Online Business Networking

All forms of Business Networking need to be viewed with cynicism.

Brilliant marketing creates the idea that new opportunities come directly from the events or your online presence.

Can that really be true? Learn from the experience of others.

Business Networking Experience – Online

Over the years online business networking has contributed to the growth of Ontogeny. However, a short piece of research linked to use of time in the workplace provided a stark lesson.

For example: An average week for a small business owner started clearing the weekends email messages. 

20% of the messages were junk. – zero impact as all deleted

50% existing customers and staff. – 2 hours to respond to all the correspondence

18% enquiries generated from direct marketing and website enquiries. – as much time as it required

12% Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter DM. – 3 hours to review all the content, one item a genuine contact.

The value of the business owners time came into the equation. The Return on Time Invested made interesting reading. Online Business Networking required a disproportionate commitment of additional resources for a neglible financial return.

Business Networking Events

Experience is an excellent tutor, however, choose to learn from others. Reading feedback from the businesses that use the network events to sell products and services is often the only preparation involved.

When deciding which events to attend ask 3 questions:

  1. Who is running the event and what do they really know about business in my sector? (Trade shows are always a better investment)
  2. Who provides the positive feedback on the event site, are they businesses that primarily sell advice, legal or accounting?
  3. What am I sacrificing to attend, could my time be more effectively used?

Time is the resource you are spending, once committed there isn’t a way of recycling it or reusing it.

Most business networking events have a theme, therefore, be selective, chose to attend for a purpose.

Dangerous Place to be informed

The Business Online Networks are dangerous. The information presented as factual often needs a health warning.

A couple of recent incidents highlighted this. Two Small Business Owners use the largest online Business Network.

Signing up to a group exposed both to advice provided by someone purporting to be a veteran business marketing consultant. Having read the article and the plaudit comments that followed both implemented the marketing adjustment.

Both lost contract because they no longer complied with the EU Directive for GDPR. A simple mistake, they didn’t check the advice. However, it highlights the issue that individuals can hide behind the networking site, cut, copy and paste articles, sell ideas and create mayhem.

Oh it may be worth pursuing the advisor through an insurance claim, the odds are that the author doesn’t have any.

Luddite, Cynic or Realist

Every tool in your box can work effectively, but it requires skill. Therefore, address the real issue, is Business Networking enhancing our operation?

It is a great distraction, a great way to meet people and chat, but are we making it work for us? Do we really know what we want to achieve through the networking activity?

If employees or directors insist that this is a great use of time, get them to explain where the benefit has impacted on the business and how this is a platform for the future.

The mantra is “It’s good to talk”. Sometimes, more often that not it is better to be selective about who we talk to and what we decide we want to talk about.

To attend an event with the idea that sales will come from it review how effective that has been.

Once a business owner asked us to prove the point. So we agreed that he would attend 2 breakfast events and then we would use the same amount of time cold calling at a local industrial estate.

He bought a new printer, agreed to go out for drinks and sponsored a charity. Our salesperson converted 4 cold calls to repeat business clients, which paid for the purchases and sponsorship.

Conclusion

Make informed and educated choices. Your time is precious, when at work don’t waste on business and face tot face networking if the sales conversion rates can’t justify the commitment.

Remember online Business Networking Sites are the most effective place to prey on the unprepared. The online world is dangerous.

Create a clear strategy, understand what you need to get from the network and never commit more time than you can afford.

Strategy and Planning Tools

The need for expert guidance is always important, we provide our clients with access to our Professional Directory. The people you contact know what they are doing and quickly establish the safe practices every business needs.

Contact us to access our Professional Directory.

 

Bidding Tips #4 – Writing

Writing is easy for some, difficult for others but writing winning tenders remains challenging for all!

As a result of of this let’s look at three key aspects:-

  • Style
  • Structure
  • Content

It is easy to confuse all, however, it is important to know the difference.

Writing Style

Described as the narrative aspect of the response Style is the basic component in a Bid or Tender.

To neglect style indicates loss of focus on the buyer, therefore the same style doesn’t suit every application process.

Keeping the information relevant to the reader depends of adjusting the approach to meet the buyer’s specification.

Tip 1 –

use a reflective style in responding to the opportunity. Where the specification uses very short sentences and paragraphs, few multi-syllable words and word pictures, respond in the same way.

More expansive specification content and the inclusion of reference points, data sources and guidelines does indicate the buyer is looking for synergy.

Tip 2 –

adopt “one voice” when responding. This ensures that the answers flow. Individual contributions require editting everytime.

