How to Succeed at Running Your Own Business or Practice

Running your own business can certainly be hard work. I hear and read in newspapers and magazines how small businesses and self practitioners are going out of business everyday because large chain stores are driving them out. I’m not going to lie and say that running your own business and being the CEO isn’t tough. In fact it is downright grueling. However, with some key tips and advice, you can be on your way towards maximizing profits and watching the money come rolling in.

First, the key is location, location, location. You want to set up your store in an area that has a growing and large population. Ideally, the best place to look for is a store that has the potential for expansion while being located in a populated part of the town or city where people go to shop or buy goods on a daily basis. The next step is to think about the cost of rent and how much you want to pay. Price is an issue and even if the location is great, you can be deterred from setting up shop because the real estate prices are simply too high in that area. A good place to look for is one that is slightly falling apart and has some wear and tear but can be fixed with some manpower and effort. Landlords are hesitant to clean up their properties because they don’t want to put their own time and effort into it. As a result, they often sell these types of properties for lower rates.

 

The next step once you have agreed on a contract deal for rent for the store and the length of contract for the store is to hang an awning or banner with your store name. Even before you start banging away with a hammer and nail your store name should be in plain sight for people to see. People get excited when new stores come into a neighborhood and your sign should also contain hat type of business it is such as a bakery, appliance store, music store, etc.

 

Then you will have to hire a construction company to make repairs to the store and to decorate it accordingly. Make sure you have a front desk with a cashier for purchases and to meet with people depending on your business. You should also go to the local bank and try and hammer out a line of credit with the bank. Get the lowest possible rates that you can. Most small business owners take out loans to pay for the construction of the store which is a good idea. When you are having the workers install various items into your store, make sure that you carefully research the prices of tables, chairs, counters, glass windows etc. While you want to cut costs, at the same time you want quality items that will attract people to the store. Furniture that easily breaks will turn away customers which are bad for business.

 

When you first open shop you should hand a banner on all of the windows of the store that says “Grand Opening.” Make the sign in big capital letters with a bright color to attract people to the store. Also come up with a catchy title of your company or store. Offer discounts on certain days or times during the week. You should also take out a couple of ads in the local newspapers telling people about the opening of your store. Offer people rebates for bringing their friends to the stores and referring them.

 

As for employees, you could start with hiring family members to work at your store. I also recommend getting young people who are eager to work. Offer incentives for a certain amount of revenue sold so that they are eager to sell more of your company’s products. If an employee is simply making an hourly wage, then they know they will get paid the same amount no matter if they do a great job during their shift or a poor job.

 

Have your store open early in the morning and late at night. During the first couple of months for your store you will need to have long hours during the day to attract as many people as possible to the store because it is new to the neighborhood. Once your store is recognized and well known, then you can alter your work hours.

 

Having amenities at your business is also a great idea. If it is an office where your company is offering a service such as a law office or doctor’s office, have magazines and newspapers in the lounge area where the people wait to be called on. In addition, having vending machines is another great idea. You can generate some extra revenue as well.

 

Business cards can be very helpful as customers usually want to remember a store that they liked. You can print out flyers pretty cheaply and distribute them throughout the town to attract customers. Having a delivery service is not a bad idea but sometimes it is a luxury to have because it might not necessarily result in profits since you will have to pay for a delivery boy.

 

Finally, the best advice I can give is to watch out for your competition. Look at the prices that competing stores are offering for their goods or services. Look at which products that company is selling and try and offer different items to customers that they can’t find at that other store. Make sure that your competition does not drive you out of business. Raise and lower your own prices and offer specials and discounts frequently.

 

Remember, if you work hard and put a lot of effort into your business, you will be sure to succeed.

What You Need to Start Your Own Business

A successful entrepreneur can tell you that a good business owner plans every step in the creation of a business to avoid mistakes. According to a report entitled “The Small Business Economy: 2010” published on the Small Business Administration website, approximately 15.3 million Americans were self-employed in 2009. In order to join the millions of self-employed people in the United States, you need to understand how to start a personal business.

Idea A good personal business starts with an idea. Get a pen and a piece of paper and write down every kind of business you think that you would like to start. You can begin eliminating businesses that you do not feel confident about, or that you know you will not be able to apply the proper time and resources to. What you have left is a short list of businesses that you feel you could dedicate time and money into to get started.

