Nobody’s Perfect and We Could All Use Some Better Procurement Language

August 27, 2015 – Nobody’s perfect. We can personally we confirm this when we show up for an event on the wrong date (it happened to me last year) or when we read a government issued Request For Proposal (RFP).  Let’s face it, we know we’re not perfect. We shouldn’t pretend that we are.

In late 2014 and early 2015 the U.S. Government, through two of its agencies, released a pair of RFPs that provided language to eliminate proposal consultants from participating at various stages of the proposal. APMP didn’t find out about the first incident until it was too late, but we were all over the second incident. It was issued by the U.S. Census Bureau in draft form and APMP actively participated in the commenting period.

APMP’s Procurement Improvement Committee members (PIC), with the help of many other APMP members, commented and commented and then commented some more!  To their credit, the U.S. Census Bureau listened to our industry’s complaint, dropped the offending language from the RFP and proposal consultants were able to participate on the proposal at all phases.

APMP and its PIC committee members remain on high alert for what we call Poor Procurement Language in government issued RFPs. We’ve quickly become our industry’s watchdog for poorly-worded RFPs and we’re asking for your help, too.

This week we launched APMP’s Poor Procurement Language Hotline on the APMP home page, http://www.apmp.org. It links to a form that lets yPPHou, the proposal professional who reads dozens of proposals a year, confidentially report poor procurement language to APMP so we can help the agency clean it up.

Here’s How It Works

If you spot a page, section, paragraph, or sentence in an agency-issued RFP that you think puts your company or the industry at a disadvantage, simply click on the link and confidentially fill out the form.

Our PIC Committee will determine if the association will act, so you don’t have to. If we think your complaint warrants a response, we will take it directly to the agency from APMP’s Executive Director (that’s me). We will send a letter to the agency pointing out the problem and offer a solution or two.

We will do this for you so your company doesn’t have to. This is exactly what an association is for – to advocate and educate on your behalf, so you and your company can continue to bid without fear of reprisal. No agency will ever know who or what company issued the complaint because your industry association (that’s APMP) will lodge the letter of complaint on your behalf.

We have found that, done the right way, this collaborative information share with the agencies is highly effective. Agenices don’t want to offend and industry and will usually listen. The U.S. Census Bureau did and immediately made the change. We are betting others will too.

You must be an APMP member to take advantage of APMP’s Poor Procurement Language Hotline and you won’t be able to see the form if you are not an APMP member – so invest in APMP Membership today.

This is another way that APMP is providing an invaluable service to you or your company that directly impacts your bottom line without risking your company’s reputation. Please know that everything is confidential. When we take your complaint to the APMP PIC, we won’t use your name or your company’s name.

Let’s work together to be proactive in our responses to government issued RFPs with poor procurement language. Let’s put an end to poor procurement language, one RFP at a time. If you’re unsure if you should use APMP’s Poor Procurement Language Hotline, just ask me confidentially at rick.harris@apmp.org and I’ll help you decide.

Thank you to every APMP member who has given us the confidence and opportunity to advocate for you.

Our Industry Lost One of Its Quiet Giants

August 13, 2015 — On June 30, 2015, Lee Hendrickson, passed away and took part of APMP’s heart with him.

Lee Hendrickson
Lee at this year’s APMP Bid & Proposal Con

For thousands of APMP members who knew him, Lee’s passing really hurt.  It’s the kind of hurt that lingers and thuds against your heart.  For those who never got a chance to be close to Lee, this blog post is for you. It’s an introduction to a man who was always there, but had no need to let you know. Lee was a rock to APMP and a foundation to many people in our industry who had the chance to know him.

He was a champion to everything that had anything to do with the proposal industry.  He spent nearly 20 years directly involved in planning, writing, preparing and managing proposals.  Like many of you, Lee fell into the industry.  Armed with an Engineering degree from Long Beach State University, he used his education to work on procurement for large and complex computer systems and then later, joined our side to manage the proposals to win the work.

Lee was the kind of person who quietly went all in.  For example, he was APMP certified at the Professional level – APMP’s highest possible certification rank.  In 2011 he was named an APMP Fellow, an APMP honor reserved for industry professionals who have gone above and beyond service to the industry.  Lee was elected to the APMP Board of Directors in 2013-2014 and received the highest number of votes of any Board member before or since. He created the Pacific Northwest Chapter of APMP and served on APMP’s Chapter Liaison Committee.

In short, Lee quietly did big things at APMP.  He was the first to raise his hand to volunteer and did not expect any recognition for his efforts and that earned him an enormous amount of respect in the industry.  He was a doer and never expected anything for all the time invested.

