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The Proposal Process: Collaboration at it's Finest


 
I've really grown to love the proposal process as it melds my passion for organization and strategy with my passion for graphics and visuals.

It's the greatest feeling in the world to win a contract. It proves that your hard work really made a difference, and your client really appreciated everything you provided. It really feels like you're providing value and it's crazy to say that I've contributed to the company winning over $2 billion worth of work. 
 

Proposals have quickly become one of my favorite aspects of the construction industry.  Although I'm not able to display this work on my website, I can talk about my experiences. As a Senior Marketing Coordinator, I consistently serve as the Hensel Phelps Marketing Lead on RFQ/RFP pursuits, as well as the interview process the team participates in during the pursuit as a whole. If you are not familiar with the pursuit/proposal process, it usually starts with an RFQ, or Request for Qualification, where the client puts out a set of documents to explain the construction project and requests for construction teams to put together a large document with all of the information they request. Teams are given anywhere from a few days to a month to complete this and turn it in. Typically the RFQ process contains formwork--including but not limited to resumes, project sheets, organizational charts, firm profiles--and narratives explaining our approach to completing the project on time and on budget.

 

In my role, we often take the full lead on the RFQ process, meaning I will lead meetings, develop a responsibility matrix utilizing the owner documents and assign responsibilities to the project team. I will also create a fully-fledged template for the team and lead the team in collecting all of the data necessary to complete the document. The entire process is extremely organized, we usually have 2-3 drafts depending on the time allotted, and I will lead draft review meetings to collect feedback from our project and operations team. The proposal may be requested in both digital and/or print format, so I will also keep that in mind when creating the template and making certain layout and design decisions in order to meet the deadline efficiently.

 

Once that part of the process is complete and all teams have submitted, you often move on to the RFP, or Request for Proposal, where the client puts out another set of documents, often asking for much more information than in the RFQ process. Oftentimes there are several tabs of information, and this proposal can typically be anywhere from 50-400 pages depending on the information requested. At Hensel Phelps our favorite type of delivery method is Design-Build, which means that we assume the Design-Build Entity role as the lead on the project and we must find an architectural partner to contract and work with to create design plans and construction plans for the client. This means that our team works very closely with the architect in this process. 



At this time, I will assume the Hensel Phelps Marketing Lead position taking care of the several tabs associated with the construction side of things which includes all subcontractors sections/tabs that may be requested. There are also leads from the architectural firm that will take care of the design team sections/tabs and we will collaborate at a minimum of once a week throughout the entire process. Doing these marketing check-ins keeps us on the same page and allows for stronger relationships and trust for the proposal as these are often stressful and demanding for all parties. They also allow us to divvy up the workload and assist/collaborate with each other on anything we need help with to get it all done to the best of our abilities. It really is a team effort in getting an RFP done. We all could not do it without each other and we need to be supportive and understanding. The role is much like the role I'd assume for the RFQ. However, oftentimes it's much more intense and time management is crucial. 

 

For the RFP, you are typically given anywhere from 1-5 months to complete, and one-on-ones are often required for the team to attend with the client to keep the teams moving in the right direction for the design and construction. A lot of the time, this means that as a Senior Marketing Coordinator, I will provide graphics, layouts, PowerPoint templates and any other support the team needs during the one-on-ones.

Once the RFP is turned in, the teams are often narrowed down to 3-5, and they must do an interview to showcase their personal skills and further explain the approach, design, and construction. This is typically presented in a PowerPoint format, and only the key personnel from every team attend. On the marketing side, we often assume the lead role for all marketing requirements for the interview. This includes creating the PowerPoint template, any leave-behind items that may need to be printed, and the visuals for large display boards. I will also lead the meetings and provide necessary feedback to those presenting in all interview prep meetings leading up to the interview date.

 

After the interview, the client will select the team that they want to win the contract. This is often decided by multiple factors like design, guaranteed maximum price (GMP), best value, hard bid, etc. With Hensel Phelps, I've had the opportunity to hear some really great feedback on the proposals I've lead from prestigious owners such as Chaffey College, Cal State Long Beach, Providence Health and Services, the California Department of General Services (DGS), all raving about the visuals, layouts, graphics, theming and even extras like a video we supplied that you can view here:



 

Not to mention while you're in the middle of an RFP you're usually working on several other pursuits at the same time in any number of different phases. At any given time you could be doing 1-4 pursuits at the same time. 

I've really grown to love the proposal process as it melds my passion for organization and strategy with my passion for graphics and visuals. It's the greatest feeling in the world to win a contract. It proves that your hard work really made a difference, and your client really appreciated everything you provided. It really feels like you're providing value and it's crazy to say that I've contributed to the company winning over $2 billion worth of work. 

 

Although I can’t show my work because of confidentiality, in my Cardinal Financial work I created a Homebuying Guide that displays a large document created in InDesign. In my past work for the Paso Chamber of Commerce, I also have two large documents there, one being the Economic Profile and the Project Start-Up Guide, that similarly showcase large documents created in InDesign.


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