 

Research You need to narrow your short list down to just one business idea, and you do that through research. Start reading books on the businesses you are considering starting. Find out how the businesses work, the kind of experience you need to be successful and the materials you will need to get started. Get out and visit companies that already exist so you can see first hand how it works. If you are able to, you should work for a couple of these companies just to get an intimate idea of whether or not you want to start that kind of business.

 

Experience and Education

 

When you were deciding on a businesses, part of your research dealt with determining the experience and educational needs of the industry you have chosen. If you are lacking in the necessary educational background, then take the time to fill in what you are missing. Take classes at the local community college, or go back to school full-time to get the degree you will need. When you’ve completed the research, you need to get experience in your field. You can start working for an existing company through a full-time job, or spend a summer as an intern learning the business.

 

Mentor Once you have decided on the kind of business you want to start, you need to find a mentor to help you get started. You may find a mentor working full-time for an existing company, or you may know someone already in the industry you want to work in. You are unlikely to find a mentor working in your industry of choice in your own geographic area. You will be seen as competition by those business people. But reach out to people that you would not be in direct competition over the phone or the Internet, and see if you can find someone that will help you to understand what is needed to start your business.

 

“Starting and Managing a Business,” SBA.gov

“How to Start Your Own Business and Keep Your Sanity,” USNews.com

“7 Tips for Part-Time Business Owners,” Entrepreneur.com

Bright Ideas Are Worth Money: Creative and Innovative Ways to Earn Cash

CashSome of the most unlikely ideas can generate tremendous interest and earn their originators amazingly large sums of money, including an anatomically impossible drawing of a spider. In 2008, David Thorne of Adelaide, Australia, reportedly offered a drawing of a spider he had sketched as a substitute for payment of a utility bill for 233.95 dollars Australian.

The utility company refused the drawing, but the seven-legged sketch generated an extended email exchange between Thorne and the utility company. He ultimately offered the sketch on the online auction site eBay, where it fetched 18 bids from various countries worldwide and a winning offer of $10,000 U.S dollars, or 15,000 Australian dollars.**

Performance Art

The Chicago Bucket Boys are descended from a tradition of street performers dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. The young men from the south side of Chicago create syncopated rhythms using a simple pair of drumsticks and plastic buckets. They are a frequent sight on Michigan Avenue during the summer months, and have performed during halftime at Chicago Bulls games.

Esmee Denters, a young woman from Oosterbeck in the Netherlands, has taken a more high tech approach, uploading videos of herself singing to the popular user driven channel YouTube. She has generated interest from promoters with major music labels. Fluent in English and Dutch, she has developed a fan base in Europe and the United States.

A Better Mousetrap

Until personal computers made typewriters nearly obsolete, the invention of Bette Nesmith Graham, Liquid Paper, originally called “Mistake Out,” was the savior of typists everywhere. The mother of Michael Nesmith, a member of the 1960’s pop group The Monkees, Bette Nesmith Graham began manufacturing the formula in her kitchen blender. Shortly before her death in 1980, she sold the company to Gillette for 47.5 million dollars.

Multiple inventor Joy Mangano’s inventions focus on household challenges such as hangers that preserve space in crowded closets or a mop that eliminates the need to wring out dirty water from a mop head with their hands. She began her company in 1991 with her first invention, the “Miracle Mop,” that allowed users to wring out the mop head without getting their hands wet. Since then, she has become a fixture on Home Shopping Network, promoting products like her popular “Huggable Hangers.”

Playing Doctor on TV

In a commercial for Vicks 44 cough syrup that aired during the 1980s, soap opera actor Peter Bergman spoke the now famous line “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” Since that time, real doctors have taken positions as varied as medical correspondent for television news stations, to product endorsements for infomercials. Dr. Drew Pinsky, known as “Dr. Drew” and Dr. Mehmet Oz, known as “Dr. Oz” have each become bona fide television personalities with nationwide recognition.

Other doctors, while less famous, have also established careers on television. Dr. Stephanie Clements began her career in journalism and earned a medical degree in podiatry. She became the medical correspondent for KUSA, an NBC affiliate in Denver, Colorado and continued her medical practice. Dr. Dave David gave up a medical practice in the 1990s to become a product endorser for medical and fitness infomercials.

