How to Unearth the Hidden Potential in Your Business

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. Albert Einstein’s statement is an exceptionally noble approach, and exemplifies that business potential may indeed lie in its threats and weaknesses. For the business to prosper and grow entrepreneurs must realize that regardless of how successful they become they will still be far below their optimum potential, and must therefore meticulously find and exploit their enterprise’s true potential. This requires a shift in paradigm thinking and a congruent change in the entrepreneur’ attitude towards the dangers and weaknesses of their business.

Converting limitations and disadvantages into opportunities results in amazing outcomes at every step in the operation of a business and of its performance outlook. Decisions are made and actions are taken based on the hard reality of the business not obscured by tomorrow’s challenges or the lure of the urgencies of the present.

While not every business has a hidden potential and can develop limitations and restraints into opportunities, businesses that have no potential or fail to search for their potential cannot grow or survive. So, how can you unearth the hidden potential in your business and develop its opportunities?

You start by asking yourself questions like:

What you are fearful of, what do you see as a danger to your business, and how can you use it as an opportunity?
What are the restraints and weakness that contribute to the vulnerability of your business, hinder its full effectiveness, and hold down its propensity for profitable results?
What are the inconsistencies in your business?

Most entrepreneurs are fully aware of the restraints, vulnerabilities, and limitations of their businesses but seldom ask questions. They are likely to believe that nothing can be done to change their circumstances. They fail to realize that to convert restraint into opportunity requires innovation with flexibility and diversity to exploit the new possibility by investing in its development.

While inconsistencies are a way of life for growing businesses, chronic imbalances can drain the business of its productive resources way beyond any results they can produce. If the imbalance in resource allocations is in support activities or control measures, the remedy is to cut out whatever causes the imbalance. Concurrently, identifying the area with excessively large productive effort often indicates a major unused potential and requires major changes in the nature and structure of that area of the business.

We traditionally identify areas of inconsistencies and imbalance with excessively large productive resources incapable of producing sufficient outcomes, within the business in the marketing and research & development areas. The cure in these areas is determined by careful analysis followed by radical redefinition of the business in its entirety or integration into new products or services with adequate utilization of the resources and efforts needed.

More serious cases of imbalance we encounter are companies that are the wrong size- typically too small- for the market they are serving or for the management they need. For these cases a unified business review and performance program that converts the disparity between the business size and the management it requires by scaling the management down to the size appropriate to the needs of the business.
Needless to say, that unearthing and attaining the potential of a business is psychologically taxing on all concerned and requires great effort from the various aspects of the business and its management.

Therefore the role of an external coach or consultant is of paramount importance in the soul searching process of the organization and in the unearthing of its hidden treasures that are disguised as imbalances in the form of a weaknesses or a threats.

Entrepreneurs need to work systematically on maximizing opportunities by looking within not without! And by asking questions like; Where are the imbalances in our business, and what are the opportunities for the greatest economic outcomes? They can start to maximize opportunities by focusing the available resources on the most attractive possibilities and devoting them to obtaining the greatest possible results. This followed by successful business planning based on exploiting imbalances and maximizing its prospects by uncovering its potential and developing real opportunities that can increase the propensity of the business for survival and growth.

The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in Modern Business Development

There are many factors within general business practices that are altering to ensure that every person benefits from the continued functioning of the company. Previously many businesses have subscribed to practices that may have had negative effects on their stakeholders. This is now changing as the realisation sets in of the true importance of the different stakeholders in any particular business. There are many different manners in which a company can implement corporate social responsibility measures for the benefit of all concerned. The manner in which each different company implements the changes will be dependent on what aspects of the company could be considered as having produced negative effects.

Corporate Social responsibility can often be confused with corporate charity, but it is a very different thing. Corporate charity can involve the donation of money and the provision of opportunities to members of the community and stakeholders. This is very different to the considerations that a company must abide by to ensure that their actions fall with the acceptable corporate social responsibility guidelines that have been established. These can include guidelines that relate to the environmental impact that a particular action can have or they can relate to the impact that an action can have on the local community. The guidelines are intended to ensure that any negative effects that an action could possibly have are eliminated or reduced as far as possible.

The concept of corporate social responsibility is intended to provide each business with a far greater ability to create sustainable development. This can help to provide ongoing benefits for the business and its stakeholders, regardless of the size of the business. The business can become more competitive once it begins to create and follow guidelines to enforce the concept of corporate social responsibility within the company and its surrounding community. The greater the sustainability of a business’s developments, the more successful it can become. The attraction of corporate social responsibility for many businesses is that it can help to increase sustainability without creating negative effects.

The type of business that implements changes to come in line with accepted corporate social responsibility guidelines will also determine what sort of changes will need to be made. The size of the investment that will be required to ensure that the business conforms to acceptable guidelines will also be affected by the type of business it is. The resources that are expended for this purpose do need to be viewed as an investment rather than an unnecessary expense since the positive results can more than repay the investment.

The term corporate social responsibility may seem to be one of the current buzz words in business, but the concept is one that has been formulated by many people over many years. The concept is one that is seen as being important for the continued well-being of the vast majority of companies and essential for the community that surrounds them. The importance that is placed on business actions conforming to acceptable corporate social responsibility standards can ensure that these guidelines are treated with the respect that they merit.

