What Do You Propose?

When an organization needs to write a proposal, it can be for many different reasons, such as business proposals, project proposals, proposals for research funding or non-profit organization funding, each of which require a particular focus. Today I’ll focus on writing proposals in response to a solicited request, like contract work.

All organizations need revenue, whether they are non-profits, associations or business enterprises. While it’s great to have repeat clients and members, there are times where organizations have to get out there and look for that work by other means and one method is by responding to a Tender, Request for Quotation, Request for Services, Request for Proposal, etc.

At times when an organization is provided with one of these Request documents, it can be met with some shock as to the amount of information being requested for a simple piece of work. Why so much detail? In short, some of the Requests may be from clients that use public funds and are accountable for how those funds are spent or the client is simply seeking good value for money and are looking for evidence from organizations that their potential contractor is capable of providing the services in a manner that is of good quality and is cost effective.

So, what makes a good proposal?

Like any consumer, the client is looking for good value for the money they plan on spending. By responding to what they are looking for, or solving their problem, stated in the request in a clear manner, a well written proposal can give you the edge on the competition.

There are many areas on the internet to find information on how to prepare a proposal. For example, if you are considering preparing a proposal for the Government of Canada, you may want to check out their site at buyandsell.gc.ca on Preparing Proposals.

Let’s take a look at some of the Do’s in proposal writing:

  • Do read the request thoroughly to understand what the client is looking for. You need to understand where the client is coming from in their current state, their needs, and possible opportunities to provide a solution to their problem.
  • Do ensure the goods or services are something your organization provides. If you are looking at a Request that is asking for something you may not provide, you may have to look at sub-contracting a portion of that work (if allowable), or it may not be worth your time to respond.
  • Do ask questions where something is not clear, or you need information to help you prepare your proposal. These questions are helpful to the organization submitting a proposal and it may tell the client where they need to make the request clearer for all.
  • Do watch out for question deadlines and submission deadlines – Proposals received after deadlines are usually not allowed.
  • Do really take a look at the criteria in the Request. In most cases it is the criteria what your proposal will be reviewed against, so make sure to answer all parts of each criteria listed in the Request document.
  • Do plan ahead to make sure there is enough time not only to write the proposal, but research the Client, understand the resources you have available, and have the proposal reviewed a few other people in your organization to make sure the submission is aligned with the Request. Another pair of eyes is always good!

The obvious Don’ts are those actions contrary to the Do’s above and:

  • Don’t have the client search on external links for supporting material, especially if the request states that all supporting material must be in the proposal. In many cases, information from external sources can’t be taken into consideration and proposals are reviewed as they are provided, with no opportunity to add more in later. NB: some exceptions may be allowable, but they will probably be stated in the Request document, if they are.
  • Don’t put it on your references to fill in the blanks of what should be in your proposal. If there is a request to provide references these are most likely only to verify what was stated in your proposal.

While it was mentioned above that Requests are received from clients, there are also many sites where organizations can search for potential Request documents to provide a proposal to such as MERXBiddingo. Also check your city’s municipal, university, hospital or non-profit websites.

Best of luck in your proposal writing endeavors!

The Fresh Start of a New Year

These last few weeks can be labelled as busy, chaotic, and exhausting and I’m not even talking about work! I’m talking about the holiday time off that just passed! While I am glad to be back at work, it’ s tough to get back into the routine again. On that note, I hope you have all had a wonderful, stress-free holiday. For those that are perhaps not feeling the back to work grind, I offer the information below.

Whether you had a relaxing time off, or you still need a vacation from your vacation, the transition back to the day-to-day routine of work, without the distraction, food and fun of the holidays is no easy task. So, first thing’s first: don’t be too hard on yourself, we’re all a little rusty getting back into the swing of things.

At times people may experience depression, the “winter blues” and anxiety. With winter settling in and the excitement of the holidays over, we push ourselves back to work and may not always recognize when it is time to take care of ourselves.

Don’t forget if you do need help right away the Canadian Mental Health Association has resources available.

A couple of years ago CBC posted an article on the anxiety of returning to work after the holidays and what you can do to manage it.

The signs of the “Winter Blahs” can include:

  • Lack of motivation and loss of interest;
  • Low energy;
  • Difficulty sleeping; and
  • Difficulty concentrating

However, there are a few ways to manage this form of depression that tends to linger during the winter months, so why not give some of these a try!

