Trashy BuildingMy wife made what seemed to be a random comment while we were on the road through town.  “That property management firm . . . isn’t one I would use.”  Since I wasn’t aware we were in the market for property management firm, I asked, “What?”  She explained, “It’s the appearance of their building.  Their building needs paint and looks trashy.  If they can’t take care of their own building, how could I expect them to take care of mine?”

I shouldn’t be surprised by my wife’s comment.  We often have these apparently disjointed conversations.  And the subject wasn’t even a surprise – we’ve discussed how judgements are made on the slimmest of bases.

But it also brought to mind a story I heard many years ago when I was working on a major proposal.  The company had contracted with a professional proposal coordinator – all he did was coordinate the work of the company’s proposal team – and I had been assigned to work with him full-time until the proposal was complete.  It was 6-months of effort before the final proposal was delivered.

The story concerned another major defense competition.  Both contractors had worked hard on their proposals and ended up being scored equally – there was no rational basis to judge between them.  But the decision authority had to choose between them and without any recommendation that one was better than the other.  So, how did the decision authority make the call?  They looked at the covers of the two proposals and with the words, “I like this one better.” The decision was made.

The point being made was that the time and effort spent on the cover wasn’t a waste of time.  Not only did it create the first impression – but we didn’t know what small detail might be the deciding factor.  So, it was important to pay attention to every detail – this was where I learned how to analyze and insure every detail was addressed in a proposal – a very valuable lesson.

Appearances count – they offer the first promise to your customers and can undermine any subsequent efforts at marketing.

PS – We lost the contract – months before the competition started – because our CEO pissed off the decision authority.  That’s a lesson for another day.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.