Beer and Doughnuts and 7 Lessons
Are you new to the proposal industry and overwhelmed with the bidding process?
Throughout the bidding process, I faced several challenges. Still, with the support of my colleagues, I was able to overcome them and emerge victorious. I learned seven valuable lessons during my first year of bidding and want to share them with you.
If you’re a newbie feeling discouraged and doubting your career in the proposal industry, don’t give up after your first year! The first year is always the hardest as you find your feet and discover how the process works. But with the right mindset and guidance, you will succeed.
So, what are the seven lessons? These lessons might just be the push you Don’t worry, because you’re not alone! Reflecting on 2022, when I started working on bids, I remember my first bid. It wasn’t big or complex, but I learned much about bidding, myself, and how rewarding beer and doughnuts can be.
As someone with no industry experience, I was intimidated and unsure about how to run a bid successfully. However, I was fortunate to have veteran colleagues who were always willing to lend their expertise and advice, guiding me through the pressures and tasks of the bidding process. Running a bid is not a one-person job!
Lesson one: Embrace curiosity and ask questions
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed during the bid process, especially if it’s your first time. However, don’t let your uncertainty hamper you. Once you’ve submitted your first bid, take the opportunity to reflect on where you can improve and how you can tackle tasks differently to achieve better results.
Remember, no one knows everything; there’s always room to learn. That’s why questions are crucial to help you understand new information and master complex tasks. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they’re silly. In fact, asking questions shows your commitment to doing the job right and your willingness to learn. So, don’t hesitate to ask the next time you’re unsure about something. It’s always better to ask and learn than stay in the dark and miss your chance to succeed.
Lesson two: Flexibility is vital
Preparation is essential to stay organised during the bid process. You need to create an outline of the proposal, devise a bid plan, and schedule meetings to ensure everyone understands their assigned tasks and the bid’s progress. However, even with the best preparation, unexpected changes can occur, and that’s where flexibility comes in.
Adapting to changing circumstances is crucial to navigating the bid process successfully. Your bid plan may need to be adjusted, such as adding or removing subcontractors or extending the submission date. Adapting and remaining flexible while still meeting RFP requirements is essential to a winning bid.
Remember, not all bids will go smoothly, but with flexibility, you can overcome obstacles and increase your chances of success. So, embrace flexibility and be prepared to adjust your bid plan as needed. Doing so can demonstrate your agility and ability to provide solutions, which could help set you apart from your competitors.
Lesson three: Seize the opportunity to maximise your bid’s potential
Extensions can be a blessing or a curse, but it’s crucial to make the most of the extra time. Don’t assume that an extension means you can take your foot off the gas. Instead, use this opportunity to your advantage.
Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and update your bid plan to tackle the remaining tasks. This is the ideal time to review your documents in detail and correct any errors or omissions. Ensure all documents comply with the RFP requirements, including certifications and certificate dates. When requesting documents from joint venture partners or subcontractors, be assertive. Your leadership will ensure they comply with the RFP requirements. These documents should be readily available and up to date. Remember, expired certificates or uncertified copies will make your bid non-compliant.
Extensions are not just extra time; they’re a chance to fine-tune and enhance your bid. By maximising this opportunity, you can increase your chances of winning the contract and demonstrating your expertise and commitment to the project. So, don’t let an extension slip by without making the most of it. Seize the opportunity and take your bid to the next level!
Lesson four: Creating practical checklists
Checklists are a vital tool for keeping track of tasks during the bid process. While your bid plan may serve as a comprehensive checklist, having a separate document to track individual activities can be helpful. However, creating a practical checklist requires attention to detail and careful planning.
Crossing off completed tasks can be satisfying. It shows you are progressing, but updating your bid plan is essential. Delaying this process can lead to doubts about whether a task was completed. So, when an activity is finished and your bid manager is satisfied, mark it as complete and move on to the next item.
Avoid creating checklists with sub-checklists. Why? It is not productive. Instead, keep your list logically structured, including only necessary tasks. This will help you stay focused and not get overwhelmed.
