Why we insist on designated points of contact during SBIR proposal preparation

  • June 22, 2023

Human behavior is fascinating. Despite seeking success in funding, business growth, or expansion, many teams have accountability issues when adhering to deadlines. Accountability was a major issue for one of our recent SBIR proposal preparation clients who failed to proofread their proposal draft and caused themselves and their team undue stress by making last-minute changes up to the day the proposal was due.

Two weeks prior to the final submission deadline, there had been an internal deadline for the clients who were accountable for proofreading the final draft and letting us know if any changes were needed. The client gave us the go-ahead to load the proposal onto the grant platform, then proceeded to call and schedule meetings daily, asking questions and making fundamental changes to the entire proposal.

The E.B. Howard Consulting team was flabbergasted by this and asked the program director why these changes had not been requested during the iterative review and copy-edit process. The program director informed us, rather matter-of-factly, that no one bothered to proofread the document because all team members in the client’s team thought it was someone else’s responsibility. This experience was the catalyst for how our process for project management evolved to include transparent designations across teams for the accountability of tasks.

From that point on, our clients were given a list of required deliverables at their first onboarding meeting. Each deliverable is associated with a timeline and due date. Each task or action item within these deliverables is then assigned to a member of the client’s team. Although this was not something we originally thought we had to have systems in place to prevent, never again will we leave it up to chance that an entire team of adult professional business people somehow neglects a task because it is someone else’s problem.

When we begin working with a new SBIR proposal preparation client, one of our first questions is who is responsible for what? Who is the person that will be providing the official sign-off on the documents we create before submission? Suppose the point of contact for each task quits, gets fired, or has a personal emergency (it happens – we have witnessed all of these scenarios happen within the past year). Who will then be responsible for providing this deliverable? This accountability protocol has greatly improved the quality of client deliverables and made the adherence rate to deadlines higher overall.

While this is helpful in an SBIR proposal preparation scenario, it is also a foundational premise of good project management. Each deliverable should be broken out into tasks, and each task should always be assigned to someone. Tasks should have a start and end date, and the project manager should maintain awareness of the progress of each task, especially as the due date nears. These simple steps can improve both the process and the outcome of completing tasks and meeting deliverables.

We work with high-growth startups and organizations that support the startup and innovation ecosystem. We build highly specific non-dilutive funding menus, provide proposal preparation services, and measure outcomes of funding through evaluation. Schedule a consult call with us HERE.