Proposal Panda: Bonny Scotland and my friends at Aviva

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Thankfully the nice folk at Sanborn Map Company upgraded my flight from the States to Scotland – it’s a long time to spend in the hold you know.

I eventually arrived in Perth, Scotland.  I am here to spend some time with the proposal team in within Aviva Insurance UK.  My first impressions were very good – the views are beautiful …

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But there’s no rest for the wicked and they soon set me to work…

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Aviva has offices all over the UK, so they’re are big fans of teleconferencing.  They invited me to sit in on a couple of them – it was so interesting to hear how they coordinated all of the different parts of their company to deliver insurance solutions to some pretty big customers.

After all of that hard work I decided to explore a bit about the Scottish culture, I did a bit of research…(check out my wee kilt, by the way – they wrestled me into it the moment I arrived)

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I sampled a drop of whisky.  The beginning of the night was excellent, although I’m not sure what happened after the first hour.

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I was feeling rather the worse for wear the following day so the team put me on to another local delicacy – it’s called Iron Bru.  It’s bright orange with enough sugar to keep a narcoleptic up all night.  It certainly sorted me out.

I spent the day proof reading a few of the proposals that the team are currently working on and reviewing some of the successes the team have had.

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So that concludes my time here are Aviva – it’s been a blast but I must press on with my journey.  Here’s a picture of me and some of the team…

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Farewell…

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Proposal Panda travels the world visiting proposal professionals. Click here for more details. If you’d like Panda to visit you, just email us at panda@theproposalguys.com

My Trip to The Sanborn Map Company, Inc. in Colorado Springs, Colorado

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After a long flight from Virginia, I arrived at The Sanborn Map Company in Colorado Springs, hoping to relax and enjoy my time near the mountains. But soon after stretching my legs, I was issued an official staff badge and tasked to assemble an important proposal set to ship that day. No ladder was in sight, so I scrambled up the side of the file cabinets and got to work.

 

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Heather and Lee Ann, the Sanborn Proposals team, asked me if I needed help, but I was in the zone. In a matter of minutes, I had assembled and bound 10 250-page proposals. My hosts were amazed and asked if I would like a job. I graciously declined (bamboo doesn’t grow in Colorado).

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I dropped the proposals off at the shipping department, and then wandered around the office, introducing myself to the entire Sanborn staff. They were really cool folks, but I was still a bit fuzzy (no pun intended) on what, exactly, a geospatial company does. So I got my paws on a book about photogrammetric mapping and spent the afternoon learning about all things geospatial.

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The day flew by quickly and, before I knew it, the clock said 5:00 p.m. – and it was Friday! Lee Ann invited me to join her for the weekend. I’m glad I accepted, because there’s a lot to do in Colorado Springs! From Pike’s Peak to the U.S. Air Force Academy and Garden of the Gods, we did it all.

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Heather even let me borrow some of her hockey equipment, and we got to play in a pick-up game on Sunday night! Since I am from a mountainous region in China, the altitude here (6,035 ft) didn’t really affect my nimble athleticism (bet you didn’t know pandas could skate), and everyone was impressed with my stick-handling skills even though I don’t have opposable thumbs!

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It was a busy couple of days, and Sunday night I was really tuckered out. I was invited to a sleep-over with my distant cousin, Publishing Polar Bear, but as you can see, we all decided to turn in early.

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All in all, I had a great time at Sanborn. I learned a lot and saw some great sights! Sigh, Sanborn and Colorado Springs, I hardly knew ye.

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Have box, will travel (Proposal Panda’s travel update)

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Greetings all.

I am SO glad to be out of my box once again. I’ve just arrived in Nashua, NH (that’s where the U.S. offices of Strategic Proposals LLC is located) having travelled (apparently by the slowest means possible!) from Chandler Arizona, where I attended the 20th Annual conference of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP).

The conference was great fun and I enjoyed being part of it. I even got to share the stage with Jon and BJ as they opened the event. I also hung out where the pictures were being taken for the profiles, helping the Dianes take all those pictures and hang up all those profiles.

I really enjoyed seeing and catching up with the folks whom I’d visited over the course of the last 6 months or so. Fortunately, enough time had passed since I’d seen many of these people and, fortunately for me, they seemed to remember only the good parts of my visit with them. I also enjoyed meeting the new folks who stopped by to meet me.

I was brought to the conference by Don Stewart of Honeywell, who lives in Chandler Arizona.

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It was so nice traveling in his truck, even if it was just for a short trip, instead of being shipped! That box is getting kind of cramped these days as people keep giving me things to take with me. More on that in a minute. Prior to visiting with Don I was with Joe Villa and the gang at Motorola in Colorado.  I think they’re the ones’ that added the Air Force Academy T-shirt to my box.

