Willam

 

 

WILLAM MARTIN IS an experienced proposal strategist and business developer with an extensive background in sales and marketing, business development, writing, public speaking, and coaching.  He is the managing partner and founder of Proposal Acceptance, an Austin, Texas-based consulting practice that specializes in proposal management, business development, and governmental regulatory approvals advocacy.  Proposal Acceptance works with clients in business-to-business (B2B) sales, business-to-government (B2G) sales,  professional service firms, startups, and public-sector agencies wishing to grow their revenue by winning  business with differentiated proposals and bids that consistently end up first-place in competitive evaluations.

Willam’s sales and marketing career started at the General Electric Company where he was a marketing product planner.  Since then, he has also held marketing management positions in several professional service firms in the construction, real estate, financial services, banking, and management consulting industries.  Willam has worked both as an independent consultant and as a principal with profit and loss responsibility for the several firms in which he has had ownership interest.

 

Willam has experience and expertise in each of the four practice areas Proposal Acceptance specializes in:

  • Proposal Management
  • Business Development
  • Public-Private Partnerships
  • Business and Technical Writing

 

PROPOSAL MANAGEMENT

“To customers, your proposals are more than promises of your future behavior; they are your behavior.  Your proposals are often the first tangible evidence customers have of your quality, your ability to listen, your willingness to be flexible, your attention to detail, and so on.  Whether you intend it or not, your proposals are symbols of you, and they have the potential to be symbolic behavioral differentiators—either positively or negatively.”

-Bacon, Terry R., and David G. Pugh.  2004.  The Behavioral Advantage. New York:  Amacom.

Willam has successfully managed proposal projects in a variety of industries including professional services, management consulting, real estate, financial services, banking, architecture, engineering, and construction.  His win-ratio benefits from insights gained into what evaluators are looking for in a proposal, what constitutes a “Winner Proposal”.  Based upon an open dialogue with the proposing firm, he has also developed a knack for discerning the firm’s true identity in terms of unique selling proposition, competitive advantage, and differentiation.  These elements then become the key themes and win messages featured throughout the proposal.

Some examples of Willam’s proposal management projects that highlight his expertise in this specialty include:

1.  Representing a construction firm, he managed the proposed purchase of select, well-located building lots which were being offered by a highly sophisticated seller in a sealed bid sale.  By devising an innovative deal sweetener that created a net value-add for the seller, his client firm’s bid was distinguished and went on to win the bid competition by beating out four competitors, some larger and better funded.  The firm went on to build-out the project and earned $5.6 million in revenue.

2.  Consulting with a commercial real estate asset management firm, he managed a very rapid-response opportunity pursuit.  The work covered by the RFP was the asset management and eventual sale of a portfolio of eight multi-family projects to be awarded by the FDIC.  Willam’s client was in possession of the RFP and had been working on a proposal for three weeks.  Only days before the proposal submittal deadline, they began to doubt their in-house efforts and suspected that their proposal would be uncompetitive.

Willam was called in late in the day on a Thursday before the following Monday and the 9:00 AM deadline for proposal submittal.  He outlined the RFP and devised an action plan.  The first drafts of certain sections were assigned to the firm’s three principals.  Willam edited these drafts, wrote the balance of the proposal, the bios, and the executive summary.  The three principals and Willam worked the entire weekend, day and night.

One of the firm’s principals, who drove 400 miles to hand-deliver the completed proposal on Monday morning, said the stack of competing proposals was literally 3-feet high.  The proposal submitted by Willam’s client came in first, winning the competition.  The firm went on to manage the assets in the awarded portfolio for three years, earning over $500,000 per year in management fees.  When the projects were eventually sold, the firm earned and additional $600,000 in participating brokerage commissions.

3.  Representing a business development consulting firm, Willam managed the proposal submitted to a regional bank covering the project management of a portfolio of bank owned assets.  The bank accepted the proposal and awarded the first project.  Four months later the consulting firm was invited to submit a second proposal covering a different project, which it also won.  All told, the consulting firm worked with the bank for three years and earned approximately $425,000 in consulting fees.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

 

“The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. [It] … is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.”