Put It In Writing

Web pages and weblogs, or blogs, have replaced newspapers and books for a large percentage of the reading public. As a result, bloggers such as Matt Drudge of the conservative “Drudge Report” and Markos Alberto Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the left-leaning “Daily Kos” have become influential figures on the blogosphere, or the Internet information arena. Commercial services such as CreativeWeblogging and and Weblogs, Inc. offer would-be bloggers a turnkey platform and paid compensation for their prose.

The Worth of a Picture

Artist J.S.G. (“Just Some Guy”) Boggs has traveled around the world, using hand-drawn currency in place of actual legal tender. He is not a counterfeiter; his works of art recreate the look of money only on one side. The back contains his thumbprint and signature. In the Internet age, Boggs has turned from hand-drawing currency to computer generated works of art.

Both his hand drawn bills and his computer currency are worth much more than face value to collectors, who pay Boggs for receipts allowing them to trace the works of art. The collectors in turn contact the recipients of the “Boggs bills” with lucrative offers. Once the art has changed hands from its original recipient to the collector, Boggs considers his “performance art” to be complete. His art is on display in museums around the world.

** No money had actually changed hands concerning the spider drawing. Patrick Munoz, the winning bidder, reportedly refused to pay the winning bid. The spider artist had reportedly not paid the original utility bill as of that date, either. An extensive search yielded no further updates.

Sources

  • Ninemsn.com.au — Man Tries to Pay Bill With Spider Drawing
  • Telegraph.co.uk — Man Tries to Pay Overdue Bill With Spider Drawing
  • Ninemsn.com.au — Spider Minus Leg Sells for Thousands
  • News Ninemsn.com.au — “Spider Man” Refuses to Pay for Drawing
  • Bulls.com — Chicago Bulls Bucket Boys
  • Reuters.com — You Tube Stars Don’t Always Welcome Record Deals
  • YouTube — Esmee Denters’ Official Channel
  • JobTips.org — Moms as Successful Home-Based Entrepreneurs
  • Liquid Paper — About Us
  • CBS News — Mother of the Miracle Mop
  • HSN.com — Joy Mangano for the Home
  • IMDB — Peter Bergman
  • Dr. Drew Pinsky — Home
  • Mehmet Oz, M.D. — Home
  • CareerLab.com — Getting a New Gig
  • The New York Review of Books — The Library in the New Age
  • From Literacy to Electracy — Writing, Reading, and Learning in the Late Age of Print
  • Beat-Tuition.com — Make Money In College –33 Ideas and More
  • The Drudge Report — Home
  • NNDB — Matt Drudge
  • Daily Kos — Home
  • Daily Kos — FAQ
  • Creative Webblogging — Write for Us
  • Weblogs, Inc. — Home
  • Economic Expert — J.S.G. Boggs
  • Young Money.com — J.S.G. Boggs — The Value of Money
  • The Art Institute of Chicago — Search Result — J.S.G. Boggs

Free Sample Employee Evaluation Form: A Performance Evaluation Checklist for Entrepreneurs

ChecklistEmployees need to know how they are doing, and performance evaluations are an excellent way to provide the necessary feedback. Yet an employee evaluation isn’t a one-time or yearly process either; it begins the second an employee is hired and continues throughout their career with the organization.

What follows is a free sample evaluation form for entrepreneurs to use and cater to their specific human resource needs, so as to provide their staff with adequate feedback and review on a regular, measured basis.

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Data Section

Start the evaluation form with the kind of data that can be filled in before the actual job evaluation takes place, such as:

  • Employee name, number (if applicable), job title, supervisor and department;
  • Hiring or start date and the time period for which the employee evaluation is being done;
  • Current salary, along with the last salary increase date;
  • Why the employee is receiving a performance evaluation (such as it was scheduled, for a promotion or to review a potential salary increase); and
  • The date of the employee’s last performance evaluation, as well as the date the current evaluation is being performed.

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Technical Skills Section

The technical skills section of an employee evaluation is where the reviewer can comment upon the staff member’s:

  • Knowledge of the job, including the specific skills and information requirements needed;
  • Work quality, such as their accuracy, thoughtfulness, thoroughness, concision, ability to complete projects as requested and consistency;
  • Promptness in getting the work required finished on schedule;
  • Understanding of the job and all it entails, such as the employee’s ability to learn new skills and put them into practice and follow company rules and/or procedures; and
  • Organizational skills, such as their ability to juggle projects and time commitments, and how well they prioritize crucial job-related tasks.

