Our latest panel topic asked our collection of proposal professionals from around the world to tell us their “favourite proposal ‘war story’, from personal experience”. Their replies were so enjoyable that, rather than edit them down into one post, we’ll post one story a day throughout this week. Hope you enjoy them!
Roisin leads the way…
Having spent my formative years in an organisation struggling with the value of Bid Management as a function, I struggled to decide upon a war story – not one that would make good reading, but one that I could bring myself to revisit.
I eventually decided that I would be brave – and relive the story that will haunt me, perhaps, to the end of my career.
It begins with two large bids for two separate sectors being run with submission dates four days apart. (Friday and Tuesday – for posterity). We shall call them Bid A and Bid B. Bid A was being run solely by myself in Location 1. Bid B was being run in Location 2 (without my consultation) by someone who knew a bit about Bid Management, but tended to ‘talk the talk’ more than ‘walk the walk’. Let’s call them Person X. Everyone with me so far?
Bid A went swimmingly – but due to its nature and complexity I was committed to it until the Friday – when the client changed the delivery requirements somewhat. No matter, it was handled; pats on the back all round, and off I trundled to Location 2.
Location 2 was my official base location, although I worked from home a lot (anyone who knows me knows it is a long commute), and having had several conversations with Person X, it was decided during the week that, having completed my contributions two weeks previously, I would come for the last four days ‘just in case I was needed’. Having made several phone calls on the train journey, I began to get an uneasy feeling that all was not exactly as it seemed. I arranged to meet the team the next morning (Saturday) in the office.
Having established that Person X would ‘not be working the weekend due to family commitments’, and had left no handover, just the understanding that I would be taking over, I quickly realized that the buck had been well and truly passed. Emergency discussions ensued, establishing that little was finalised, nothing was reviewed – and it had to be with the client in 72 hours.
How we got through that weekend is not important, but suffice to say it was long, arduous, and frankly, painful, but between us when it came to Monday morning (4 a.m.-ish) we had a draft fit for review. And off it went.
Person X came in at 1030am, wanting ‘to know what he could do’. I bit my tongue. At this point I should introduce person Y, who sits above Person X in the organisational hierarchy, and well, that’s about the sum total of their contribution, really. Person Y was present along with highbrow Management Consultants Z1 and Z2, brought in from Location 1 to help review. In case you haven’t worked it out already, this was a huge bid worth many million pounds. Z1 and Z2 were charm personified, very focused and obliging. X and Y did a lot of ‘networking’ that day, whilst I silently calculated the minutes until it was all over.
At 6pm the first reviews were completed and I began the task of updating the master document whilst the second reviews went on. X retired to the conference room on the phone whilst Y disappeared. Home, presumably. Z1 and Z2 were still present, as Person X had decided that since Location 1 was were they were to return to, and the client was within a fifty mile radius, that they, yes, oh yes, they – would deliver it, in order that we would not be working to the courier’s deadline. I expressed abject horror but was swiftly overruled.
By 11pm I had closed the document for further contributions and all that was left was a final read-through for continuity, spelling, grammar, and readability. Any bid manager knows that this is no small task – the document was, incidentally, pushing 300 pages (plus appendices). Half an hour later, there was a commotion at the front door as Person Y entered, heartily back-slapping and pumping the hand of Person X, congratulating them for completion of the document.
Y then produced several bags, which he announced were the ‘team’s reward for their hard work’. Fine, you think, thoughtful, you think. Except that the document wasn’t finished. So there I was, sat at my desk blazing through this document, while the rest of the office put their feet on the desks and cracked into kebabs and beer. Yes, you read that right.
I can honestly say that that was the lowest moment of my entire career to date. Part of me wondered if I was hallucinating. It was so surreal. There I was, tired, frustrated, and working against the clock, at my desk, trying to pull this bid together whilst there was a party going on around me. An actual party. I put my earphones in and silently begged for strength.
That’s about the end of the story, really. The party continued whilst I worked, then when they had eaten and drunk their fill Person X stood over me, chiding me for taking so long and telling me I was being too ‘picky’. If I was a less stubborn person, I’d have cried.
Z1 (who was driving) went to their car to sleep. Everyone else refused to go home, simply sat and waited whilst I worked, asking me at fifteen minute intervals if I was finished yet. At 2am we went to print, (credit to the team it was all hands on deck) and by 4.30am there were five boxes (the client wanted an obscene number of copies) packed and waved off. Person X announced loudly that they were ‘exhausted with all the effort ‘, and Y concurred, saying no-one should expect to see X for a few days.
We won the deal, incidentally. And when we got the news, full credit (and much more back slapping and man hugging) was given to X for doing such a fantastic job managing the bid.
I resigned not long after.