Example:

A Construction Company requested support following 12 months of failing to secure 1 of the 30 opportunities they bid for.

We asked the Buyers for their feedback in other words we found out why specific bids failed.

Reviewing the scoring trends the same parts of the response scored poorly. Common factor two senior managers refused to allow junior staff to edit their content.

This immediately changed and they were successful.

Lesson – Carry on repeating the same error and it is the same result.

Conclusion – style counts and it takes time to master

Structure

Opportunities always arrive with clear guidance. Failing to study the guidance leads to issues with bid and tender structure.

Cataloguing or Indexing are classic issues. As a buyer it was common to have bids and tenders returned with the requests on structure, format and file attachments totally ignored.

When there are a lot of responses structural issues with bids cause them to be ignored.

Structured answers generate better scores. Where the buyer has created a composite question answer in the same order. If this requires some repetition that works.

The question has been asked in that format for a specific reason.

Consequently structure your answer:-

Tip 3 –

Statement, reason, evidence and justification statement.

This lets the Buyer know you understood the question, your reason for responding this way based on the evidence you have provided. The final statement reinforces the competence.

 Tip 4 –

Create a clear format for evidence. This ensures that the buyer gets the point. Fluid evidence reduces the potential for scoring.

Content

Verbage, redundant words and irrelevant page fillers create confusion consequently resulting in poor scoring opportunities.

Therefore, a lack of white space, total text, prevents the reader from absorbing the information and reduces the likelihood that everything is read thoroughly.

Charts for chart sake and the same with pictures fail to enhance the document. They may look pretty and break up the page. However, chose with care.

Above all use:

  • Short sentences.
  • Short papragraphs.
  • Clear answers.

Hiding the response in words is a classic content issue. Clarity, Brevity and Relevance are the best editing tools on content.

Tip 5-

Edit content with two questions – does it answer the question? is it relelvant to the response.

The bid and tender writers working with our clients ensure that the content, structure and style present the appropriate picture of competence, capacity and capability.

Tip 6 –

Consequently, word redundancy, wasted content and long paragraphs are distracting, keep it short and clear. If you can say it in 100 words then do!

Hands On workshops

Therefore the Spring Masterclasses and Tender Writing workshops are designed to explore aspects of this subject in depth. Join us for the “hands on” workshops in London, Birmingham and the South West.

Contact us for the next dates.

Further Education Funding Crisis

Further Education is suffering!

What does that really mean? Yes funding has been cut and FE Colleges are struggling because of the way they have managed their funds over the years.

Are the Independent Sector sector in the smae crisis? Yes however for a very different reason. The potential income they generate is subject to real competitive process and very stringent monitoring.

Rogues In the System

In 1991 the aim focused on occupying time and ensuring that everyone in the system was “doing something useful”.

The move to vocational qualifications had begun and the independent sector really came into its own. Providing specialist and technical training that cost the colleges too much to invest in. Or FE Colleges used to tell us at meetings and events that it wasn’t real education.

From that point something really daft happened, the sector grew without the control required. Funding focused on numbers, so there were courses where learners turned up once and left got £10 and never completed anything but the funding flowed.

This simple fraud was replaced by some staff being forced to sign documents on behalf of their learners or organisations claiming to fictional learners at bogus addresses.

The majority played by the rules, however, that minority created longterm sector problems. The sector began to attract bad publicity and it hasn’t disappeared.

Apprenticeships

Oh what a sad event the move to purposeless training for 16 to 24 year olds. Some great learning opportunities but sadly a system that would failed the qualified young person.

Some great project managed into nonexistence by the Skills Funding Agency when they took projects over from other departments.

The systemic issues begin with the Apprenticeship programme. FE Providers aren’t the right people to provide an apprenticeship, the guilds of professional bodies are. FE Colleges should provide some education within the package but they should never be responsible for the whole package.

The employer is challenged to provide some funding or support. In a system that states it is free why should an employer invest?

A Simple Adjustment

There are too many bodies, departments, colleges, agencies and monitoring bodies involved in the system. In this time of increased technology there isn’t the administrative need in most of these establishments.

Learning tracking can be done daily using well designed apps and software, money released to approved training organisations based on the tracking tools.

OfSted and OFQUAL plus the ESFA and the Department for Education, the repetition in this system is wasteful. Then add into the mix the all the awarding bodies. The system of qualifications accreditation can be simplified and one qualification custodian created for the integrity of learning. Cutting millions from the administrative capacity of the system.

