How May I Serve You?

August 12, 2015

Ingrid Hart Website Screen Shot

I’ve been reading new-age guru Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book on “Living the Wisdom of the Tao.”  When it comes to prolific and profitable writers, Dyer is at the top of the heap.  In this book, properly titled “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life,” Dyer writes one essay reflecting his own personal thoughts on each of the 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching authored by the Chinese sage Lao-tzu nearly 2,000 years ago.   The Tao or “The Way” is a book of wisdom that’s been translated more than any volume in the world, with the exception of the Bible.

My friend Hannah found Dyer’s book at a thrift shop and probably paid one dollar for this gem, written in 2009, and gave it to me as a gift.  I’m grateful. After thumbing through the preface one morning with a cup of coffee in my hand and the gentle morning sun peeking through the mini blinds of my Mountain View apartment, I wondered to myself how long it would take me to read the entire book.   I ran the numbers in my head: four chapters a week would allow for reflection and integration, divided by 81 chapters would equal roughly five months.  And so I began the self-study course on Living the Wisdom of the Tao.

“Living Contentment” is this morning’s reflection.  I’m enchanted with the Tao-centered question Lao-tzu says will lead us to a life of contentment.  “How May I Serve?”

This question shifted the possibility of engaging in the business world with greater intention for me.  Just this week I redesigned my website at www.ingridhart.com to reflect more of who I truly am: business writer and project manager. The user interface design on the website is stripped down to capture the essence of simplicity, catering to the visitor who sees themselves immediately in the images and text.  I followed the “Don’t Make Think” philosophy of web guru Steve Krug.

The website displays a You, Me, Our Journey content that is simple and direct.  It features a nautical theme: sailor, compass, boat, and lighthouse. You seek someone to write proposals, social media posts, press releases, newsletters, and reports; I’m a writer and project manager with over 20 years of experience in business communications; We collaborate on a winning strategy, create measureable results, and watch your business grow.

 

As a business owner for over 23 years, I’m always asking “How may I serve?” Because I want to support people, maybe you, or someone you know, on their projects.  The only way I know how to do this is by using my marketable skills as a business writer and project manager. Business, I believe, is about building and then maintaining relationships.  At the core of it, people want to be connected to one another and making the world a better place.  I believe that’s the true spirit behind Living the Wisdom of the Tao—working together for the greater good of humanity.

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proposal v2

I just completed a proposal writing engagement for a global gaming company in the Silicon Valley.  This wild and wooly six-week gig facilitating a team of 11 professionals including engineers, marketing and sales, and the C-suite, inspired me to reflect on the art of persuasive writing and the magic of collaboration.  Here are some lessons learned from my experience.

Assign one proposal manager and then empower that person

A full-length proposal in response to an RFP holds myriad moving parts including production schedule, pricing, formatting, tables and graphs, table of contents, and an executive summary.  As the coordinator, I was tasked with keeping all parts of the proposal moving toward completion.  By assigning one point of contact the team members were clear on whom to funnel all their content.  If the proposal manager is not empowered, ambiguous roles may create confusion in version control which could lead to lost work and inefficient timeline management.

Understand the link between the proposal and sales manager

A solid business relationship between the proposal and sales manager cannot be mitigated.  When both these roles are in step, a stronger proposal is a sure thing.  I learned that if both operating styles are compatible, there’s a greater chance of success.

Identify the client’s pain points

The most effective proposals are those that the sales lead has developed a relationship with the client.  Sales should understand the client’s pain points, and the proposal manager must articulate a customized solution to address these issues.  To ensure a smooth communication download from sales to the written word, I developed a series of interview questions posed to the sales lead of our proposal based on a problem/solution/results format.

  • What part of the client’s company is affected by this problem?
  • What is the single most important part of this proposal that will make the client choose us?
  • What does success look like for our client?

Ensure a clear review process is in place

Identify all the team members who will review the proposal and how much influence they have on the final product.  I recommend three levels:

  1. Editorial review: technical aspects such as grammar, formatting, spelling, consistency, punctuation
  2. Client POV: Is the proposal approach solving the pain point? Is the language clear? Is there enough technical detail?
  3. C-Suite Review: Allow plenty of time for this final review by the CEO, CFO, or COO. Chances are once the C-Suite reviews the proposal there will be changes that must be addressed, so also build time in the schedule to integrate changes for one final pass-through after this review.

Conduct a post-mortem on the entire proposal process

After all the hard work, hundreds of hours, and countless versions of the proposal, it’s finally complete.  I believe the most useful part of the process is to identify what did and didn’t work for this proposal.  Less than 25 percent of proposals actually get the project, sometimes less, and for us, it may take months before we find out if we’re the winners.  Why not gather the team together for a 30-minute forensic evaluation of the proposal writing process?  It benefits everyone, making the next go-around even better.  This internal process builds the team and, even though it might be painful, and certainly enough finger-pointing to go around, it does make everyone stronger.  In the end, it’s about learning and improving communication skills, and making your business competitive.

About Ingrid Hart                                                                                                   

I’m an award-winning business writer, project manager, and social media strategist specializing in communications.  Throughout my career I’ve written funded proposals in excess of $1 million dollars. I’ve been a content writer and manager of over 15 websites, multiple social media channels and accounts, print collateral, press releases, blogs, emails, newsletters, white papers, FAQs, speeches, news stories, talking points, and public opinion pieces.  I’m the author of an award-winning book on California.  In the evening you can find me biking around Shoreline Lake in Mountain View.