When I graduated college, I didn’t know what the following years would have in store. (Do any of us?) But I did know one thing: at some point in life, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Little did I know, the opportunity would come sooner than I could have dreamed. Shortly after turning the tassel, I landed at a big corporate firm in Kansas City—this was my intro to the proposal management world. I remember dreaming with a fellow co-worker about what kind of businesses we would want to start some day. Believe it or not, one of my first ideas was a wedding and event planning business! That dream faded as we realized we would be working every weekend and evening, but the entrepreneurial spirit remained.
Fast forward three years, David and I were away at his grandmother’s funeral, and a relative asked about my new job at said firm. Like others at that time who inquired, I dove into a lengthy response explaining what proposals are, what a proposal manager does, why our role is critical to winning new business, etc. Little did I know my first client was listening in on the convo . . . and that is how the seed was planted. That first client was my “lightbulb moment.”
In other words, that moment I realized there are MANY small businesses who have a stellar reputation but need a little help conveying their awesomeness and the benefits they bring to their clients in their bids, quotes and proposals. Thus, Theme Strategic Proposals was born.
To Eat, Breath, and Sleep Proposal Management
After launching Theme Strategic Proposals in 2017, all thanks to that “lightbulb moment,” opportunity knocked and an amazing second client was referred to me. Everything we needed to launch Theme happened almost seamlessly.
Have you ever thought about launching a business? Have you launched a business? If you have, I’d love to hear about it! And perhaps you can relate to how agonizing naming a business can be. For some, the name comes naturally. For others, it’s not so easy. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought “Theme. The business will be named Theme!” And that’s the grueling process I followed to determine our business name.
Given that my background spanned a variety of industries and included government and business-to-business proposals, I felt confident that we could help clients in any industry.
Our clientele has grown primarily through referrals from referral partners and from client referrals. If you’re reading this and wondering what a referral partner is or thinking you’d like to be one, message me! I’d be happy to share how I refer business to others. We’ve embraced a mantra of “give to others first, and give frequently” and that has served us and our small business community well. Four years of living and breathing by that mantra, and here we are! Celebrating our fourth anniversary as a business.
These Are My Reflections
So the title to this post speaks of a “Birthday Party” and although we wish we could invite every Theme connection over to our house for a big bash, our son, Jesse, goes to bed at 7pm and it’d probably have to be the lamest, quietest party ever. Therefore, this blog post will have to do. All-in-all, we really do believe four years is worth celebrating—here are a few accomplishments we’re super proud to outline in detail.
- May 24, 2017: Theme, LLC became an official business.
- 2017: We spent a lot of time getting systems set up and focusing on providing exceptional client service.
- 2017: Our professional highlight of 2017 was helping a client win a $25 million nationwide IT contract for Canada. Notably, the RFP was nearly 1,000 pages long.
- 2018: I realized I needed help! Specifically in the area of establishing and nurturing a sales pipeline. That’s when I was introduced to SalezWorks who taught me best practices for referral marketing and laid the foundation for our sales process today.
- 2018: A highlight of 2018 was a client invited me to participate in their shortlist presentations to two of the largest jurisdictions in the country. After years of coaching proposal teams about how to win the shortlist presentations, I finally got to put those best practices to use in real life.
- 2019: We helped a client win contracts with three of the five largest jurisdictions in the country! Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York City.
- 2020: We welcomed our son, Jesse, into the world in February 2020, and my highlight for this year was being able to rely upon my colleague Jeannette Waldie, founder and president of JK Waldie & Associates, a fellow proposal consultancy based in Houston. Without Jeannette, I could not have taken a true maternity leave. Thank you, Jeannette!
- 2020: At the end of 2019, we decided to make a concerted effort to diversify and grow our client base. We went from serving around 10 clients in 2019 to over 30 clients by the end of 2020!
- 2021: Lastly, we helped a client win their first prime contract with a Federal agency valued at $12.5 million. We also recently helped an engineering firm win an on-call contract with a prominent city.
Where We’re at and Where We’re Going
As of this writing, our team features four proposal consultants, a business consultant, three designers, and an administrative assistant. We have helped our clients win over $80 million and I really believe we’re just getting started.
For instance, we are planning to double our sales in 2021 and have plans to continue growing over the next decade! We truly believe somes businesses “overestimate what can be done in one year, and underestimate what can be done in 10 years.” Therefore, we’re taking this thing one day at a time. But if you’re reading this we thank YOU for your support at some point in the process.
As I think about tossing my graduation cap into the air, I now realize that the “not knowing” is a beautiful part of life’s journey. It’s kind of a theme in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cheers to four more years of explaining the importance of proposal management.