Can you hear me? I can hear you. Can you hear me? And with that simple exchange at the start of Glenys Hart’s presentation on publishing as an Education Consultant, I was right back in the 1990’s; a young psychology assistant testing the usability of video conferencing over the internet. Back in those days, with five frames per second and 2Mb connections, conversations stalled and it took the most determined of souls to persist. Fast forward 20 years, it is a breeze, and with a handy calendar invite – three clicks and we were all there!
Perhaps because of my early experiences with a virtual team working, Glenys’ message about the value of collaborative writing resonated with me and over the last few days, I have reflected on the place of virtual teamwork in writing. My current image of a writer is a lonely one, my computer and I, and a coffee wrestling with ideas until the early hours of the morning. Added to which, I am the only consultant in my field, in my area, and I feel a keen sense of having to strike out on my own. Yet Glenys was clear, some of her best work came from sharing ideas with another writer, and crafting sentences together.
My current writing project is an article on my LinkedIn page. Ideas are taking shape, but I have yet to commit them to paper, as it feels daunting. However, with this new perspective, I wonder who I could team up with and feel excited by the prospect. With this new mindset different formats for the article have also presented themselves, and even writing with someone who comes from an opposing perspective.
What better way to strip away my prejudices than writing with someone who sees them! So, if there is a member of SEC out there who would like to collaborate on an article about Home Education I would love to hear from you.
Thanks, Glenys for sharing your experience and Charmaine for hosting the session. I hope you don’t mind, but you are now part of my virtual team!
A group of us in the SEC recently met virtually (using the Zoom platform) to discuss how to bid for contracts, and to exchange hints and tips. Here are some of the points from our discussion.
The first point to make is that you have to be prepared to fail, most of the time. The consultancy market is very open, and there are many small firms bidding for contracts (including SEC members!). So we need the mind-set that goes full out to win a tender, but we must also protect ourselves from the impact of failure by arguing that it’s all a bit of a lottery in any case.
Does this mean that we have to put in shedloads of bids in order to stand a chance of putting bread on the table? Well, yes, frankly: but nothing much usually is gained by bidding for work where we have neither the knowledge nor experience. We’re likely to be particularly wasting our time, and no-one wants to appear to potential clients like the child in class who always shouts “Me! Me! Me!” whenever teacher asks a question.
But, OK, we’ve decided to bid for a particular project, and we’ve got the “Invitation to tender” in front of us. What to do? My next point always strikes colleagues as obvious: in putting our bid together we must follow the instructions in the Invitation, precisely. This is an exact equivalent of the “read the instructions on the exam paper carefully” advice we all used to get as pupils. If we take care to answer all the questions posed in the Invitation, in the order given, with signposts (“You ask for our experience in designing reading schemes for KS1. Our experience is …”) then we will give a good impression from the start.
However, and in any event, any good tender needs in my view to include five things.
- A background analysis of why the work is actually necessary. We may think that the Invitation to Tender has told us this already, but we should add value here by digging a little deeper into why the work needs doing. (What, in our view, is wrong with existing KS1 reading schemes?).
- A very detailed workplan of what we will actually do if awarded the contract. It is hard to go into too much detail here: clients’ main worry is that consultants will take their money and then just faff around until it’s all spent. The best way of alleviating this worry is to lay out our proposed work plan person day by person day, with calendar dates. Our workplan also drives our fee calculation (see below).
- Specifically, a detailed description of what the client will get out of the project, both at the end and along the way if appropriate. This is another “anti-faff” measure. Will we produce a report? Will we run workshops, for whom and how many? Will we write materials, and who will retain the copyright? It’s always good to offer deliverables that the client didn’t specify in the Invitation to Tender, as a bonus – how about a staff training day, no extra charge?
- Why we’re likely to be the best consultants to carry out this project. What are our skills? What experience do we have in similar projects? We’ll need to offer both skills and experience if we’re to be successful. If we have worked for the client before, that should be a plus, providing the project went well …
- And finally, what’s it going to cost? Well, we can multiply the number of person days we calculated (see above) by our daily rate, and that will give us our fee. Most tendered projects are price-competitive, so a low daily rate will increase our chance of winning, but it has to be worth turning out. People often say that a low daily rate wrecks the market for one’s work, but I’ve never experienced this. And it’s perfectly OK to charge extra for travelling expenses (including car mileage): by stating this cost separately we can keep our daily rate that bit lower.
The very best of luck with all your competitive tenders.
What do Consultants, Gurus, teachers, and seekers of truth have in common?
Last year, I decided to take some time out of my consultancy and life in London to take a six-month sabbatical and retreated to a monastery in West Bengal surrounded by a simple life with the peace and tranquillity of rice paddy fields and in moment’s notice the illusion of peace is shattered by hooting rickshaws and the bellowing horns of overloaded trucks, bicycles and a thousand voices all speaking at the same time. Only India displays such ambiguity so starkly.
Meditation and silence challenged me to take the sole association of my mind and forced me to confront myself. At times my mind was my best friend and other times, my worst enemy.
In battling with my internal challenges, I realised that to find real peace and joy, we must be serving others in one shape or form on the battlefield of life, not in seclusion and thus it brings about a sense of significance, contribution, variety and a purpose to our existence.
Whilst consultancy appears a glorified role or position of expertise, it is, in short, one of serving others for the highest benefit to pupils without any selfish motivation. I concluded that the commonality between a consultant, guru, a teacher is that we all
share our knowledge and understanding through common values and virtues, to enable others to grow and always being detached from any selfish motive to benefit for oneself and therefore speaking without fear or favour.
How have you found your calling in consultancy?
By Nandarane Naina Parmar