Those of you who have been following my adventures will know I’ve visited with quite a few proposal groups across the U.S. I’ve visited with the 24 Hour Company in Virginia, with Medical Transportation Management in Missouri, Connexus in Texas, Project Time and Cost in Atlanta and a host of other groups and places. And I’ve got fond memories and mementos from each of my visits. Here’s what’s currently in my box:

•    A baseball cap from Leonies
•    A leather biker jacket
•    Wrap around shades
•    Three Hawaiian leis (orange, blue and white)
•    A badge for Sanborn (Total Geospatial Solutions)
•    A water bottle
•    A Motorola luggage tag and badge holder
•    An Air Force Academy T-shirt
•    Copies of what appear to be some animal’s rear end.
•    A folding beach chair
•    A photo album
•    An empty tequila bottle

It’s been quite an adventure so far. From here I’m headed overseas to meet up with Jon and the Strategic Proposal folks on that side of the Atlantic. I’m told there’s a quite a few proposal groups that have requested I visit them and that I’m going to get to see lots of place in Europe and maybe even the Far East and Australia! (If you’d like me to come visit you and your proposal team, just send a mail to me and we’ll put you on the list.)

But before I get back in my box I’ve asked BJ to take me for a ride on his motorcycle. Got my shades, got my jacket and it’s motorcycle week here in NH (Laconia!). Woo hoo!

Proposal Panda visits BlueCross BlueShield of SC

Posted by Jon and BJ under Proposal Panda | 1 Comment

Now this is what I call southern hospitality.  Bamboo shoot and pineapple pizza…  yum!

Hey ya’ll! (as they say down south)

I’ve just been to Columbia, South Carolina to visit with Ruth Turman at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina (they’re an insurance company).

Over lunch Ruth explained that nearly all the proposal work her team does is for one of their company’s subsidiaries.  That subsidiary is actually a technology company.  And most of the subsidiary’s staff work in Dallas, Texas.  That means almost all of their proposals require virtual proposal team management.

Things were a little quiet in Columbia while I was there so I helped out with some of the housekeeping chores that all well-oiled proposal centers need to do to continue to run smoothly.

Thank you, but no, pandas don’t care for boiled peanuts.  I will, however, have another slice of this pizza.

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Here I am with my new buddy, RFP Raccoon.  He thinks we might be distantly related (there is a somewhat alarming resemblance; here around the eyes).  He insists he was born in China, but his tag says he was made for a California company.  Maybe very distant cousins…  Several times removed…  On my mother’s side of the family…

Raccoon helped me understand the history and evolution of the subsidiary he and Ruth support by showing me one of the documents from their hard-copy archive.  Seems it all started with a proposal to run something called an Enterprise Data Center for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Can you believe what they ask for in these government solicitations?

They wanted how many copies of this?  Okay, so 8 copies of 1375 pages; that’s…  that’s…  Panda’s don’t have that many fingers!

No wonder those of us who work on proposals are prone to dark circles under our eyes.

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Next, I wanted to get the remote staff’s take on the proposal process in a virtual environment.  Armed with half a pot of coffee and Raccoon’s support, the conversation went something like this:

ME:  “Can you hear me now?”

ME:  “I said ‘We want to win’ does NOT constitute a strategy statement!”

ME:  “Yes, I’m sure you do.  Your customer, on the other hand, is thinking ‘So what?’  Why do they care if you want to win?  What’s in this for them?  You need to do your homework!  What are their hot buttons?  What causes them pain?  What can you do for them to eliminate that pain?  Come on, you can do this!  You told me no one knows your customer better than you do…”

* * M U T E * *

ME:  “Would someone please pass the aspirin?  And the Tums.”  (I had wondered why there was a large but half empty bottle of Tums on the conference table.)

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After a very full day, we were in need of a little relaxation.  The latest issue of Journal of the Association of Proposal Management had arrived and Colleen Jolly’s article, “Yoga for Proposal Professionals” seemed like just the ticket.

Raccoon was thrilled about this because from day one his mantra has been “I am the raccoon…  I am one with the forest…”  And Ruth has been trying for four years to get in touch with her inner raccoon (with only intermittent success).

Ruth had to contend with some corporate documentation, but Raccoon and I found ourselves some mats and attempted Colleen’s FedEx Salutation.

Is it just me or does Raccoon’s Where’s My Stapler? pose look exactly like his Is the Toner Low? pose?

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Turns out the proposal center has a somewhat infamous reputation for their highly detailed proposal production logistics and other mission critical tasks like maintaining the proposal center and its equipment.

As a professional Proposal Panda, I know that no task is too insignificant or beneath my dignity and I’m willing to help out when and wherever I’m needed.

On this particular day it was time to swap out the toner cartridges in the color printer.  It’s a potentially messy job, but someone has to do these things.

(Don’t worry Jon, they put gloves, an apron and a mask on me before the really dirty work began.)

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Did you know there are such things as box subject matter experts in proposal management?  Neither did I.  But another proposal team in the company called us and wanted to know how many binders would fit in a box.

Proposal professionals believe in sharing best practices so we helped out by asking some probing questions:

How big is the box?
How big are the binders?
How much paper will be in those binders?
How are you planning on getting the box from point A to point B?
At any point will the boxes need to be sent through x-ray equipment or manually inspected?

