We just put the finishing touches on another Prime Contract bid and it got me thinking how far we have come from a few years ago after our first failed attempt. I will never forget the debrief from that effort. It was actually humiliating to sit there and have the customer reach to find positives to tell us about what we put together and submitted to them. Our documents were terrible, our resumes were terrible, everything we submitted to them..was terrible. We were at a crossroads and had to make a decision. Do we take it as a huge slap in the face and give up or do we listen to them and learn from the process. I still have the set of debriefing slides sitting on my desk in my office. Anytime someone tells us we can’t do something I think back to those slides and that failed effort and think how far we have come in just a few short years.
Since that effort we have been awarded 2 prime contracts and have just finished up and submitted yet another bid this week. This last one reminds us how far we have come because we were able to turn the effort around in a 10 day period (calendar days not business days) which is an extremely aggressive turnaround time for a proposal. Not only did we meet the date, we still had both of our owners doing billable work during the day to clients during that time. Dave and I have gotten very efficient at this process and we both compliment each others roles very well. In fact this last effort was done with only one face to face meeting between us. That meeting lasted about 30 minutes. We laid out our plan of attack and our outline for our documents. We then split up the tasks and got to work. We both have great confidence in each others abilities and that is critical when pulling together a proposal on a quick turnaround.
The other thing we have working in our favor is a great team. As soon as we find out about the proposal we send an email to our entire staff to see if anyone has any interest in helping out. The only people we will ask to assist us after that are people that replied to that initial email. We will never ask anyone twice to give us their time to work on a proposal. We signed up to own this company and part of that responsibility is doing work after hours to grow this business. Our employees did not sign up to work around the clock on proposals. In fact that is one of the reasons many of them join us to begin with; because they come from big companies where that is the norm. That being said, our employees are paid for every hour they spend on a proposal all the way down to editing a proposal document for us….another aspect that is very different from most other companies.
Our recruiter Lee is our other Ace in the Hole on these efforts. As soon as Dave and I identify our staffing needs for a proposal, I get on the phone with Lee and tell him what we need and off he goes. Lee pre screens countless individuals and narrows down to a list of people we need to meet iwth in person. He then looks at our calendars and sets up in person interviews for us. This last effort, we interviewed about 9 people over the course of a 4 day period to make 3 job offers.
The bottom line with proposals is that it really doesn’t take a team on overhead working on nothing but proposals in order to be successful. In fact, I would argue those companies that do that ar eoften times at a disadvantage because they have people writing their proposals who don’t stand to really benefit from winning those proposals. Whereas for a company like us we have our two owners doing the work. We know how to sell our business. We after all made it what it is today. The last effort we were awarded, we beat out two companies that had over 300 employees each. The look on their faces was priceless to us as we sat around a table with them when they were informed that they were beat out by us….”two kids” as we were sure they were thinking.
There will undoubtedly be more losses in our future…it’s the nature of the business. But we also now can guarantee that there will also be many wins as well. In the past we would question that and wonder if we should continue to pursue prime contracts or just settle to continue to be a subcontractor. It has been proven to us over and over again that it pays to be different.