RFP: Request for Pain

Having done two mandatory tours of duty in the big agency world, I understand the RFP process. It’s a necessary evil to win most large accounts. However as a small business, I find them to be downright painful. An RFP ought to be called a Request for Pain.

As a small business owner, RFPs are extremely taxing. Consider that in a large or mid-size agency you have business development and senior staff dedicated to winning this kind of business. In a small agency like mine, you are basically pulling time from a very limited resource pool. Instead of focusing on local networking events, phone calls, building relationships online, and developing useful content, you spend 20, 40, 60 or more hours building a proposal and pitch.

The odds of winning RFPs are not good when you are small. I would say the same thing for a large agency, but is easier to dedicate the resources and mitigate the risk.

You almost always have to have a prior relationship, and get the RFP written to you, or intelligence to help you shape your pitch. There is almost always a favorite or two in the dance.

If you do not have a prior relationship, question whether it is worth your time. Many times the third through fifth firms have been referred as good agencies that might be able to do the job, but the odds are long. In the cases were the RFP is hard-wired, some or all of players three through five are asked because they can’t win. They have a glaring flaw.

In the case of a small agency, size is almost always in issue. In a wired RFP, a small agency is an easy kill. Scaling questions must be addressed to the client’s satisfaction. Sometimes this is overcome with a focus on niches, such as community management or social media content. With larger contracts, though, even the ability to scale quality niche work becomes an issue. Most large companies don’t want to deal with a network of consultants and small boutiques to achieve scale. Can you blame them?

People do business with people they like. So if there is no relationship, you have to become the darling of the potential client very quickly and get the same type of intelligence that the favorites receive. That can be hard to do. If the client is cold and distant during the initial RFP process consider it a clear warning that you are wasting your time.

I almost always decline to participate in RFPs because of these many issues. The pain is not worth it. At least for a small firm like mine. My time is better served networking and building relationships for projects and winning business with people that know and trust me (and my firm).

What do you think of RFPs?

This Too Shall Pass

Virgin Island Sunrise

This too shall pass,” is something my grandma used to say. It’s a reminder that when times are tough (or conversely, insanely good) that they are just temporary.

Sometimes life deals us a terrible blow. Other times you realize that you have to cut your losses and move on.

It is truly in the worst of times that we come to appreciate, not only the great fruit life offers, but also the subtleties of normalcy; the simple leisurely coffee; an hour of play time with your child; a fun day at work when it all goes right.

Many of you know I was flooded last week. Hardly a unique situation on the East Coast. There were fires in Texas, too. And of course many of us lost a friend or well liked social media acquaintance in Trey Pennington.

You have to get up and keep going through these times.

This is not a tough guy goad to muscle through it. Pain is and should be felt during such moments. You’re not supposed to be OK. This kind of pain produces appreciation for joy, in that most desperate way, repealing innocence and in its place leaving the eyes and scars of experience.

It really sucks dealing with the flood, and living in temporary housing while my house gets fixed up. Watching my family grapple with it, too, is really hard. It is infuriating to listen to inept Fairfax County officials shirk responsibility for an over-taxed, construction silt-laden Cameron Run that has produced two hundred year floods in five years. There is the insurance dodge ball game over tens of thousands of dollars in damages. And it is so hard watching an entire blue collar neighborhood suffer through this. Again.

Easing the pain are the friends who stand by you. You find your real friends in such times. They offer you housing, or check in and see how you are doing. Perhaps they drive by and pitch in a hand removing valuables turned junk. You know who you are. Thank you.

But have no doubt, this too shall pass. Life will change, it always does. And it makes you truly appreciate the good and the simple.

Back up, back to it, in pain or with joy, embrace the moment and move forward. This too shall pass. The sun will rise again.