Turns out it wasn’t such a simple question after all so I volunteered to take some first hand measurements for the calculations.

So how many binders will fit in a box?

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Life’s too short to not love your job and to have a good time doing it.

In my professional opinion, all proposal professionals should take time to stop and play in the bubble wrap.

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As all of you know, the gang at Strategic Proposals (BJ and Jon in particular) strongly supports APMP’s accreditation program.

I was able to take advantage of some quiet time during my visit to coach Raccoon (my very first student!) on some of the knowledge areas he’ll need to be familiar with when he takes his Foundation Level exam.

Naturally there are some areas of proposal management that he’s not as familiar with as he is others (Raccoon’s not so good with a calculator, so he doesn’t get involved in pricing proposals), but I feel confident that he will do well.

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Hmmm, knowledge is power.  Raccoon and I are really looking forward to the upcoming Annual Conference of APMP.

Old friends to see…  New friends to make…

Vendors to talk to…  APMP business to attend to…

Ideas to share…  Things to learn…

Wonder what BJ and Jon are planning to do this year?  (I know, but I can’t tell!)

So many great sessions; so little time…

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Now this is fun…

Are you sure you know how to drive this thing?

Ouch!  Watch out for the paper shredder.

Don’t make me come back there…

I think the airport is the other direction.  Left!  Your other left!

What do you mean ‘your other hand truck is equipped with GPS?!?!?!?!’

Hey! Don’t EVEN think about sticking one of your shipping labels on me!  Jon and BJ promised me I’d be flying first class to Virginia for my visit with Ali at Leonie Industries.

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Proposal Panda visits CONEXIS

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Proposal Panda arrived in the mailroom at 9:42 a.m. on Thursday morning, April 9. Oddly enough, he did not make it upstairs until 4:00 p.m., wearing a CONEXIS excellence award pin and smelling faintly of Tequila. We had to do some last minute scrambling when he informed us that he can’t work in a cubicle, requires a window office with plenty of natural light and prefers a laptop with a suitable ergonomic stand. Fortunately, he decided my office would suit his needs, so we set up his laptop and he got started.

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Proposal Panda really jumped into action on Friday. I can understand the rumors of his exorbitant consulting salary ($800 USD per hour). Proposal Panda is a real team player, He helped the proposal specialist organize and update the RFP board, consulted with our marketing writers, and after a long busy day, offered to stay and finish the fulfilment by himself. Proposal Panda was amazing, what a work ethic!

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Saturday things took a turn when we got a call from security. It seems Proposal Panda had gotten together with the office bears and some of his hijinks were captured by the security camera.

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I decided it would be safer to bring him home with me and have my Basenji, Lucy Liu keep an eye on him. It was love at first sight. Lucy Liu was devastated when he had to leave on Monday morning.

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We learned so much from Proposal Panda and can’t wait to hear about the rest of his travels.

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Proposal Panda visits 24 Hour Co.

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So, Proposal Panda’s been travelling. Here’s a report from Mike Parkinson and the team at 24 Hour Co.

It was pandemonium. Everyone saw red. The proposal was due in two days, and the client wanted one giant bear of a graphic created.

Tired and stressed out, our creativity was an endangered species teetering on extinction.

Then faster than you could say “bamboo shoot,” Proposal Panda climbed in front of the room.

“You can do it!” Proposal Panda roared. “You have the basic idea. You’re so close!”

He quickly sketched one of our concepts onto the board.

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“You just need a different perspective,” he said.

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Invigorated by seeing our idea drawn out in black and white, we sent the sketch to the client and received an enthusiastic approval.

Proposal Panda rendered the graphic, while we put the finishing touches on the presentation and assembled the binders.

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“A proposal is like pawing your way up the mountain and through the brush,” Proposal Panda said. “You may get tired or stumble along the way. However, when you’re finished, you can rest and enjoy the leaves of your labor.”

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To finish, here’s a photograph of Proposal Panda with the team.

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Proposal Panda visits Strategic Proposals in the U.S.

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The Proposal Panda arrived safely in the U.S. earlier this month. He visited with the Strategic Proposal staff in New Hampshire and with me and my family for a few days. Though tired from the overseas journey and from the hassles at customs, he was in good spirits, tolerated having pictures taken with various individuals, including my dog Jack and Diane Loudenback’s daughter Julia (both Jack and Julia expressed a desire to keep Panda here for a while longer!) and seemed to enjoy the visit.

Panda is on a mission to visit as many proposal groups as possible before heading back to the U.K. after the annual APMP conference in June. On the itinerary at this point are stops in Texas, Illinois, Washington, Missouri and Tennessee (And no Robin, you can’t keep him. You have to send him on his way after the visit.) Panda is still taking invitations.

From our offices, Panda was sent on to visit with the 24 Hour Company in Virginia.  I hear from Mike P. that Panda was a big hit in the office. Watch for a write up on Panda’s visit from the 24 Hour staff soon. From the 24 Hour Company offices, Panda will head for Missouri and a vest with our good friend Marlene (Careful Panda, Marlene’s a ‘hugger’! ☺)