Furthermore, prioritise critical tasks by placing them at the top of the list. This will help ensure that you’re tackling the most essential items first.
A precise checklist can streamline your bid process, increase productivity, and reduce stress. So, take the time to develop a well-organised and prioritised list, and watch your bid come together seamlessly!
Lesson five: Prepare your hardcopy and softcopy folders as you go
No one likes working late nights. To avoid this and unnecessary stress during production, it’s essential to prepare your hardcopy and softcopy folders as you go. You can streamline your production process by creating a softcopy folder that mirrors your physical files and immediately filing each received or printed document in both locations. No more frantically searching for lost documents or forgetting to print important documents! Simply print each finalised copy and file it promptly to keep everything organised and running smoothly. Don’t forget to cross off tasks on your bid plan and checklist as you go to maximise efficiency. Preparing your folders from the beginning will make your proposal production process stress-free.
Lesson Six: Prepare for a successful production week
Preparing for production week can be daunting, but you can ensure everything runs smoothly with the right approach. For example, if you plan to print at the client’s office, make arrangements to access printers, order necessary stationery, and secure additional filing help. Then, the day before production begins, it’s a good idea to call the client to confirm everything is in order. This simple step can help avoid last-minute surprises or forgotten details that could derail your plans.
Filling out and signing the RFP can also be time-consuming. Still, you can get a head start by completing as much as possible with the information you have on hand. Use sticky notes or flags to indicate areas requiring a signature or additional information. Book time in the authorised signatory’s diary to be available to sign all necessary documents and be able to return quickly if any signatures are missed.
Finally, make notes and label any documents or drawings that need printing and filing. This will make it much easier for anyone assisting with printing and filing to quickly locate and organise these materials. Following these tips and being proactive in planning can set you up for a successful and stress-free production week.
Lesson Seven: Celebrate your success!
Every submission is an achievement worth celebrating! I remember my first bid submission, which required us to work long hours straight for three days. On the day of submission, we were still putting the finishing touches on the bid. Despite being unsure of what to expect, we managed to wrap up the proposal and load the file boxes into the car for submission. As we exchanged a quick hug and high-fives, I felt great accomplishment.
Having supportive and experienced colleagues willing to help and give advice made a huge difference. We stepped in for one another when needed, which made the entire process smoother. Knowing that our job was done and the response was ready for submission was a great relief.
And what better way to celebrate our success than with beer and doughnuts at 10 in the morning? Celebrating my first bid submission with my colleagues was an unforgettable experience I will always cherish. Remember to celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small, and take the time to appreciate your hard work and achievements. You deserve it!
It’s time for a confession: I’ve shed tears during my year of working on bids, and that’s okay. I’ve learned the importance of taking short breaks to rest and recharge for myself and my team. When you’re tired, mistakes can creep in, and that’s the last thing you want when working on a high-pressure bid.
I’ve sometimes questioned whether I was cut out for this profession. The pressure and stress were too much to handle. But I learned quickly that the first bid is always the most challenging, and quitting after the first try is not the solution.
I’m grateful I didn’t give up after my first bid, and neither should you. With each submission, you’ll gain valuable experience and understand how to avoid common pitfalls. You’ll also find your own “bid rhythm,” a system that works best for you. Remember, what works for one bid administrator may not work for another.
So don’t be discouraged if you find yourself struggling in the beginning. You can overcome challenges and succeed with the right mindset, self-care, and a supportive team. Keep pushing forward; you’ll soon discover that the next bid is a blast when you have the proper support and guidance.
In summary, these are the lessons I learned:
- Embrace Curiosity and Ask Questions
- Flexibility is key
- Seize the opportunity to maximise your bid’s potential
- Creating effective checklists
- Prepare your hardcopy and softcopy folders as you go
- Prepare for a successful production week
- Celebrate your success!
Here’s to a year of less stress and more proposal success!
Article by: INDUSTRY MAKER, Margaret-Ann Vermeulen, Success Enabler, nFold