrease your competition, achieve economies of scale, and share costs.
However, strategic alliances are often built on "a wing and a prayer" and they may not be robust enough to achieve a successful outcome. Reasons for failure include poor partner choice, differing values or culture, unclear goals, project management issues, and unequal benefits.
The Boston Consulting Group has developed a strategic alliance process model which can be adapted for the independent consultant:
1. Remember your goals. Don't lose your own business plans in the flurry of this engrossing project. There will be life after it is over so keep your long term goals in mind.
2. Be rigorous. Determine potential team members' competencies, work standards, reputation, ethics, interpersonal communications, and team skills. Review samples of their work and set up a small preliminary project with them to test the relationship.
3. Get it in writing. Develop a Memorandum of Understanding for the project outlining roles, responsibilities, communication strategies (both within the team and with the client), data ownership, and report authorship. Develop a sub-contract for each consultant or group specifying tasks, daily rate, number of days, and insurance and tax responsibilities.
4. Manage. Use good project management skills to ensure clear and frequent communications, budgeting, scheduling, and reporting. Make sure your client is apprised of your relationship.
5. Evaluate. Whether positive or negative, key benefits from the experience are likely to be the learning and insights gained from working with other consultants.
6. Diversify. This may be only one of several alliances you develop depending on the type of projects you want to pursue. Build on the lessons from this relationship.
Make sure your early strategic alliances are successful. They will transform your practice and broaden your portfolio in ways you never dreamed.
Gail V. Barrington
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 4, Issue 2. March 2013
See: http://www.upm.ro/proiecte/EEE/Conferences/papers/S421.pdf - Natalia Cojohari. "The competitive advantage of strategic alliances."
For more information on consulting topics see in Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.