Developing Your 2012 Pipeline and Preparing For a Great Year of Winning Business

If you are anything like me, you’ve dealt with three challenges during the holidays – trying to keep from overindulging too much and gaining hard-to-shed pounds; fighting off a recurring cold; and trying to juggle family time with proposals that are due early to mid-January. By the way, I am officially envious if you faced no challenges or dealt with them through advance planning and orderly life. You are my hero.

This article is for everyone else who is not a planning maven, or like me, tends to pile the plate so high that no amount of planning is enough, no matter how hard I try. Now that the holiday hustle and bustle is over, and there is relatively smooth sailing through the frigid months ahead, it is time to slow down for a day or two and finally plan. Dust off your crystal ball, sharpen your pencils, and let’s talk about getting your company (and you) to that next level of growth.

My first question to you is, what does your opportunities pipeline look like for 2012? This question is relevant to everyone – not only the executives, but also capture and proposal staff, and even proposal consultants. Every business has to have a healthy pipeline to thrive. It is surprising, however, how many simply do not have one, have proposal staff that don’t know about its existence (if there is one), or have one but are skeptical about its quality and usefulness. I hear a common story that bespeaks of broken pipelines from small and large companies alike:

• “We only submitted a handful of proposals last year; we could be proud that we are picky but our win rate is so low.”
• “We cannot find opportunities that match our exact area of expertise, so our pipeline is small and won’t sustain our desired growth.”
• “We bid on everything – I think our bid-no-bid process is broken – and having everything under the sun in the pipeline simply doesn’t make sense.”
• “We keep going after bluebirds – we haven’t updated our pipeline in a while.”

Or better yet,

• “We don’t know what our Bid and Proposal budget is. Because no one has planned the pipeline for the year. Therefore, we have not decided how much investment is needed to win the opportunities that show up in the pipeline to reach our annual goal, while factoring in our win rate.”

If you recognize your company in the statements above, or have other pipeline challenges, it is time for change. You have to put business development higher on your priorities list, because a quality pipeline directly correlates to your future revenue. Or lack thereof. If you are a business owner, executive, or a consultant, make sure that you make this an investment year into your pipeline development. It will contribute to your peace of mind, and give you greater control over your destiny.

If you are working in a proposal department – wouldn’t it be nice to bring some degree of planning and order into your resources, time, and efforts? Perhaps, you would be compelled to act bolder and ask your management for more resources knowing that you are facing a churn-and-burn proposal stretch. Maybe you could dedicate more time to capture – even if you could do a little bit at a time while you are busy on other pursuits. All of it will lower your stress and contribute to your quality of life.

My second question is, have you looked at your industry’s trends? What does the immediate future hold for you and your company? For example, with the government moving more and more work to the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) vehicles and GSA and VA schedules, have you caught up and learned how to turn your company into a task order winning machine? What was the last time you have looked at the legislative changes impacting government contractors? What areas will continue to grow, like Cyber and Security fields – and what industries are bound to shrink with the budget crunch? How are your target customers changing their procurement behaviors given the state of the economy? How will you adjust the type of opportunities you are bidding on?

Also, what are your competitors now doing to beat you? Are they cutting costs – and if so, how are they doing it? Are they investing into new initiatives?

Answers to these questions will shape your pipeline even further.

These questions may seem irrelevant to proposal managers, coordinators, writers, editors, and other proposal professionals not as directly involved in strategy and planning – but I beg to differ. It will make you a better rounded professional if you understand what the industry is doing and how your company is likely to react – and you can adjust accordingly if there are certain risks on the horizon.

Which brings me to my third question – have you looked at your career and growth opportunities for 2012? What will you do to advance yourself, earn more money, and get greater job security, while helping your business? Will you stay in the same field or will you expand your abilities? In the business development field, there are always ways to command higher pay, be more in demand, and ultimately become more successful. On the other hand, many proposal professionals narrowly specialized in one field may find themselves in less secure positions.

To change this situation, it is important that you don’t succumb to burnout-induced complacency. Explore professions that are adjacent to your fields to increase your competitiveness and pay grade. There are natural career paths for certain professions. For example, proposal managers would greatly benefit from getting training in management, capture management, orals coaching if your customer set uses orals, technical writing, pricing, desktop publishing, and graphics skills – and could definitely use training in cost proposals development. Capture managers should expand their skills into proposal management, business development, price-to-win, and cost strategy. Technical writers should consider proposal coordination and proposal management as a career path if they are comfortable with higher levels of responsibility over the team. Proposal coordinators could venture into desktop publishing, graphics, and editing; or step up and becom e proposal managers.

For executives, investing into developing more versatile proposal teams means higher success rate in winning proposals, and ability to rotate personnel from one role to another on a variety of proposals, preventing team burnout. And, ultimately, getting a more skilled resource pool may mean a different type of pipeline where you can be more aggressive in pursuing opportunities.

Determine what training courses you are going to attend in 2012 to expand your capabilities, and definitely plan to make it to the APMP-NCA’s educational events.

Well, onward and upward, as some of my dear friends like to say. If you haven’t already asked yourself or your colleagues these three questions, it may be time that you do. Life may not go according to a plan, but it is better to have one anyway. Life without a plan is almost guaranteed to have much less spectacular results. I wish you a professionally and personally rewarding year!