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Interpersonal Skills Section

Every job requires some level of interpersonal skills, whether or not the staff member has any contact with the public. With this in mind, some of the performance review talking points could include:

  • How well or often does the employee take the initiative to get thing done, and are they able to work without supervision most of the time?
  • Is the employee respected by his or her peers, subordinates, superiors and/or clients? Do they work well with others?
  • Does the employee demonstrate concern for the client’s needs consistently and regularly?
  • What kind of attitude does the staff member bring to the workplace?

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Personal Skills Section

The smallest of the sections in a performance review, the personal skills category merely explains whether or not the employee is punctual, has good attendance, and is attentive to customer relations no matter what their position with the company.

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Written Evaluation Section

The written evaluation is where the reviewer can write longer, more detailed comments about the employee’s job performance, such as any general comments or whether or not the staff member met the goals and recommendations from the previous performance review.

Free Sample Performance Evaluation – Recommendation Section

This is the portion of the employee evaluation form where the reviewer or human resources professional can give a brief outline of what is to happen based on the performance review. Information covered could include:

  • Whether or not the employee’s position will remain the same, receive a promotion, be transferred or changed in any other way;
  • What, if any, salary changes or training programs are being recommended; and
  • What date the performance review was shared with the employee.

Finish the performance evaluation with the reviewers signature, the employee’s signature, and the date, along with a disclaimer such as, “I have read this employee evaluation and have shared my thoughts and comments with the reviewer. My signature does not constitute agreement, but rather an understanding of the information presented within.”

Why Buying a Franchise Might Be Right for You: For Some Aspiring Entrepreneurs Franchising Could Be the Way to Go

LogoIf you’re looking to start your own business but are worried about taking the plunge you might want to consider investing in a franchise. Starting a small business can be full of risk. You have to develop a concept and put your own money and maybe somebody else’s on the line for an unproven concept. This can take a lot of guts to do. And if you lack a good business education and the experience necessary then it might not be a good risk for you to take.

A Franchise Is an Investment

There is an alternative though. Buying a franchise can help you overcome some of the weaknesses that are inherent with small business. And if you pick the right type of franchise then you might find a good deal of support for your investment. Not all franchises are the same of course, some are better than others and they operate in many different industries. Restaurants are the single most popular field for franchised businesses. But there are many others for you to choose from. The first thing you have to ask yourself is what is right for you.

Your Franchise Is a Long Term Commitment

Buying a franchise is a long term commitment. You be required to sign a contract that usually will last five years or longer. You’ll spend thousands of dollars on your franchise and possibly undergo numerous training sessions. You need to make sure that the franchise you choose is what you will be happy doing. There are all sorts of franchises out there if you take the time to look. But just as you should do with anything else in business before you buy that franchise you need to educate yourself.

Educate Yourself about Franchises

Your education needs to include all that you can find out about the industry you are interested in and the franchise company you are considering. The fees that they charge need to be considered. What is the franchise fee and do they charge any kind of regular royalties? What training do they provide to you both upfront and on an ongoing basis. How many other stores are in your area? Does your franchise operate territories and can you buy control of more than one? When you consider buying a franchise you have to consider a lot of questions. And you need to do it carefully.

Benefits of Owning a Franchise

A franchise does come with some definite benefits though. Many franchises are proven business concepts with hundreds or even thousands of locations. Many have national advertising campaigns that they run. And a list of approved vendors the length of your arm that you can buy from. All you have to do is provide the money to get your location up and running and then go to work. How successful it becomes is not entirely up to you because of the support they are providing but how well your location runs is in your hands. Franchises are not for everyone but if you have the money and feel you need the support of a proven business concept it might be right for you.

Basics of Setting Up a Small Project Management Business

ManagementWhen a business sells a service that a client will only buy once or thrice in a lifetime, then it is engaged in a project management business. It could appear to be a one-man or one-woman team such as a wild animal or insect exterminator or a team of several teams consisting of five thousand workers drilling a highway tunnel across the sea.

The common notion of project management is that it involves a Gantt chart and a well-documented plan of tasks, schedules and personnel assignment. Another typical view is that project management is for big business which involves a highly paid project manager with project management certification.

