Proposal Horror Stories

  |  October 30, 2017

In the spirit of Halloween we decided to gather a handful of our favorite proposal horror stories.

Is the Headless Horseman or a Late Proposal Worse?

Vince O’Connell
If you think seeing a headless horseman riding through the woods is cause for fright, you haven’t been through the horror a proposal manager experiences as a submission deadline looms, and the bid is still incomplete.

I was working remotely through a final White Glove with a Capture Manager who said he needed the bid at least 30 minutes before deadline to assure Contracts emailed it in on time. I was a little tardy and still doing final edits when the wind outside began howling and a thunderstorm rattled my home. Suddenly, the lights go out. No power. No Internet.

I ran to my car with laptop, and drove through the monsoon to a nearby hotel with a generator. I rushed into the lobby and sent the file to the Capture Manager, who thought I had fallen off the earth. It was now 8 minutes to deadline.
Somehow, the Capture Manager forwarded the email to Contracts in time with a message to “Hit the Send Button!” He received confirmation 1 minute before the deadline.

A Preventable Proposal Mishap

Tom Hodges
A proposal I worked several years ago violated virtually every principle of competitive proposal submission. This contract was very winnable with a decent proposal process. Instead the company president argued that he didn’t need to spend money on consultants and good proposal process because, “…the VA loves our company and wants to award to us.” I told him, he should be careful, because this was a high visibility procurement. And the VA would need to score strictly to avoid a protest. My advice was ignored, and the proposal thrown out of the competition even before the award phase for non-compliance in both volumes.

One Person Couldn’t Finish the Proposal Alone

Russell Smith
We were working a proposal to the Department of Education for a small IT contractor in Alexandria, VA. A first-rate consultant was assigned as manager / writer. This company had the expectation that the consultant could complete the whole proposal more or less by himself. Three days before the due date, the consultant told me he could not finish on time without a reasonable amount of support. I duly warned the company president in writing that support was needed. He totally ignored my warning. And when the deadline came, the proposal lacked about three hours of work — needed for the final past performance citations. Then they wanted a discount.

Anxiety Was Too High to Remain in the Building

Russell Smith
I was serving as proposal manager / writer for a large IT products company in Chantilly, Virginia, and the proposal was due at 3:00 PM about 15 miles away in Falls Church, VA. I helped finish a quality submission by about 11:00 AM. However, the department Director wanted to continue making changes. Two-fifteen PM came, and no one was moving toward the door. Two-thirty came, and still there was no movement. The anxiety was so high, I couldn’t stand to remain in the building. Since I had done all I could do, I left the building and went for a walk. I later learned that the Director got someone to drive; he continued to make pen and ink changes all the way to the delivery; they arrived on time; and the proposal was a winner.

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