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.

Sales Integrity: Selling Well Without Selling Your Soul

sales integrityWe all know the snake-oil salesman cliché. In an increasingly interconnected and yelped world, however, there is little space for the chicanery that typified that deceitful sales model of old. Rather, competence and reliability are the watchwords of modern-day sales.

Honesty is the Best Policy

“Had honesty not existed, a salesperson would’ve invented it,” the saying goes. Sales is a multiply repeated game. Cheating or lying on your first turn might gain you immediate payoff, but will definitely hurt your long-term prospects. The successful salesperson will earn trust in order to turn their one-time customers into longtime clients and thus benefit from a perpetual income stream.

Details, Details

It’s not enough to be honest. To succeed in sales, attention to detail is essential. Not only is it imperative to listen to what a customer says, but also to react to it and follow through on the appropriate response. A great meal stands out as much for its server’s near-telepathic attention to your needs as it does because of flawless execution by the chef. It’s that service that will distinguish you as a salesperson, and reward you financially.

Be Prepared

You needn’t have been a Boy Scout to know the value of preparation. All the follow-through in the world is useless if you’re not ready. Know your product. Clients rely on your for crucial information about the product you are selling. Likewise, you will be better able to counter a prospective client’s objections if you have done your homework.

Selling isn’t a one-way street, though, so you also need to know your customer. What are they looking for? What concerns might they have? How can you solve them? If you can answer these questions before a meeting, you will have a much higher likelihood of sales success.

Get Out of Your Own Way

The biggest barrier to any salesperson’s success is usually their own ego. Whether it’s because you don’t think you should go the extra mile or because you’ve been shot down too many times, your ego will sometimes tell you to stop just short of success. Persistence in sales pays off, always. This is especially true as you start in a new territory or with a new client. Your clients need time to recognize that you are going to be there for them. Don’t give them an excuse to say “no” to you by not showing up.

The biggest differentiator in today’s global marketplace is the human touch. Selling with integrity and competence is the surest way to make your impact felt

Challenges Facing Organizations: Avoiding Sexual Discrimination Lawsuits

challenge facing orgsChallenges Facing Organizations

All organizations are at risk for sexual discrimination lawsuits. In 2006, Boeing paid more than $70 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by female employees and Morgan Stanley paid over $50 million to settle a similar suit that same year. Lawsuits against large corporations make the front page of the newspaper or the evening news, but that does not mean that small companies are excused from these types of lawsuits. Nearly half of all sex-discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2006 were against companies with less than 200 employees. Smaller organizations may be even more vulnerable than larger organizations because they may be less likely to have a formal sex-discrimination policy in place.

Dealing with the Challenging Issues

The first step in dealing with these issues would be for companies to comply with the laws already in place to deal with this subject. This seems like an obvious suggestion but organizations need to be aware of the laws imposed by the EEOC and others and make sure they are in compliance. Companies should also advocate promoting diversity at all organizational levels as well as promoting inclusion of all employees into the organizational culture (Powell & Graves, 2003). Discrimination laws in this country can be extremely costly to a firm. In addition to fines, legal fees and punitive damages; a company can suffer irreparable damage to their reputation, loss of morale among their employees, loss of productivity and loss of confidence by their stakeholders. As the labor force becomes more diverse organizations have little choice but to become less homogeneous. Women are more prepared now than ever to enter the work force as they continue to earn advanced degrees and bring varied experiences to the work place. A recent study of Fortune 500 companies found that those companies that had a high proportion of women in their top management positions, had greater profitability than those that did not (Powell & Graves, 2003).

Diversity Goals

All organizations regardless of their size or type of business need to set goals in regards to what they wish to accomplish regarding diversity, non-discrimination and inclusion. Once the goals are set, the company needs to monitor these goals to make sure they are implementing the plans correctly. Communication across and between all levels of the organization is paramount to the success of achieving the companies diversity goals. Those departments and/or individuals, who are complying with the goals, should be rewarded whereas those who are not should be reprimanded. Management has to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for non-compliance. Employees should be involved in as many ways as possible. They can set up a mentoring program, interest groups, newsletters, and bulletin boards encourage the flow of communication.

Diversity Education

Ongoing education for all members of the firm is imperative to a successful diversity program. Diversity education should be mandatory not voluntary as allowing voluntary participation suggests that management does not take it seriously. Implementing a change to a current company culture can be difficult but if all departments work together and plans are put into place, the results can be rewarding for everyone involved.

