Ten questions to ask, to gain clarity in your business

Glasses, Reading Glasses, SpectaclesWhatever stage we are at in our social business endeavours, ill-thought out action or inaction, can lead us down metaphoric roads that we may not intend to travel.  Ideally, we would ask a plethora of questions (because after all, questions often are actually the answers) and get really clear at inception, with regular reflective pit-stops along the way. This reflective process, often best undertaking with a skilled professional, such as a mentor, is useful in relation to the business as a whole, or for individual projects/new service developments.

Whether these questions are couched within ‘discovery’ sessions, strategy sessions, leadership coaching or professional supervision, they need to be asked.  Before I continue, I am not suggesting that there is no difference between these session types because of course, they each have their own specific function.  However, what they do all have in common, is that they require us, as business owners, leaders and managers, to take a step back and explore some fundamental considerations, summarised in a sample of questions, listed here:

  1. What is your service offering and how does it benefit end users?
  2. How will your service or product be financed – will it be purchased by or will you source funding and it be offered without cost to commissioner/end user?
  3. What is the legal structure of your business and how does this impact your funding options? Do you have the skills base and capacity to apply for funding? (if not, outsource it)
  4. What are the considerations within the wider social landscape? Are there regulatory or legislative aspects?  How do these impact the service offering or organisation?
  5. What are the strengths and areas of development for your business and how will you bridge the gap between what exists and what needs to be developed?
  6. Do you have a ‘soft’ heart for the work, or are you motivated by other factors?
  7. Do you have a ‘soft’ heart for the work, or are you doing what you have always done and/or feel you ‘should’ be doing, or are expected to do as a career?
  8. How does your business contribute to a broader social narrative and is what you are doing (or planning to do) congruent with that?
  9. How would you describe your business in 60 seconds? (Yes, I know, the elevator pitch but it is a good way of tying us down to the bones of the matter!)
  10. How does your business contribute to your own trajectory – for instance, if it is a time-intensive business that is not able to be automated in any way, how does that fit with your life goals?

This list is in no way exhaustive, neither are the questions relevant to all business scenarios but they form a great basis to begin a grounded and focused process. Feel free to consultachameleon to get the ball rolling for your business.

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Five ways that tenders and bids are valuable reality-checkers

desk-3076954__340 writingI recently wrote about the need for bid writing to be a collaborative process and for some organisations, this may have served to further problematise an already challenging process.

However, in defence of bids and tenders, they do have a wonderful by-product which can help to overhaul professional practice.

In the social business arena, bids and tenders often ‘speak into’ current issues and/or regulatory demands and as such, provide an up-to-date contextual reality-checker for organisations.  Commissioners will often endeavour to integrate as many regulatory factors as they can, especially in tenders, so that the contractual framework ensures an obligation for providers to be compliant.

In relation to tenders, I always have a notebook open at the ready, at the ‘reading stage’, to compose a list of items needed, such as policies, etc (although some commissioners kindly supply a checklist)*.

Often, the policy request is different to that which an organisation has, so a bid may ask for one policy that covers ‘a,b,c’ and the organisation may have this as three separate policies. In the early days of my bid writing career, I would dutifully oblige, making policy adjustments accordingly.  The problem with this, is the next bid may ask for three separate policies! So this is not a viable foundation upon which to make business decisions.

Indeed, I remember almost ten years ago, one of my doctoral research collaborators (interviewees) warned of the danger of “chasing funding bids” in the form of totally galvanizing the whole organisational approach!  I concur and nowadays, I am more inclined to clearly convey in the submission, that the organisation has the information and does what is required and that it is constructed in a different way to what is requested.

In any case, outside of the opportunities for contractual commissioning and/or additional funding, when taken as a frame of reference, the requests of the tender or bid offers a useful strategic planning tool, in the following five ways:

  1. Providing a snapshot outlining current challenges, significant regulatory requirements and a way of self-assessing the organisation and identifying gaps and development areas.
  2. Providing a ‘sneak peak’ at expected forthcoming strategic considerations, concepts and development areas, to be integrated into organisational policy and practice.
  3. Outlining how legislation may be translated into practice – demystifying some of the reams of text presented elsewhere (and the financial costs of attending events intending to do the same).
  4. Encouraging organisations to revisit their brand, their values, their ethos and how these are pitched and to re-energise commitment to the service offering. By using the tender/bid method statements, organisations are able to consider the service from other perspectives, perhaps shifting from inward-looking, including that of people who use services.
  5. Develop new service offerings and projects.  Sometimes, leaders sit with ideas, or they are bandied around in meetings but do not materialise.  The idea of a pot of funding, or to be competitive in a tender submission and having to consider who and how, re: project management and the finer details and required capacity, can be the push that is needed to birth a concept that can really enhance the organisation.