Well, this is not the case.

How Small Project Management Businesses Usually Start and Grow

When an aspiring entrepreneur is good at something and sells such expertise as a service or has inherited a service business from his or her parents, then that would technically be the start of a project management business.

The typical small business owner selling services has a gut feel of the service process being sold. He or she would rarely document each step in the process and would usually be proud and call such attitude as ‘protecting a trade secret.’

However, when the decision to expand and sell franchises is reached, the small business owner is now challenged to establish a standard way of doing things to keep the business name’s integrity and ensure consistent profitability.

The business owner will have to hire a franchising expert to create an operations manual; establish standards in procedures to maintain and sustain quality in all franchises; or even apply for intellectual property rights on the name, look and feel, and unique procedures of the business.

For instance, the operations manual will contain information such as the process steps in safely catching a rattle snake, how much to charge for the service, what equipment to use, where to release the reptile, what will the business owner do when someone has been bitten and so forth.

Typical Advantage of Setting Up a Project Management Business

The typical advantage of setting up a small project management business is that it usually requires small or no capital at all. What is usually invested is the time and effort of the business owner who is good at what he or she does.

But the question is, can he or she be even better to make consistent profits and build a reputation for quality service? If the answer is yes, then how will the business owner proceed from where he or she is good at?

The Right Footing: Start the Expertise Multiplier

Before even making a decision to write a business plan, the aspiring small project management business owner should attempt to document the steps that he or she does best. For this, it would be advantageous to look at this free manual.

Documenting the process steps can result in the following expertise multiplier benefits:

  • Fine tune the process further for greater efficiencies
  • Better organization
  • Better insight on how to breakdown tasks so the simple ones can be assigned to other people
  • When the owner gets sick, the substitute can look at the process steps for consistent quality
  • Training reference for new workers in cases of expanded business
  • Better division of labor and delegation

Using Capital: Manage Resources First in the Mind

After documenting most of the necessary service processes, the business owner should then list all of the resources required to execute each service, how much they cost, how many sales would it take to recover such costs, what are the seasonal behaviors of the business and how many customers can the business serve with such resources.

Documenting the above information or more enables the business owner to commit mistakes in his or her head without actually spending cash yet for such mistakes.

Dry Run: Estimate Capacities and Demand

As long as the aspiring business owner can do the service business part-time in addition to a full-time job, then estimating demand for the service is not necessary. However, if demand picks up, the small project management business owner should know his or her capacities.

The first technique is to go through the service process steps and asking someone to time the actions with a stopwatch every step of the process. This is an operations management technique called the time-and-motion. Thus, if a service can be completed in x time which includes travel time to-and-fro, then 8 hours divided by x is the capacity y number of clients in a given day.

The next technique is to simulate the maximum number of estimated services that the business owner can do for himself or herself in a day or week. This is crucial as fatigue can affect service quality. Moreover, a good marketing strategy can be formulated that is in-line with realistic capacities.

Getting Down to Business: Write the Business Plan

After the dry run, the aspiring business owner should now write the business plan. Writing the business plan provides the business aspect to the technical aspect of the small project management business. In addition to that, the business plan is very useful in raising capital either through equity loans from the bank, through venture capitalists and friends, or through government grants.

Go, Go, Go: Register the Business

When the business plan is complete, the aspiring small project management business owner should now register the business.

The Courage to Lead: How to Develop Your Leadership Confidence

leadershipEveryone admires courageous leaders. But there are different kinds of leadership. To become President of a country or a Chief Executive takes courage because you are in a win-lose competition with other candidates. You put your neck on the line in a very public way. When you campaign for election, you face aggressive opposition and intense scrutiny of your life and track record. It also takes courage to champion unpopular ideas in the face of severe opposition.

Courage is required for any competition. When you apply for a job, you are in a public race that only one person can win. You need courage to enter the fray and to face your supporters if you lose.

What about the courage of Martin Luther King? He was assassinated despite his courage and attacked in a number of other ways. To stand up for your beliefs and values in front of an angry mob takes a lot of courage. But this situation is different. King wasn’t competing with other candidates for election to a position. He was simply challenging the status quo to promote a better way of living.

Not many people have this much courage. It is because it is so rare that we admire people who have it. Courageous leaders in business, politics or war are naturally seen as heroes.