I used Lee as an example (and still will) at every new APMP Board Orientation meeting.  When invariably asked what makes a good APMP Board member, I would/will say “Be like Lee” and explain how “he is the first to volunteer and the first to know when an assignment is over so he can ready for the next opportunity to serve.”

When we got word that Lee passed away, there was a collective sadness among APMP members.  It is a punch that still aches today. There would be no more conversations with the one APMP member we all seemed to turn to for advice, direction and opinion.  His APMP reach is literally to all parts of the world.  Lee would tell me frequently that our growth opportunity was abroad and advocated for international expansion.  He would say that the best way to get US membership growing again was for our chapters to see how well we were growing internationally.  And, as usual, he was right.  I don’t know if any international chapter members are even aware at how much influence Lee exerted to grow abroad.  But then again, how would they?  It wasn’t in Lee’s nature to let them know.

As much as I knew about Lee through his work at APMP, his commitment to the industry, his unflinching desire to quietly serve, it wasn’t until he passed away that I realized how little I knew about him personally.  His wife of 32 years, Marcie Rosenzweig, filled me in and I wanted to share with everyone the side of Lee that many of us did not know.

Instruments-5
Lee could play just about any instrument with strings — his collection

I didn’t know that he was a former member of the Sacramento Symphony Chorus with a rich baritone voice and a 3-octave range – although with that beautiful voice, I am not surprised.  I was not aware that he played almost any instrument with strings including guitars, dobros, mandolins, lutes, banjos, autoharps and ukuleles.  I didn’t know that while living in Los Angeles, he participated in Community Theater, even winning an award for best lead actor for his role as Cliff in Cabaret at the Westchester Playhouse.

When told that he converted his passion for Ham radio into a technical exploration by making substantial contributions to the Cactus Intertie System, I was surprised.  I had no idea, that along with APMP member Jack Dean, Lee was one of the very first to pioneer the use of desktop publishing into proposals which is the very backbone of the industry today. I didn’t know that his storytelling, talent for mimicry and jokes were legendary among his friends or that he was an organic farmer.  I didn’t know that Lee was known affectionately known among family and friends as an “animal whisperer” for adopting dogs or cats that others didn’t want.

Marcie told me that Lee was so very proud of his affiliation with APMP and although he was not terribly sentimental, he saved the badges to each of his last five APMP Bid & Proposal Cons. He saved them because they meant something to him, just like our interactions with him meant so much to us.

M & L early years 1
Marcie and Lee — the early years

Lee’s APMP legacy will live on forever.  The programs he suggested and voted on as a Board member are alive and thriving today.  His quiet demeanor, yet his love for everyone around him won’t be forgotten.

In closing, I remember Lee’s Board orientation meeting in January 2013 in Northern Virginia.  The room was buzzing with new Board members and I went over to Lee first and leaned down where he was sitting and told him “Lee, we are so lucky to have you as a Board member.  You are someone who will really make this Board meaningful and will help transform it.”  He seemed genuinely humbled and surprised by the comment because I am not sure Lee ever saw himself among our industry’s best, but he surely was.  Lee taught me a lot about humility.

Lee will have a life celebration filled with industry and personal friends on August 22, 2015 in McMinnville, Oregon.  If you would like more information about attending, please contact Marcie at  full-circle@comcast.net.

If you would like to donate to a beloved charity in Lee’s name, you can contact Homeward Bound Pets, 10601 SE Loop Road, McMinnville, OR  97128, and 503-472-0341.  APMP is contributing to Homeward Bound Pets and we hope you do too.

Goodbye, Lee and your industry collectively says thank you for who you were and everything you did for all of us.

APMP Member Reports 80 percent Salary Increase Using APMP’s U.S. Compensation Report

August 12, 2015 – APMP’s commitment to providing the best professional development tools for its members got a huge shot in the arm today when an APMP member reported that she recently received an 80 percent increase when she changed jobs from one company to another. She accomplished this simply by using the APMP U.S. Compensation Report to sell the increase.  Salary Compensation Report

Utilizing the data in the report, she was able to make a solid and successful case for a better position and a much higher salary simply by promoting her membership in APMP and using salary stats and facts in the free APMP U.S. Compensation Report.

The increase was dramatic. She went from an $80,000 to $140,000 annual salary simply by using the tools APMP provided free with her membership.

Although she has asked for anonymity to protect her previous and current employers, the APMP member’s story has been verified by APMP staff. What made the salary increase even more exceptional is that it happened in an area of the United States that is not known for this kind of upward mobility. She also combined her experience as a persuasive proposal writer/manager by making the case for a next-level position in the new company and the resulting huge salary increase.

She is sharing her story so that other APMP members can be inspired to do the same and know that tools APMP is providing its members led to her 80 percent salary increase.