  • LIGHT THERAPY:Use of an artificial light source, as light therapy to create the sunlight you would otherwise get during the summer months.
  • SMALL ACCOMPLISHMENTS:Boost your motivation by completing small manageable tasks, recognizing each task as an accomplishment and step to a larger goal.
  • HEALTHY EATING:Foods that contain the minerals and nutrients to get you through your day not only impact your physical health but can also be beneficial to mental health.
  • STAY ACTIVE: (my personal favourite) Being active for 30 minutes per day is known to provide a fantastic boost of energy, confidence and provide an overall improvement to one’s mental and physical well being.
  • EMBRACE THE COLD:As the winter is tucking itself in for a little while, there is no getting away from it and we may as well embrace it by getting out there and enjoying what it has to offer, such as skiing, snowshoeing, skating and even bundling up for that walk on your own or bring a friend.

So, what about getting used to that routine again? Even if you aren’t feeling the blues, maybe you are feeling the difficulty of getting back to the routine, so give a try with:

  • Don’t set yourself up for negativity! – “Be the positive change you need.” I know it sounds a little strange, but taking a positive attitude to go back to work can be an excellent start to going back to work.
  • Be ready for the pile of work and chunk it out into steps – sure you have been away from the office for a little while, so you might want to anticipate the pile of work that may be waiting for you.

Slow and steady wins the race:

  • Step 1: Make that coffee have a seat
  • Step 2: Make a list of the things that need to be completed
  • Step 3: Then chip away at it, one thing at a time
  • Be patient with yourself.

Bring something to work or do something nice for yourself and ease back into it.  Remember it is a new year, so this can be a fresh start to fantastic things to look ahead and look forward to.

You can do it! Wishing you everything wonderful for 2023 from Barbara B. and the team at VWI.

Excuse me, you have a little something in your teeth…

small business goal settingHave you ever come out of a meeting, or the end of day and caught yourself in a mirror and realized that you have a piece of schmutz in your teeth, or your cow-lick is asserting its personality again?  We have all had that moment when we think “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME?”

As small business owners we can spend so much time in the tasks that we forget what our goals are.  If only gauging how well we are running our business is as simple as looking in the mirror!  When it comes to taking your business to the next level, a level of self-awareness is required to assess the needs of your business and how your management style can be maximized for growth.

Take a look at your business and your strengths and values (and be honest about it!). Determine what makes sense for you to do and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of.

To identify exactly what you need, do the following for one work-week:

  1. As you go through each workday, write down the daily tasks that you dislike doing (or, put another way, make a list of the things you do last because you keep putting them off)
  2. Write down all the projects you’ve “had on the back burner”; those projects and tasks that never seem to get done week after week, month after month.
  3. Write down all the things you spend too much time doing (why are you really in the office all the time?).
  4. Write down all the things you wish you had more time to do.
  5. Write down all the tasks you must do as a business owner.

Ask people you know to work through this with you as they may provide a different perspective. There might be metaphorical spinach in your teeth that they are begging for the chance to tell you about!

Don’t think about how much it will cost or how long to get these resources in place.  Just think about you for now and ask yourself what you need to do in order to move your business forward.

Need help?  Click here to get my free e-book to help you gain clarity.

 

What time is it in this global village?

advantage of hiring virtual assistanceRemote support was pretty much non-existent 25 years ago. Facebook didn’t exist 20 years ago. Times, they are a’changing…

Remote work has grown in popularity over the last 5-10 years and more so with the pandemic we’ve been dealing with the past 2+ years, it’s become a necessity. The Internet and evolving technology drive the ability for remote support workers to be just that: “remote”.  That can mean being remote locally or remote internationally; it can mean telecommuting for employees or freelancing as a contractor from anywhere on the planet for clients anywhere on the planet. The world has become larger and smaller at the same time: larger because remote working can easily tap into new markets around the world and increase competition (which can be a good thing); smaller because it takes less time and cost to do so.

It wasn’t too long ago that the average person didn’t know too much about video meetings or needed an international calling plan. Today, companies are expanding their enterprises globally without ever leaving their hometown; hiring remote employees who are local to new markets gives enterprise an edge. While this can be a very cost-effective way to conduct business, it takes more than just hiring people to work for you; it takes a thorough review of all factors that come into play for all stakeholders. It’s important to know the legal and accounting aspects of these relationships as well as being mindful of language barriers of both employees and clients.

Even in spite of the pandemic, the world is open for new opportunities.  With ever-evolving technology and lower costs to connect, open your mind to the endless possibilities that are happening around the world and around the clock.