Rural Intergovernmental Relations: Many Agency Programs Depend Community Implementation

community implementationIntergovernmental relations dramatically reflect the present and historical tensions present between political subdivisions at work within a state. An understanding of these interrelationships is vital to the success of any proposed program within a rural community.

States may not have much of a presence within a small rural community. Representatives of state governments often work at a distance and are restrained in their ability to travel in rural areas. State officials are likely to only appear in a village during a time of crisis. State resources are increasingly being diverted to more urban areas that magnify the divide between highly and less populated regions.

Federalism – The Federal government has a huge impact on communities in terms of land owned, wages paid, funding provided and regulatory program administered. Many administrative functions remain vested with the Federal government. Various schemes of Federalism have changed the way local government organizations interact with various agency initiatives. Many current Federal policies represent unfunded mandates or can be very incoherent in their intent. Many Federal and State programs depend on local communities their for successful implementation.

Project Planning – Community leaders need to met and establish the framework for how they will interact with State and Federal agencies during development of a proposed project or effort. It is important to enter these discussions with the idea that any agreement with a Federal or State agency will be for the good of the community. Project goals need to be aligned with local values and realities. The State and Federal governments represent minimal oversight in many communities and local government officials have an excellent chance to participate in entrepreneurial management of projects occurring in their community. Local communities are not just cog in a greater hierarchy, but important players in the overall government system. Some items for local leaders to consider in planning a project with an outside agency are:

  • Partnering of all local political subdivisions and nongovernmental organizations will improve the community’s bargaining position
  • Consider your relationship with the donor. The grantor agency often needs you to accomplish their mission
  • Employ an experienced facilitator to represent the community’s interests that has the time and resources to follow through with the entire effort
  • Local steering or planning community needs to be carefully crafted with the right membership

Public Facilitation – Once a community has decided investigate a project, public participation in the planning is vital. Factors that will affect participation in the planning process are personal motivation, previous experiences, project resources, time and clear objectives. Stakeholders need to be identified and an outreach effort made to include them in the selection process. Cries of disenfranchisement can quickly derail a project when the outcome is near. Depending on the complexity of a planning project, there may be more than one committee. A steering committee, planning group, or technical review committee are examples. Facilitation is important in the conduct of public planning meeting. People can tell when their input is genuinely accepted and opinions valued. Community support can be an enormous positive or negative factor in the project’s success.

Collaborative Public Management – The community will need to negotiate with sponsoring agency throughout the entire project planning process. Communities need to stay on message and remain consistent. Federal managers will not be traveling to the community at every point of the planning process. Managers need to be focused on the possible benefits arising from the project and be ready to construct their response to regulators creatively. Communities should consider using jurisdiction-based and donor-recipient models of collaborative public management. A community can plan for growth and seek out multiple financial partners, and understand the needs of donor agencies. The sponsor agency is likely to need the community’s help in advancing the agency goals and there should be maneuvering room for activist manager.

Get Great Results From Employees: SAFE uses the Law of Attraction to Achieve Dramatic Performance

great results from employeeAs a manager you probably use a process for goal setting and tracking that is based on the acronym SMART. SMART provides you with the ability to track your subordinates’ progress and gives you opportunities for coaching and performance improvement.

SMART is a linear, logical process that fits nicely with traditional management styles. But it may not be the best tool for supporting great breakthroughs and getting dramatic performance improvements. In this, as well as employee development, a new goal setting process, SAFE, may offer superior results.

SAFE is non-linear and a bit illogical, in that faith plays a big part in SAFE’s process.

SAFE combines the best aspects of SMART with the power of the Law of Attraction. SAFE stands for

  • See your goal,
  • Accept it,
  • Feel it with emotion, and
  • Express it.

You may be initially reluctant to acknowledge, let alone utilize, the power of the spiritual world. Traditionally, business has relegated spirituality to something employees do on Sunday. But that is changing. The science of quantum physics is beginning to confirm much of traditional spiritual wisdom, including the Law of Attraction. Businesses that thrive in the future will take advantage of Universal wisdom and learn to access the full power of attraction and creativity.