Here are the key points on how it happened:

  • She began interviewing for a new opportunity, originally advertised as a proposal manager’s position.
  • During the interview process, it quickly became clear to her that the job responsibilities were more in line with a Director level opportunity.
  • She took all she learned from the interview and used her persuasive skills, to put together a letter (proposal) that would take the position to the new level. She cited her certification achievement in APMP (Practitioner Level), the salary range for the Director Level position as reported in the APMP U.S. Compensation Report and made a case for herself to go to the next level.
  • Mission Accomplished! She is now working at the new company, with a new title and making 80 percent more than she did only weeks before.

While this is really a wonderful and life-changing story for this APMP member, it illustrates how invaluable tools like the APMP U.S. Compensation Report (free to all APMP members) can be leveraged to put your salary on an upward trajectory.

The member has also given APMP permission to publish her letter (names removed, of course) as a template for other APMP members to use. Look for future promotion on when that will be posted online.

In the meantime, if you are a U.S. APMP member, download your free copy of the APMP U.S. Compensation Report. Congratulations to this member and thank you so much for sharing your professional development story with APMP.

If you have a success story about how the APMP U.S. Compensation Report helped you to earn more money, please share with rick.harris@apmp.org.

Gender in the Proposal Industry — It’s Changing

June 26, 2015 – As APMP continues to look deeper into its membership data, one thing we know for sure is that the proposal industry is Genderchanging.  According to the grey-haired people I have talked to and learned from, this industry was once dominated by men who were considered business development acrobats who could drive millions of dollars into their respective companies.

Like most evolving industries, times change.  Men are still here, but they
have been joined by a lot of women who have proven themselves every bit of the “business winners” of their male counterparts.  The other big change is that millions of dollars have yielded to billions of dollars.

As unscientific as this statement is, (noted by me during several planned, but randomly timed spot checks) at this year’s Bid & Proposal Con 2015 in Seattle, WA, women visited exhibitor booths much more frequently than their male counterparts.  Fellas, during this unscientific analysis, it wasn’t even close.

Why is this so?  Because women have earned more “recommendation and general buying power” in their companies.  Period.  The fact that there were (a lot) more women visiting exhibitors than men is supported by numbers from APMP member data.

The gender difference in the world’s largest association dedicated to the entire proposal development lifecycle is widening.  Currently 66 percent of all APMP members are women as compared to 34 percent men.  And because APMP’s membership is broad enough to reflect the proposal development industry in general, this means that 66 percent of proposal development professionals are women and 34 percent are men. That’s a big difference.

The 66 percent vs. 34 percent differential includes all titles in APMP’s membership, by the way.  For now, this simply means that more women are pursuing careers in the proposal industry than men.  But what I saw on the show floor in Seattle has additional implications. Having the power to recommend company purchases or having direct buying power carries a currency all its own. Any HR professional will tell you that having purchasing power is a fast track to senior management. Whether you are a male or female, if you have purchasing/buying power, you are more likely to lead.  If you don’t have it, and you have the ambition to grow in the industry and your company, then work toward it.

You could debate, (but why would you?), that men hold more senior positions in the industry and there are more men in business development and sales positions.  For now, that is true.  One could also argue that men still dominate the industry in countries where women have yet to enter the workforce as enthusiastically as in the United States or countries throughout Europe.  That’s also true.

However, it is an undeniable fact, that if current APMP member trends continue, women will continue to step forward in their respective companies.  We can also hypothesize that women will be promoted to be on the leadership teams in their companies, because like men before them, they now have the numbers, they have or are gaining the experience and most important, they will have earned it.

Here’s What’s Cooking in APMP’s Kitchen

June 25, 2015 — Everyone once in a while on APMP’s EXEC DIRECT blog, we’ll fill you in on the “What’s Cooking in APMP’s Kitchen.”   Grab a cup of coffee, relax and join our staff  to see what’s currently on our stove!shutterstock_113264986

Bid & Proposal Con 2015 – We do realize that it’s over, but there are still a couple of things that we’re working on.  All speakers should be on the lookout for their session evaluations by July 3, 2015.   We’ve got great evaluations and comments and we can’t wait to share…..We’ve also got pictures.  We’re pouring through more than 2,000 high-res photos of all 2015 conference pictures at the conference.  If you attended, get ready for a landslide of Bid & Proposal Con Seattle photos to sort through and copy as you see fit.

Database Cleanup – In four years we’ve grown from 3,300 to 6,200+ members and we are scrubbing our database.  The goal is to make certain all membership fields are correct, consistent and populated.   When we complete the clean-up we will know more about our APMP members than ever before — which is going to be a great thing for everyone.  that means more stats, more facts and accurate data to help us plan for the future of APMP.