All learners use the unique reference numbers they already have for tracking NI or Tax but don’t over complicate a simple process.

Or just scrap the whole funding process and encourage the FE sector to compete. Most Colleges will fold in months and something new, dynamic and lean will rise from the ashes. The sector needs to embrace the change and quit moaning.

The 21st Century learning is repeating the failures of of the previous 30 years.

Conclusion

Having worked in and outside the sector for over 30 years it is clear that the system is broken. Learners and tutors suffer, there is sufficient money in the system and excess capacity.

So let the competition streamline the sector. Force the FE Colleges to compete for every £, no ring fencing and remove the failed Charters.

Education has become a pool for stagnation, HE is all about the money and schools are being squeezed by the funding structure.

It is probably time to think again. We don’t need massive buildings to teach subjects that induviduals don’t want to learn. Close the FE buildings and open up high street learning shops. Put the financial value in the hands of the learner.

Subsidise qualifications if necessary but only as the learner walks through the door.

Technology has the capacity to achieve all of this.

FE Colleges are dinosaurs in a modern learning environment.

Debates and questions in the house present politicians with an opportunity to say the sector needs more money but really it needs to change.

Ontogenesis – Ontogeny

Ontogeny releasing total growth

Ontogenesis – the development of an individual organism [business] or anatomical or behavioural feature from the earliest stage to maturity.

A word that describes the process of Business Development.

Ontogeny

Ontogeny

One word that conveys the full meaning of development and growth. As an organic body needs to develop in all aspects, so does a business.

As analysts we disect the whole of the business to understand the impact of development. Isolate the risks, therefore ensuring the planned.

Specifying the order for sustainable growth. Consequently empowering mature business development.

Reason for adjustment

Pidgeonholing a development practice limits the scope of impact. Tender writers win new business, we’re very successful. However, the service impacts on all all aspects of the business.

Ontogenesis desribes the holistic approach. As change occurs in one area it affects another. Therefore, the team address the impact and develop adjustments as required.

Business writing requires that the language used encapsulates meaning, empowers the author and moves the reader to action.

The difference between advertising, marketing and tender writing focuses on the evidence base. Words are our tool.

Impact

Every tender requires an opportunity analysis. Successful bids are deliverable contracts.

Experience contiues to demonstrate that bids based on promises require additional work once contracts are secured.

Using the process of ontogenesis – the whole business development model – clients are prepared for expansion. Consequently the alterations in practice are minimal.

Policy Audits

A critical review process of every policy linked to a tender or development plan requires objectivity. Additionally, honesty.

Off the shelf policy packs are the start. Use procedures and processes to describe how the policy is implemented. Then check it works.

Pricing

Flawed development stems from poor pricing!

Hourly rates calculated by undercutting the competition create complications in development.

Pricing of products based on apparent market rates for similar products are unsustainable.

The uncertainty created requires an immediate remedy. Therefore, be ready to change.

Additionally make acurate pricing a priority

Staffing

“The Business out grew the staff” or “we needed other skills” indicates a need for more effective staff development and training tools.

Staffing requirements always change, develop a flexible, learning and progressive core before it becomes a crisis.

Customer Loyalty

Repeat business is essential, however, new business fuels development.

Therefore:

Define new business

– previous clients or customers that return to buy more of the same are valuable. However, when they buy additional products and services they are investing in your growth.

Up sell other products and services. Ensure advice is impartial and in the best interests of the customer. They trust you, like and want to do business with you.

Allow the customer to choose.

Conclusion

Consequently, Ontogeny is the whole process of development. Working with our team unlocks all the areas of development, creating the sustainable platform for growth.

Call or contact us to discuss how Ontogenesis releases the potential.

 

Opportunity Sourcing

The right Opportunity “enables” the tender writing team.

Tender writing is competitive, therefore, the goal must be achievable!

The right tender opportunity empowers the team and the content.

Three points to consider

TiGolf Link not wasted I hope Time, Evidence, Experienceme

Experience

Evidence

 

Time

Create time and prepare for the “Opportunity”.  Consequently time to correct and polish.

Short lead times create stress, consequently unnecessary tension. A listener hears tension in the voice, the buyer reads uncertainty.

Consequently Team Directors that exploit all the lead time ensure a competitive potential winning tender!

The Lesson therefore:-
Prepare the opportunity,
remain focused!
Experience

The “opportunity” builds on the existing experience of the business.

Tight fitting, verbous tenders are likened to slim fit suits on overweight models. Everyone can see the problems.

