Mastery

business masteryMany business owners start off with a great idea that will change the world and, through time and effort, they will evolve personally and professionally to be the best in their field.   Though you might not think of it these terms, what they are actually doing, actually reaching for, is “mastery”.

You know this, because you work day and night, you have put in the hours of work, training, research, and sweat.  I don’t have to tell you that becoming the master of business requires hard work.  Malcom Gladwell would tell you that it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to master a skill.

Imagine watching the best Formula One driver, or the most incredible ballerina.   They make their chosen trade look so easy, and accessible.  It is only when you attempt to duplicate the complex beauty of the Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy (reported to be one of the most difficult roles to dance), or harness the 1000 horsepower around a turn pulling 3 G’s in a Formula-1 car, you realize that just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is.

And that may be true for something like ballet or the violin where the skill is quantifiable.  Becoming a master in your field of business however, is much more than “time in” on any endeavour.

As I look around there are any number of businesses supplying goods and services to their customers in thousands of industries.  What separates the successful from those who have become a master at their industry is a gritty combination of discipline, hard work, humility and generosity.  Most of us would agree with the first three, but generosity?

There’s an old adage, “if you want to learn something well, teach it to someone else”. In order to teach well, it requires that you face your presuppositions about things, unearth those ideas that you didn’t even realize you believe.  Being the master of any subject (even one that you invented) requires you to be able to objectively look at whatever you’re doing and seeing ways it can be improved.   To teach someone else what you know requires a certain generosity. After so many years of defending your own turf, that can be difficult, but that generosity has the reward of unearthing flaws in your system in order to improve them, and you cannot master what you think is perfect.

The High Price of ‘Doing the Paperwork’

When you think of the most expensive admin assistant on the Planet, you might think of someone like Tony Stark’s assistant who puts up with all his quirks, but who is handsomely paid for her hardship. Or a billionaire’s assistant who is available 24/7 and at a moment’s notice may be called upon to drop everything and jump on a plane to Tokyo to attend meetings with their boss. You might think that…… and you would be wrong.

YOU.. yes.. you… are the most expensive admin assistant on the planet.

How can this be true? It’s because studies show that administrative tasks take up as much as 25% of an organization’s time.

So, what does this mean? Before we even talk about the dollar cost of this truth let’s talk about time. As a business owner, working a very conservative 60 hours a week, this equates to 15 hours per week. Which may not seem like that much, but how about when we look at the annual cost of this truth?

720 HOURS per year the average business owner spends on administrative tasks, that’s THREE MONTHS!  Take that 720 hours and multiply by your client charge out rate.  Not only is that a lot of money for doing back-office work that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place, it’s also money you haven’t billed because you’ve been doing “the paperwork”.  If you outsourced these tasks alone at a much lower rate (hopefully) than you bill your clients, just think what you could do with an extra three month’s worth of time and a whole lot of extra money every year!!!

  • How could your organization grow?
  • What activities could you do with your family?
  • How could you invest in your network and members?
  • How could you serve your community?

If you have ever thought, “if only I had more time…” (you know that’s just an excuse, right?!?) and yet repeatedly find yourself burning the midnight oil filing invoices, inputting information into a database, updating your social media (or wishing you had time for social media)…

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day so why not change things up and use those hours to full advantage?

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!

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