JK Waldie & Associates

Hurricane WarningIt is summertime in Houston. That means long, hot days, afternoon pop-up storms that love to set off car alarms and the occasional hurricane. This means power can go out at any time, whether it is from a government-ordered rolling blackout, down power lines or flooding.

 So I have a contingency plan in place so my proposals are not impacted. By having a contingency plan and a team that knows what to do in case of an emergency, you can significantly reduce the loss of productivity.

 A contingency plan is a plan that anticipates things going wrong. For proposal professionals, that can cover a wide variety of situations, such as:

  • What if the package goes missing in transit?
  • What if weather delays shipment?
  • What if your printer breaks down?
  • What if you lose power?
  • What if your document becomes corrupt or is infected with a virus?
  • What if you or a critical person on your team is hospitalized?

 A good contingency plan helps you and your team deal with any situation effectively without significant downtime or panic. But for a good plan to work, it needs to be part of your proposal process, and your whole team needs to know what to do.

 Some departments develop their contingency plan as a complete documented process. I recommend that if you have the time and resources. Remember to always update the plan on a yearly basis, and review it with your team. Also remember to include it in your training of any new employees.

 For myself, because I serve a variety of clients, I don’t have a formally written plan. Rather, I include it in my planning process for the proposal I am working on at the time. Standard procedures I recommend are:

  • Check your settings for your software and have it set to save automatically every 15 minutes (or less).
  • Develop a procedure for version control of your documents and include a method to save and retain old versions. Define what the process is to recreate a document if needed.
  • For files received from an external team member, save to your directory without opening the file. Then use a virus program to check the file for viruses before opening.
  • Keep a spare, clean copy of your template and, if you use MS Word, Normal.dot on your server or hard drive. That way if your files become infected or corrupted, you can recreate them. But make sure you paste in all text as “plain text.”
  • Save the working proposal directory to your laptop’s desktop and treat the network directory as the backup. Another alternative is to use cloud technology or use an external hard drive. Make sure you know your company’s IT policies on system backups (how often) and how you can arrange for a directory to be restored.
  • Know to whom requests for extensions for your pursuit should be sent to in case you need to send in a request because of a weather event.
  • Plan an alternative production method. Set up relations with an outside vendor early on. Confirm they can print rush jobs at any hour of night, and establish payment terms. Confirm they can match your binding system in case you only need them to replace pages. Send a separate package containing extra covers and divider tabs to that office/vendor before production.
  • Include your client in the email distribution (or forward them the shipment confirmation) when shipping a package. That shows intent and can sometimes be accepted if package arrives late due to circumstances outside your control.
  • For presentations, have your team write their talking points in the note section of slides. That way someone can step in and give the presentation if anyone on your team becomes incapacitated.
  • Talk with your IT department, your co-workers, and other proposal professionals. They can contribute suggestions on how to deal with a wide variety of emergencies.
  • Conduct a post-mortem debrief. Define potential fails or near misses that occurred. Develop a solution for the next time in case it really does happen!

 Thanks to the members of the “Small Proposal Center Network,” group on LinkedIn, especially to Laura Ricci and David Nealey, Ph.D. for contributing to the previous version of this article.

 Adapted from a previously published in The Perspective, Volume 21, Issue 1, 2011. Published by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.