Developing Your Leadership Courage

The key to developing your courage to lead is to start small. It takes much less courage to compete for a first line supervisory position than it does to be President of your country. Similarly, you don’t need to lead civil rights marches like Martin Luther King to challenge the status quo. Whatever job you do, you will have ideas on how it could be done better. Do you have the courage to make suggestions for improvement to your boss? If you do, then you have sufficient courage to show some small scale leadership in your own local environment. The amount of courage you need to question existing practices also depends on the way you express your challenge. If you speak aggressively in a meeting with your boss and colleagues, you need to be very courageous. However, if you have a quiet word with your boss alone, it is not so risky. Even here, you could be confrontational or you could take a low-key approach and simply ask your boss what he or she thinks about a certain idea you have. If your tone of voice is one of asking for advice rather than aggressively saying the boss is wrong, then you don’t need to be quite so courageous.

Leadership Requires Challenging the Status Quo

All leaders have a better idea. They want to change the world. It takes leadership confidence to stick your neck out. To be a leader, you need to build your confidence to question the way things are done. The easiest way to start is to make quiet, non-confrontational suggestions and see how it goes. You need to see these actions as showing leadership, even if they are on a very small scale. Once you have gained some confidence on small issues, try scaling up to larger matters. If you think a particular stand you want to take is high risk, try it out on a friendly audience before you go to your boss or other prominent stakeholders. With subtle influencing skills, built mainly on using clever questions, you might even get your target audience to think it was their idea.

Like Martin Luther King, you can show leadership every day in all sorts of ways by suggesting a better way or even just by setting a good example. You don’t need to be in charge of the people you are trying to lead to show this sort of leadership. Remember, Martin Luther King showed leadership to the U.S. Supreme Court when his demonstrations influenced them to outlaw segregation on buses, and they did not report to him.

Large scale courage is heroic, but it isn’t necessary for everyday acts of leadership.

The Contents of a Winning Proposal: Five Steps to Successful Proposal Development

win proposalsA proposal is the response by a business to an opportunity, and is a way for a business to showcase their products, services, skills and talents to prospective clients. Creating a winning proposal is as easy as following these five simple steps.

  1. Define The Project – The first question to be answered when responding to a solicitation is, “What is our objective for this project?” It is important to have a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, and to have a firm idea about what your company goal is in responding to this solicitation. If the project statement in the solicitation is not clear, contact the project administrator or other point of contact as specified in the solicitation. One of the factors that the review team will use when considering your proposal is how well your plan responds to their needs.
  2. Assemble a Stellar Team – A project team will consist of a program manager, who will be the point of contact with the contracting organization, and an array of people with specialized skills that can accomplish the goals of your project. Your project team should show your expertise in accomplishing all facets of the project. If you do not have employees to fill all niches, consider hiring consultants or contractors to round out your team. For example, if you are part of a product design firm and the project involves developing a product for high-volume manufacturing, be sure that you have an expert on design for manufacturability and partners in the manufacturing sector.
  3. Draft a Work Plan – In this part of the proposal, you should detail your plan of action for the project. Break the project down into relevant and workable chunks. Describe your approach for each task, and identify milestones and deliverables for each section of the work plan. Include a schedule or Gantt-style chart to illustrate the timing of and the relationships between your tasks.
  4. Review Past Performance – The majority of solicitations will require some examples of similar projects to illustrate your past performance in the industry. Start by assembling projects with direct relevance to the solicitation. Refer to the solicitation for specific requirements, but it is generally useful to have between 3 and 5 examples of past performance. If you do not have that many directly relevant projects in your portfolio, add projects that involved specific skill sets that will be applicable to the solicitation, but may be outside of the specific industry.
  5. Get an Independent Review – When you spend a lot of time researching and writing a proposal, the familiarity of the work can sometimes allow errors to creep into the work. A review of the proposal by a colleague can uncover inconsistencies in the content, breaks in flow, and simple textual errors. A colleague can act as a devil’s advocate to ensure that the arguments you create in support of your proposed work are strong and backed up with sufficient evidence.

How to Write Business Proposals: Effectively Communicating Great Ideas Through Project Bids

Business proposalsWhat is a Proposal?

A proposal is a document generated by a company to obtain funding from another organization. While a business plan can be considered a proposal for the company as a whole, a proposal generally focuses on a specific opportunity for the business, whether it is a bid for a solicited job, or proposed research and development work.