An experienced team tailors the presentation of information to suit the tender opportunity.

The lack of experience is evident in the repetitous structure of the tender.

Engender collective ownership of the opportunity when drawing on the experience of the business. Everyone supports the winning team.

Evidence

The “opportunity” creates a broad scope for evidence.

One project referred to 10 tens in a tender response can emphasise the lack of experience. Evidence embeds the competence and flexibility.

Use images, photographs, charts, case studies and customer feedback.

Ensure the evidence is specific, clear and linked to the specific evaluation measure for maximum scoring.

                                               Evidence pyramid

In contrast, gathering evidence after the opportunity is published again creates an unnecessary pressure. The combination is often skewed or the linking points tenuoius.

Create a library of evidence.Likewise The Winning tender requires excellent preparation.

Competition

Be Realistic!

Example: How many of the 124 football clubs in the FA Cup (from the first round proper) have the potential to win the trophy?

All 124 participants. But, only 20 survive to the 3rd round when the big clubs join in. For that reason: Who are the more confident? Who has a better chance to win?

The Lesson therefore:-
Start from a position of confidence. 

Therefore, apply this winning tender writing process. Establish the core elements of the bid, settle them before the opportunity is published and provide the evidence.

That completes compliance.

Establish the financial security of the business and that creates the business competence.

Stage three is where the competitive element and skill of the tender writing team secures the business.

winning opportunities

Conclusion

Compliance and financial competence meet the “opportunity” requirements. Therefore, the team remain focused on winning.

Winning tenders require the right opportunity selection, therefore use the best notification services.

Furthermore Outsource to Tender Management and Writing professionals.

Ensure the preparation, resources, document management and ongoing evidence collation, start with confidence.

Contact Mark to discuss the service we provide. Finally discuss the training options available to bid writing teams.

Consequently:
Develop the Winning Habit! 

 

Further Education – Funding

UK Further Education funding is a strange culture.

The provider needs to understand they are a business, therefore, avoiding unnecessary risks by management teams. 

Retail in contrast

At the local takeaway , I noticed that cameras were directed at the customers and the staff. The owner sent a clear message “this business is monitored!”

An overt and sensible approach. We expect that level of scruntiny in that type of workplace. 

Further Education

However Further Education providers appear to accept much activity on trust. 

The average learner has a cash value.  

The provider asks staff and subcontractors to complete the learning package. Self assessment and form filling is a primary tool. 

The rest is taken on trust. This is unsustainable.

This is a recipe systemic abuse. The results speak loudly. Providers fail audits because the core evidence is missing.

Time to change

Prevention is the First Step

Prevention of systemic abuse by providers is the goal. However, a recent monitoring visit highlighted:

  1.  The failure to use technology
  2. Poor monitoring of staff
  3. Poor internal auditing systems
  4. Lack of fraud prevention tools

This demonstrated that the Directors failed to understand the importance prevention. The process of their product enables staff to take short cuts. 

As both and Assessor and Tutor it has always been clear to me that time was the enemy. They are pressured to get the learners through quickly. This creates issues.  

So the first duty of the FE provider is to prevent systemic abuse.

Funding Body Pressure

The College or small provider is also pressured by the funding body.  The funding system is skewed. It fails to treat the providers as businesses.

To eat the takeaway we must first pay for it.

To engage a training provider the funder uses instalments. In arrears. Payments include an outcome component paid much later.

This model lends itself to exploitation and corruption. 

The immediate answer alternative payment models. Use technology, direct learner linked transfers.

Offer a simple pay you learn system. 

Consequently it is the Funding body payment arrangements that create the systemic pressure. Use a prevention model to remedy the issue. 

The Conclusion

30 years in Adult education and things don’t change. Therefore, create at least two alternative strands of unrestricted income. 

FE providers are businesses. Therefore, the product demands protection. Additionally,directors must build the safety measures into day to day activities. 

Staff and the learners know the value of the product, consequently they expect you to protect it. 

Make learning count, therefore, appreciate quality of teaching. Remember that further education is a business.  

Services and Support

Therefore, we provide:

  • education funding services;
  • business support;
  • education compliance support; 
  • quality system development;
  • prevention tools;
  • Robust audit systems;
  • Create strong income streams; and 
  • Advice 

Contact the team for more information and of course bid writing support. 

Bidding Skills #1

This Bidding Skills series is an opportunity to share key tools with other bid writers. Enhancing the winning process underpins continued success.

