There Can Be Only One

So, like, The Highlander movies are about the opposite of teamwork: After all, at the end of the eons, there can be only One. Am I showing my age? Does anyone under 50 even know about these movies?  I only saw the first one, but I remember this scene vividly.

Anyway. Too often, proposal teams are not big believers in The Power of One. Too often, every One tries to do everything and so, perhaps counter-intuitively, some things don’t get done at all.

It’s worth looking at a better way to work together: Trust, but verify. Or, in Proposal Land terms . . .

Assign responsibility.

Check output.

Today I’m thinking particularly about photos. Stories. Kudos. Everyone knows they add value to a proposal; no one has time to dig them out. What to do?

Assign responsibility. Get the holder of the budget to give you one “extra” person to get photos, stories and kudos:

  • To relieve the tedium of the average proposal page with at least one project photo in every section
  • To highlight your successes with client kudos and stories about your above-and-beyond moments

Of course you really really want stories that are targeted precisely to the work you’re bidding on, but even stories that illustrate a desirable characteristic in a different context are worthwhile.

Like taking an owner’s interest . . .

On our own initiative, we investigated why the client’s water bills had not decreased, even with a large drop in end-user numbers. Our technicians discovered that the valve meant to shut-off water flow to an underground holding tank was broken: It was like having the world’s largest running toilet. Its repair saved our client $20,000. Every year. And contributed to their sustainability goals.

Like delivering outstanding customer service . . .

We took over operations responsibility for a new building on schedule but before all systems had been finally commissioned: The elevators weren’t running. But high-profile clients were determined to move into their offices on schedule, so our staff worked the weekend, carrying client boxes up the stairs. Twenty flights of stairs.

Both are true stories.

You get the idea. And so will the evaluators.

Check the output. Don’t wait until Red Team to look for these. Post them on the wall as soon as they’re developed so you can see them.


Not convinced? Trust me: Your operational staff know these stories. They just need some One to tell them to. Because you can trust me on this, too: Most operational staff won’t take the time to write these down.

And remember that you don’t likely need this extra One for the whole proposal. A dedicated One — unencumbered by other solution-development or writing tasks — can do an amazing amount in two or three weeks

Convinced and want to do even better? Assign some One in the permanent organization the task of collecting, polishing, and hash-tagging these stories throughout the year. That way, you don’t have to add this effort to an overloaded proposal schedule.