Winning the Business

Survivor: Proposal Island

Navigating mergers and acquisitions and staying afloat

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During my 20 years in proposal management, I have ridden the roller coaster of many mergers and acquisitions. I went from working in a company of 100 people to now working in a company with more than 150,000 people in offices all over the world. Throughout this journey, I have learned how to be flexible, open to new practices and processes, and willing to accept new cultures; how to ask for help; and most importantly, how to be a productive and valuable team member.

Diving Into the New Culture

One of the most important lessons I have learned is how to adopt, adapt, and find a place in a new culture of combined companies. This can be done by:

  • Learning the culture of your new company after it has gone through a merger or acquisition.
  • Having the strength, flexibility, and mindset to accept change.
  • Understanding that changes will occur in executive leadership and direct report management, as well as through closing offices and restructuring teams.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is how to adopt, adapt, and find a place in a new culture of combined companies.

Navigating the Changes

Working with new, combined, or virtual proposal teams can be quite a challenge. Here are some key tips I have learned:

  • Begin to forge new relationships and learn the new culture.
  • Do your best work, step up, and lean in—show your interest and enthusiasm in adapting to change and focus on your ability to be flexible.
  • Investigate new opportunities for your own personal growth and development.
  • If you are a telecommuter, get to know people in offices so you can understand office culture.
  • Learn the new company intranet and immerse yourself in important company information.

Finding Your Place in a Restructured Proposal Team

It is important to know where you can fit in a new or restructured team, either as a mentor or as a subject matter expert. The following advice has helped me to find my place:

  • Come to terms with survivor’s guilt—there may be organizational changes that will impact the reporting structure as well as working relationships and test your coping skills.
  • Take advantage of opportunities for advancement or change within the proposal team or other opportunities within the company.
  • Learn and understand the company culture.
  • Establish relationships with new managers and team members.

Mapping Out New and Improved Proposal Processes

It has been my experience that new/restructured proposal teams need to work together to share best practices and lessons learned, so they can cultivate a new set of guidelines that will work best for everyone.

  • When there are new requirements and processes, it is critical to work with legal and other teams to ensure understanding.
  • New databases, style guides, and templates will need to be learned, as well as guidelines for graphics placement.
  • Updated pricing processes will require learning new ways to price, retain, and win business.
  • Once rebranding is completed, it will be crucial to understand the new mission and vision and deliver information that will help the company win business.
  • Taking product and services training is an important part of embracing the company’s culture—learning how to sell all the products and services the new company offers.

Takeaways for Survival

Surviving on “Proposal Island” takes a lot of fortitude, strength, flexibility, and determination. My final takeaways include:

  • Always do your best work and ask for help as needed.
  • Adapt, adopt, refresh, and rebuild your core skills to become a subject matter expert.
  • Speak up, but be positive, proactive, and actively listen. Ask pertinent questions.
  • Work through your fears and anxieties and embrace new cultures.

Louise Pulini is a proposal project manager telecommuting from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area for a global health care company, and she is secretary of the APMP Liberty Chapter. She can be reached at