The SAFE Method of Goal Setting

Pick a business goal for your group that involves the entire group. Perhaps there’s a quality or customer service target that would set your group apart from the average group others doing similar work. Let’s use a customer service goal as an example.

See the Vision

Begin by imagining the customer service goal that would set a new standard for your business or industry. Do you feel excited? Good, now ignore the next thoughts of how in the world you’ll accomplish this new standard. That will come later. For now, it’s important to See the goal achieved and to Accept that the ways to get there will come.

Accept, Feel, and Express

Spend some time visualizing your world after the goal is achieved. See, with rich emotion, the recognition you and your group receive from your company, from customers, and from business analysts. In your mind, read the articles about your group’s accomplishments. Feel the pride that comes with a team of people making a great accomplishment.

Replay (Express) this vision several times over a few days, each time enriching it with emotion and detail.

Share Your Vision

Now it’s time to enroll your employees. Gather them together and share your vision for the future. Ask them to withhold questions about how to achieve the vision. Share your vision in great detail, painting a rich picture that includes customer’s positive reactions and stunning recognition for each employee.

Seek to enroll everyone in the vision as something worthwhile and exciting. Ask them to think about the vision over the next few days without trying to figure out how to accomplish it.

Each day, send out an email or a voice message reinforcing some aspect of the vision. As you discuss business issues make it a point to touch on the vision. Perhaps put together a collage of the vision and post it on a bulletin board.

The How

Refrain from trying to lay out the action steps to reach the goal. Instead, accept the nudges of intuition and inspiration that naturally come as a result of holding the vision strongly in mind.

Soon you’ll find that the appropriate action steps are apparent; they’ve surfaced as inspirations, questions, and suggestions during your many vision meetings. Begin working toward the vision as actionable ideas unfold. Don’t worry about identifying all the action items; they’ll unfold over time. Continue to see the vision clearly and with emotion, trusting the process.

SAFE

Using SAFE, you’ll find your employees engaged, enthused, and motivated. They’re a part of the vision, perhaps each seeing it from a different perspective and with differing motivations. But they will be engaged and committed as long as the vision is held firmly in view as the group’s future.

Creating a Strategic Plan: How to Achieve a Strategic State of Mind

businessplan1Entrepreneurs have it constantly drilled into their heads; you’ve got to have a business plan. You may have written and rewritten your plan so many times you can now do it in your sleep. But when it comes to strategic planning, you have to clear your mind and look at your business from a new perspective.

A business plan usually runs quite a few pages detailing the company’s products or services, market, competition, unique positioning, operating details, staffing, and financial projections. Creating the plan requires mentally rehearsing everything that’s going to happen over the next few years in a reasonable amount of detail.

A strategic plan, on the other hand, is comparatively brief. At most a page or two, it jumps further into the future envisioning how the market, business climate, or technology will have changed in three or four years, and what the company needs to do to continue being successful and competitive in the predicted new environment.

When you’re head-down in the details of keeping the company thriving in the short term, though, it can be difficult to get out of the trenches and climb a nearby hill to get a clearer view of the future.

For most people, getting out of the day-to-day environment is essential to freeing the mind from the daily barrage. Many business leaders find their annual vacations perfect for spending time reflecting on the future of their companies.

Even away from the office, however, it can still be a challenge to stop thinking about that new account, or that critical staff position you have to fill, or those nagging production line problems. To break out of that mindset, you can use a technique called “.”

To understand flashing forward, you have to first flash back. Think back about three or four years and recall how your business was operating then. If the business is not that old, then think about where you were in your own life. Pick out the important things that have changed between then and now.

Remembering those long ago times, could you have foreseen the important things that changed to create the environment you’re in today? What could you have predicted? What do you wish you had predicted? Without knowing what was coming, what could you have done to position yourself better for the present? What did you do that you’re patting yourself on the back for now?

Now flash forward. Picture yourself three or four years in the future looking back on the present. What is it your future self wishes you had foreseen today? What signs did you miss? What little voice in the back of your head did you not listen to?

At this point you can start becoming specific. From your future vantage point, what changed in the market place? What did the competition do that you didn’t? When did you unexpectedly need financing that you weren’t prepared for? What technology advances affected your business the most?

Putting yourself in the future looking back, you’re using a skill you already have – 20-20 hindsight – to help predict the future.

By imagining what’s coming, you can see what’s needed now to prepare. When you put it on paper, it’s your strategic plan.