The #1 Skill is Attitude – Keep Learning

The Bidding Structure

Notice
Opportunity
Expression of Interest
Bidding model 
Submission
Evaluation 
Outcome

This is a straightforward process – when complete we just move on to the next opportunity, don’t we?

Our Learning Opportunities

  •  Wins! – We need to understand how!
  • Unsuccessful – then understand Why?

Two valuable resources for the succfessful bid writer.

Your winning tender or bid response had something that resonated with the buyer. Identifying just what achieved that outcome ensures that it is used in the next opportunity. Also that you begin to compile more evidence supporting the evaluation.

So always ask for feedback on winning submissions. Analyse the best parts and then identify areas that you thought you would do well with, however the scores indicate that more is required. 

Winning example:

10 is excellence, 1 is failed to impress. 

On your customer service or experience you expect to score 8 however the evalation process scores it 6. Ask three questions:

  1. What did we leave out?
  2. Why was this average?
  3. What should we include?

A valuable session in the one day workshop focuses on Learning from Winning. These three questions require the delegates to look at the evaluation criteria with their business in view. The discussion highlights that many think what they do for the customer is excellent, however it is just the same as every competitor.

The reason is linked to sweeping generalised responses, so we encourage specific examples of postive customer experience. These experiences also have a limited shelf life. Over 6 months ago and these are historical, the events need to be hot of the press and contain specific statements from the customer. 

Unsuccessful analysis 

Blame isn’t the result of proper learning analysis, improvement follows. Looking at what a bid or tendered failed often highlights individual omissions, failures and errors. 

Attributing them to an individual creates an unnecessary pressure. Look for the learning points. 

The first is: Why didn’t these things get picked up before we submitted the bid? Where in the process was this missed? 

Now take a little time to follow up on who won. Research the company, did they outsource? Are you percieved as a natural competitor? 

Now look at your score thresholds: it is common to find that average is often mistaken for excellent. Achieving and industry standard is not excellence, however add value to that achievement by explaining the impact and score move upwards.

Learning New lessons

Every bid and tender manager goes through a lean patch because that is the nature of the creative approach, however we never go through a patch where we stop learning.

When the win ratio begins to drop improve a specific skill, use a new tool, start training new staff or audit the business systems. Remember learning in business is the primary tool that leads to success.

Conclusion 

Therefore, can we win everything we go for? Only if we are the only company buidding. Competition leads to both winning and losing. 

Learning from losing is important but learning from winning is equally important.

Need assistance in analysising Bids and Tenders then contact us

Fundraising Tips – #1

Funding Cloud Fundraising is the greatest challenge all not for profit, voluntary and charity organisations daily. We hear the stories of great projects and support programmes losing funding and closing their doors. The simple reason is there are so many good causes and not enough funds to go around. 

I began working on all types of fundraising activities in my teenage years. Quite by accident – I had an idea, the event organiser said “Yes – if you can find a sponsor”. Everyone said it would be difficult but it wasn’t, I just asked business owners to help. I ended up with more money than I needed and it went to the organiser.

From that point forward, I was hooked.

Tip #1 – Ask

Luke FitzHerbet (former Director DSC – deceased) frequently explained that the Ask is critical. 

Three points in creating the “Ask”:

  1. Make it clear you are asking
  2. Tell the whole truth – why the money is needed now!
  3. Explain how they will see the impact

Learning ask effectively is important. It is worth practicing! The Fundraising workshops we run focus on the practical elements of preparing to ask, asking and reptition. There aren’t specific rules in the face to face encounter, however, it is important that you know how the money is going to be used.

When approached in the street or at the door I always ask the fundraiser to explain how my donation is divided up. They are often paid, so how much of my donation goes to the company that is paying them? Who are the other recipients before the final beneficiary? This often presents a problem! Coming unprepared means they leave with nothing.

Fundraising Event – Asking  

The bucket gets passed around and everyone is expected to drop money in for the charitable cause. Consequently, guests are intimidated into giving. However, the cause may not be mentioned but it should be clear to everyone where the funds are going.

The Event Ask requires greater transparency. So again make it clear that you are asking not demanding, not looking to embarrass them into giving. Treat the donors with the dignity and respect you want the beneficiaries to be shown. 

Conclusion

Fundraising can be fun. Therefore, it should be productive and it must be fully accountable.

Getting the Ask right is a simple step to fundraising success. 

Bid and Trust  based fundraising requires the same approach to Asking. Contact the Tender Management team for more details of our training workshops, fundraising support and event management services.  

Consultancy Logo