While business people and innovators may come up with some great ideas, those ideas will simply languish unless they can be communicated in a way that gives them credibility. Proposals are one way that businesses can sell their ideas to organizations that will provide the business with funding. Proposals often have many of the same components as a business plan, just on a more focused level.

Proposals can be written in response to solicitations or grant announcements, or can be unsolicited; that is, the organization proactively approaches organizations that may have funding, rather than waiting for the announcement of a funding opportunity. Solicited proposals are generally more widely accepted, because they respond to a need that the soliciting organization has publicized.

Writing a Proposal

Like a business plan, a proposal requires a significant effort to effectively address the needs of the soliciting organization, to clearly express the solution brought forth by the proposing business, and to prove that the proposing business is the right person for the job.

A Project Bids should be written by a group of people within the organization that meet the various needs of the project. This could include, but is not limited to, project management, technical expertise, financial expertise, manufacturing and commercialization (for product development), and legal counsel.

Proposal Contents

A quality proposal should include (but is not limited to):

  • A detailed description of the work to be performed
  • Background of the problem to be solved (if applicable)
  • A task-based work plan with schedules and milestones
  • A listing of key personnel, including resumes and descriptions of each person’s responsibility within the proposed project
  • Summaries of relevant work performed in the past
  • Information about the company as a whole, showing why the business is the best choice for the job. Include general capabilities, facilities information (if applicable) and relevant assets
  • Information about consultants or subcontractors (if applicable)
  • Financial information including overall budget, labor and material costs and other information specified in the solicitation.

Different solicitations will require different content to be included in the responding proposal. It is important to refer to the solicitation or to the point of contact for the exact requirements for each proposal.

Managing People Effectively: How to Get the Best out of People

employee-recognitionEmpowerment, career development and recognition are standard ways of motivating employees but the real key is employee engagement.

The talent war can’t be won by recruitment alone. Talent retention depends on crucial skills for managing people, motivating them and making them feel valued. Unfortunately many of the standard techniques are too superficial to have much lasting effect, but they are better than nothing.

Standard Approaches to Motivating Employees

Empowerment goes a long way toward managing people well. Giving them the authority to make decisions for which they used to have to seek approval from their bosses is liberating. Recognition also helps; giving people a pat on the back for a job well done is a good lift, even if the effect is temporary.

Some companies stress the value of career development. They feel that giving employees personal development opportunities will motivate them to stay. The power of this technique depends on whether it is given out freely or is dependent on performance. Rewards are more valuable if the employee feels that they are earned rather than freely given which causes them to become taken for granted. This is why recognition is more powerful than annual pay increases. Showing employees that you appreciate how they handled a tough challenge is directly linked to the effort they made to get the job done. Direct reinforcement generates more personal satisfaction at work and increases the likelihood of similar performance in the future.

Engagement: The Key to Motivating Employees

The best way to engage employees is to ask them for their ideas, advice or solutions. When employees approach their bosses with a problem, smart managers will ask them what they think, what they see as the options for dealing with the problem and what they would recommend. Similarly, when great managers have an issue they can’t resolve themselves, or even if they already know the answer, they ask employees for input.

Weak managers lack sufficient confidence to ask employees for their suggestions. They base their confidence on their ability to know the answers, to appear strong and decisive. They feel that it is a sign of weakness to ask anyone for help or input. It is not entirely their fault. Most organizational cultures still promote people to senior positions based on their ability to convey a macho ability to call the shots in a very self-reliant, individual manner. Such managers make themselves look good but their short term gains are at the long term expense of the organization. This is because the boss takes all the credit for being the hero, for having all the answers and always knowing what to do while employees reporting to such a boss are made to feel like menial assistants.

Smart managers know that their long term success depends on talent retention and employee motivation. They also know that the world is too complex for them to have all the answers. As a result, they make themselves even more successful because, by getting more input, they develop better solutions and they have a more motivated, loyal workforce.

In summary, a combination of techniques is recommended to manage people effectively, but the real key to making people feel valued is to ask them for their advice or opinion. Knowledge workers work with their brains more than their hands. They want to feel they are contributing. So, to keep them interested you need to ask them for their ideas. Managers who don’t understand this vital point are blocking their own success as well as their organization’s.