Back in February, a group of my closest friends sat me down after a particularly fine dinner at our house – and gave me an ultimatum. “Jon,” they said, “it’s time for you to get fit.”
Given that I’m a somewhat overweight 43 year old, who hadn’t seen the inside of a gym more than half-a-dozen times in his life, the point they were making had a degree of validity… and so I valiant agreed to implement a new regime.
So, I’ve been off to the gym at least three times a week. I started slowly, with the pieces of kit that looked familiar and easy to master – a rowing machine and exercise bike. I upped the time spend on each; set them to higher levels of intensity; added in the treadmill (having never been on one before in my life).
I’ve adopted a low(ish) carb diet. I’m not sticking to it religiously, but it’s been amazing how easy it’s been to wean myself off the habits of bread, rice, potatoes – and chocolate! And alcohol? Even this hugely enthusiastic wine taster has vowed only to go into his cellar twice a week. And throughout, my trio of mentors has been offering endless support and encouragement.
The outcome? Three months in, and I’ve lost 10kg (or 22 pounds). I’ve a few weeks to go before they sit me down at my end of May deadline – when I’ll work on phase two of the plan. (Hey, if I’m starving myself during the APMP conference, you now know why!)
So, why bore you with this on The Proposal Guys? Well, I see a huge parallel with how teams go about fixing their proposal capabilities. First, it needs some sort of credible external intervention, from people keen to help and able to offer sound advice. Customer feedback can be the trigger; sometimes it’ll take a quick healthcheck of proposal output (of the type we do fairly regularly); it may be attending a course or conference to listen to experts who’ve been there before.
Next, do the stuff you can make happen quickly and cheaply. Don’t try and change the world overnight – you’ll confuse yourself, and be risking failure. Pick a set of things that you believe you can do reasonably easy – apply some new techniques, implement a new process or two, work better with some of the more enlightened salespeople in your organisation, perhaps train a few key people. And maybe use the support of a mentor who’s been there and done it before to keep you on track.
And then, once you’ve built up your confidence and scored some successes? Then it’s time to take a more thorough look at how you could really get better. For me, I just know there are weights and cleverer exercise routines facing me over the summer – but by then, I’ll be fit enough to get fit, and confident enough to look a trainer in the eye without worrying that I couldn’t possibly succeed.