Unplugging: the new necessity

balance work and personal lifeIn a previous blog post, we discussed un-plugging from the virtual world including from media, and from work, as I do in the summer to take some much-needed time off at a cottage in the remote Quebec countryside for a week of peace and quiet.  Upon my return, everything is still functioning, even though I’ve taken a full week to un-plug.

This year though, COVID came for me just prior to leaving so I didn’t do much more than sleep. Usually, though, I spend the entire week reading, knitting and writing. I love to kayak on the lake in the mornings when the water is still. It’s very peaceful and lets me just think about things without all that daily noise in my head. Some might say that I’m downright lazy during my week off.  Is that okay? Yes, it certainly is because I deserve it. Do I miss technology when I’m at the lake? No, because I don’t need it there.

For those that are making the attempt to relax and take a break from work and media, but don’t want to travel, a ‘staycation’ may be an option. Whether by themselves or with family in the house there are a variety of ways to relax such as spa-at home days, reading, creative projects, music, further learning or games. No matter what the relaxing activity there are plenty of ideas out there to get the staycation started!

While the suggestions below may require some online research to get started, once the information is found, there is a choice to shut off this technology or enjoy it depending on the person. Maybe they are a true “no tech staycationer” or maybe they “un-plug” while playing online games, watching movies, listening to music and so on.

In the spirit of getting the staycation underway, here are a few resources if you are not sure what to do:

Want to relax in your personal spa?  The PennyHoarder has some fantastic ideas for creating materials for a spa at home and as a bonus creating some of these can be considered a little project!

Do you have a creative side and would love to work on something, but are not sure what? DIY Projects has a few ideas to check out. Maybe you just want to enjoy art or music from home, but don’t have access to great works of art or music. Check The Guardian’s list of virtual museums and art galleries, Billboard’s and Glamour’s lists of virtual concerts and performances. Even orchestras have live performances online as listed on classicalfm.

Do you just want to learn something to keep your brain moving or perhaps you miss the library completely?  There are a number of open university courses out there to get you thinking and OpenLibrary is an excellent online library if you are just looking for something to read.

Or maybe you want to get up and get moving, take a look at Runtastics 28-day at home workout.

It doesn’t matter how you “un-plug”.  What matters is that you bring yourself to a place of relaxation and contentment, while staying safe.

July down time: Cleaning up your brand image!

brand image tips

Our guest blogger is Loreto Cheyne of Lola Design.  Summer is a great time to work on your branding and marketing gear, getting ready for the busy 4th quarter…

After what seemed like an endless winter, summertime’s here, and that means joining colleagues at a patio, leaving the office early, and honing your BBQ skills. It’s a nice fantasy-but if you’re a business owner, it means if there’s any downtime, you’ll likely be catching up on the marketing projects you had hoped to tackle much earlier in the year.

You may not have days on end to devote to marketing catch-up. But if you can organize your projects and time, here’s three things that will let you communicate a little easier in the fall and have you ready for more marketing and networking:

1) Update your business cards. I’m always going on about the importance of your business cards, and with good reason. If social media is part of your marketing mix, be sure to have your contact info on your business card. You can:

  • add the actual URL (ex. www.linkedin.com/in/loretocheyne)
  • simply use the social media icon (blue “bird” for Twitter)
  • incorporate a QR code that when scanned takes readers to your blog.

2) Take a look at your marketing calendar and review major events coming in the fall. If you have a conference or a tradeshow you have already committed to, this is the time to do the prep work. If your tradeshow is October 1, don’t wait until September 25 to get your signage ready, or your rack cards, or sellsheets. Get ahead of the game now so you can do it right, proof properly and avoid rush charges. That way they are done, printed, and you can forget about them.

3)  Do a logo inventory. Is your logo still working hard for you? Because if it isn’t, now is the time to alter it, or completely redo it (not a week before your new ad campaign is launched). Find a designer you can work with (I will be glad to set up a consultation with you) and be sure to discuss your needs, likes, dislikes, deadlines and budget. Be realistic. Make sure your logo is created as a vector file, which will give you the most versatility over the long run (that’s an Illustrator .eps or .ai file).

These three marketing communication tips should give you plenty to fill up those pockets of “spare time” you may have this summer!

Loreto Cheyne is the principal and owner of Lola Design, an Ottawa-based graphic design studio. To book your complimentary consultation, email loreto@loladesign.ca

Website:www.loladesign.ca

Blog:www.loladesing.ca/blog