So, there it is………

Five ways that bid and tender writing can be beneficial and I could have continued!

There is a statement often used in bid writing, which relates to no bid ever being a waste of time, whether or not it is successful.  The potential for purposeful reflection is priceless and if you commission an experienced and professional bid writer, you benefit from strategic consultancy, as an inherent part of the process. What’s not to love?

*Checklists may not cover EVERYTHING, always, always, always double check that you have all that you need to fulfil the bid or tender criteria.

 

 

 

Funding bid MAGIC – ALWAYS a collaborative endeavour

Document, Paper, Business, Chart, GraphI am often approached to help people with their funding bids. Usually, this is a charity or a voluntary group that does not have the money to pay for the help that they so desperately need.  Sometimes, it is an organisation that does not have the time to undertake the task they so desperately need to be invested in.  More often than not, the premise for approaching me is a combination of both.

Whether undertaken pro-bono or paid, there is one common misconception that I encounter.  Desperate commissioners will want to pass the baton to me, to ‘take care of things’, without considering that writing funding bids cannot be done in a silo.

Sometimes, people will say, “how much will it cost for you to do it all for us?” and what they mean is ALL.  As in, everything as a fully sub-contracted role.  I am happy to oblige but it is important to establish common ground about what ‘everything’ entails.

Now, there is a lot that I CAN do and most definitely, I can ease the pressure for organisations.  I can definitely bring expertise, strategic insight, advice, guidance, a range of systems to approach the task.  I can also bring calm to what can sometimes be a highly stressful process.  It goes without saying, that I bring my skills as a professional writer (it always amuses me that we refer to bid writing, when the writing is actually a smaller part of the process, than the organisation skills it requires – any writers out there thinking of bid writing – be prepared!).

Unless I know the organisational strategy, the ethos, the values, have a sense of the history, preferably some case studies, feedback from previous projects, typical budgetary projections, access to policies, account information, impact statistics…the list goes on…I am left without the ingredients I need to bake the ‘winning cake’.

There is no real ‘magic’ in bid writing, whether for statutory tenders, or independent or governmental funding streams, so no amount of ‘special ingredient’ from me, can replace the bridge that working in collaboration provides.

Even if you commission me to “do everything”, that ‘everything’ is dependent upon you. As a policy writer, researcher and stakeholder consultant, I can help you to develop aspects that are missing but to make it work and to compile the bid to time frames, you must be fully on board, especially with the first bid.

Are you really ready?  If so, give me a call.

 

 

 

Like keeping your balance on a floating raft

imageToday’s climate is turbulent to say the least.  It is ever changing, fast moving and unpredictable, with the underscore of seeming never ending layers of bureaucracy and dwindling sources of funding.  In my doctoral research, I explored what it is that enables people and organisations to not only survive but to thrive in such uncertain situations. What is it that contributes to the resilience that provides the stability to counteract what can feel like what one of my research collaborators referred to as ‘keeping your balance on a floating raft’.

The main and consistent feature was, perhaps unsurprisingly, flexibility and responsivity.  Interesting.  In changing and challenging times, it can be difficult to simply ‘change gear’, especially when reliant upon commissioning others to help you to reach your business goals.  Often, at the point of commissioning services we can have an agenda in mind and feel clear about what and where to invest time and money.  However, the process needs to be exploratory….it needs to be reflective, enabling a change of direction and detours as necessary to respond to the unfolding dynamics and narrative twists.

Consultachameleon is a one-stop-shop for people who seek the responsivity that is necessary in the current changeable climate. It’s a flexible resource that enables the resilience to ride the waves and survive the storm and even to maximise the energy of the undercurrent.  So, if you commission Consultachameleon to write a funding bid and it is found that in order to achieve success, your policies need updating, or you need a staff handbook, or a statement of purpose, Consultachameleon can take care of that.  Saving time, saving money and surely saving additional headache.  Consultachameleon can help you to keep your balance.