Behind the Proposal
Before anyone launches CAD, breaks soil, dons a hardhat, or starts the printing press, there exists a proposal. Arguably, this is the most important aspect of any project — without a successful proposal there will be no project. Whether it be a multi-million dollar government infrastructure project, or a university library upgrade, they all start with a proposal. In fact, the survival of any entity in any sector requires the skillful and thorough execution of proposals, with the reward of the tendered project as the desired end result.
Proposal writing demands that you put your best foot forward, exude knowledge and confidence, and display thoroughness throughout your thought process and planning. When an RFP is received from a potential client it is fair to assume that several of your company’s competitors have likely received the same RFP. How then, does one set themselves apart from the crowd? Clients are looking for something new, fresh, and creative. It is up to the proposal team to ease the client into a space of comfort and confidence, addressing all potential concerns and meeting their needs and desires. All this must be done in a compelling way which allows the proposal reviewer to wade through technical fare and clearly understand the proposed processes and executions, without being lulled into a slumber of disinterest. Proposal evaluators review a number of submissions on a daily basis, thus the goal is to give them a real page-turner. The goal is to achieve not just a captive audience, but a captivated one!
When a project is tendered, a hive of activity is triggered deep inside the halls of the proposal team to prepare a response. Based on the tender bid provided by the client, a number of aspects need to be addressed or considered when writing the proposal, from (A)ir Quality to (Z)oology. Some of these elements include: demographics, topography, by-laws, traffic patterns, human factors, and protected species. All of these need to be addressed to satiate the client’s goals, all while keeping budget and scheduling challenges in check. The central goal is to offer a solution that addresses everything, while leveraging costs and benefits.
When putting a proposal together, there are numerous disciplines and skills that must be organized, assessed and coordinated in order to achieve the desired results. It is the responsibility of the proposal coordinator to assemble a stellar team of individuals who bring the required skills and disciplines to the table. For example, in an architectural project like a municipal library, a team needs to include architects, interior designers, accessibility specialists, communications technicians, green technology experts, environmental protection agencies, landscapers, construction companies, IT specialists, security specialists, and more. These ‘line items’ need to be incorporated into a scheduling matrix, along with their associated costs.
The individual best suited to work in this industry must be somewhat open to insane deadlines, have an incredible eye for detail and thoroughness, great communication skills, must display creativity and be able to bring innovative ideas to the table. All of this potentially is typically fueled by copious amounts of caffeine, and maybe a punching bag in the office corner to help take the edge off the many stressful aspects that comes with the job. It sounds worse than it is, really. All of this is moot, on the day when you find out that you were instrumental in landing one of the biggest contracts out to tender, against some of your greatest competitors. Now that’s an adrenaline rush! The greatest reward afterwards is knowing that you have contributed to the employment of a great number of individuals, not only within the walls of your company, but also of those outside who will help make the client’s vision become a beautiful and productive reality. All in a day’s work!
As IBI’s Canada East Proposal Team Lead, Maria directs proposal development for the region. She has also managed large scale proposals across the firm globally, and provides strategic direction to proposal teams outside of the Toronto headquarters. Overseeing all aspects of proposal activities, including management of proposal deadlines and progress, and directing the Canada East proposal team, Maria is also responsible for developing a wide variety of customized marketing materials for new pursuits and contract renewals. Having been with the firm for more than 12 years, Maria has a proven track record delivering winning, multi-million to -billion dollar proposals under challenging deadlines for both public- and private-sector clients. She is also part of IBI’s Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) program, and serves as a Mentor in the firm’s Mentorship program.