Web Page Cleanup – We’re performing an annual web content audit to make sure our web site communicates to our members quickly and easily.  We’re busy removing out-of-date content and replacing broken links. The goal is to have a website that’s easy to learn from and to search the information you need.

Processes – As the association grows, so does our need for sound association processes.  We are taking stock of everything we do now to make sure that APMP staff have processes to take us to the next level of growth.  By processes, we specifically mean the way we interact with our Board, committees, communities, individual members and how the staff interacts with each other.   Every APMP staff member is taking stock of ways to do things more efficiently that will promote growth while serving our existing members at the highest levels.

Operation New Members – This summer all staff will look at opportunities to find new members in new ways.  We’ll be looking for members who have left us over time, potential members who don’t yet know about us and for new members deep in each of our vertical markets.  The goal is to shake the membership tree and find new members so we can continue to grow our community and remain the most content-rich association for proposal professionals anywhere.  We’re emphasizing new membership approaches and you’ll start seeing things non-traditional APMP membership recruitment very soon. If you have any ideas, we would love to hear.  Just e-mail me at rick.harris@apmp.org.

Bid & Proposals Book for Dummies – Writing is underway and we’re turning the pages over to our editor, Wiley Publications at the end of the year.   Look for us on the bookshelves by April 2016.

We thought you might want to know what’s currently cooking in the APMP kitchen.  Let us know if you have questions, comments or ideas by posting here.

APMP’s Journal Wins Another Award — This Time for Cover Design

June 17, 2015 — For the second consecutive year, APMP’s signature publication, the APMP Journal, has been honored with an EXCEL design award from the Association of Media & Publishing (AM&P).   APMP’s Journal won a Silver Award for Best Cover Design for the APMP Journal, Volume II, Number I, 2014, featuring the “Left Brain, Right Brain” article.  Journal Brain

Despite being out-spent and out-resourced by much larger associations, the APMP Journal received its second consecutive EXCEL award for outstanding design in a non-profit/trade/professional organization.  Last year APMP won for Best Redesign.

What does this mean for APMP and its members?  In addition to bragging rights and generally feeling good about the APMP Journal, it demonstrates that APMP members are getting the best in the industry.  It means that the standard of our publications are performing at higher level.   It also means that the exceptional quality of design associated with the APMP Journal matches the outstanding editorial content provided by our member writers.

The AM&P (confusing, we know!) EXCEL Awards are 35 years old and are given to the best in association media and publishing.   This year alone, AM&P received more than 800 awards entries. The judging panel used a more detailed numerical judging system than it ever has before.  As a result, APMP’s Journal Best Cover Design finished in the top 25 percent of the 800 entries according to A&MP.

APMP recognizes the APMP membership, who contribute meaningful content, and our editorial partners at The YGS Group, who work to co-produce the APMP Journal with APMP’s Editor in Chief, Patrice Scheyer.  Thanks to everyone, APMP wins its second EXCEL award for the second year in a row.

Proposal Professionals Tell Us How Happy They Are On The Job

June 9, 2015 – APMP recently released its 2015 APMP U.S. Compensation Report at last week’s APMP Bid & Proposal Con 2015 in Seattle, WA.  One of the questions in the survey asked APMP members how happy they were in their jobs as proposal professionals.How Happy 2

The good news is that proposal professionals are generally a happy lot.  Despite tight deadlines, crushing hours logged in a work week and the sometimes need to win-or-go-home, proposal pros overwhelmingly reported that they love their jobs and their industry.

Of the 991 APMP member respondents who took the survey, the reports of proposal bliss are glowing.  Here are the results on the first-ever APMP Happy-meter:

  • 38.6 percent say they are “Very Happy”
  • 40.5 percent say they are “Happy”
  • 10.2 percent are neutral
  • 10.8 percent are either “Not Very or Not At All Happy”

When you start combining stats, the Happy picture gets even, well, happier!  A whopping 79.1 percent of APMP members are with “Very Happy” or “Happy.”  We suspect that these are people who have been in the industry a while and have settled in to the thrill of victory and know how to stomach the other one (that shall not be named).

We also suspect that the 10.8 percent of “Not Very or Not At All Happy” people could be existing the industry in the next year or so, if not sooner.  That’s okay because being a proposal professional is not for everyone.

How does the “79 percent happy statistic” stack up against other industries?  We don’t know and we don’t care.  We’re just glad the vast majority of our folks are with us and are happy!

Help APMP help you to become happier.  Tell us what makes you happy about being a proposal professional in the comment box below.  We’ll share the answers in a follow-up article on APMP’s Exec Direct blog.