-Peter Drucker

If the overall success of competing for and winning work projects and the revenues they bring to the firm were likened to a chain, then the actual proposal, itself, would be one of the last links in that chain.  Earlier links in the chain that ultimately support the successful proposal would represent the crucial business development issues of the proposing firm.

In addition to proposing a recommended solution to a customer’s need, a proposal also necessarily tells the story of the proposing firm.  In order to win, it is not enough that the proposed solution is only technically well described by the proposal writer(s).  It is also critical that the proposal writer(s) have something compelling to work with in terms of the realities of the proposing firm’s business development in terms of, for example: unique selling proposition, core competency, competitive advantage, differentiation from other competitors, and insightful investigation of the customer’s needs addressed in the proposal.

A supporting context for the proposal will then be provided and the evaluators will be able to gain a sense that the promises made in the proposal can actually be kept by the proposing firm.

Willam has successfully developed businesses both as a consultant and a principal.  He has worked in a variety of industries with existing firms, startups, and turnarounds. Some examples of Willam’s business development projects that highlight his expertise in this specialty include:

1.  Representing a startup construction firm, Willam conducted a market analysis for a proposed project.  Based upon the findings of the market analysis, he recommended a detailed product and marketing plan.  After the client firm accepted the product plan, Willam prepared an advertising and sales promotion campaign built around a recommended project theme and integrated messages that created a brand identity.  The young firm built out the project and booked approximately $1.2 million in profits. The project also won a regional industry award and was featured in a national trade magazine’s cover story.

2.  Representing a business-to-business marketing and sales consulting firm, Willam devised a marketing plan that positioned the firm as a specialty consultant in the banking industry.  After writing a white paper that established the firm as a thought leader in the area of its specialty, he devised a lead generation and prospecting campaign aimed directly at the firm’s targeted clients.  One of the outcomes of this campaign was a long-term relationship with what became the firm’s lead client, responsible for over $500,000 in billings.

3.  For a professional services firm that had just completed a major merger with a former competitor, Willam consulted on how the two different firms representing two widely differing cultures could best integrate into one.  After extensive research and interviews, he combined the best practices of each firm into a Sales Training Course which was taught by a team consisting of the leadership of each firm and Willam.  He also authored a Policy & Procedures Manual so everyone knew exactly how the new combined firm was going to operate.

In the first full year of operations, the merged firm achieved sales volume breakthroughs and went on to become the largest in the state.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

“Growing recognition of the $100 trillion global shortfall in renewing our built, natural, and socioeconomic assets has collided with the rise of politicians promising tax cuts…The resulting budget crises have put community renewal financing front and center.  Each time a bridge or levee collapses…each time a fishery or ecosystem collapses…each time a city or nation runs short of water or power…the pressure increases to find more money—and innovative delivery solutions—for renewal projects.”

Cunningham, Storm. 2008.  reWealth! New York:  McGraw Hill.

Perhaps the biggest area where public sector agencies and private sector businesses can cooperate has to do with the massive stock of public infrastructure—the roads, bridges, power, water and wastewater systems—that constitute the economic foundation of our nation.  The current budget crises at all levels of government resulting from the slow-growth economy have made it imperative that new funding sources and partnerships be found.  Increasingly, the answer has been, and undoubtedly will be, so-called Public-Private Partnerships (P3s

A P3 is a partnership between the public and private sectors where there is a sharing of risk, responsibility, and reward, and where there is a net benefit to the public.  Specifically, a P3 is a partnership for some combination of design, construction, financing, operation and/or maintenance of public infrastructure which may rely on user fees or alternative sources of revenue to cover all or part of the related costs of capital, operations, and capital maintenance.

Willam’s advantage in crafting win-win transactions between private firms and governmental agencies is his application of the best practices of proposal design and writing.  Careful listening and interviewing identifies the respective needs of the parties and highlights their differing motivations and incentives that must be addressed.  Clearly written documentation during the project in the form of position papers and progress reports allow broad circulation to various stakeholders, including, especially, members of public boards, commissions, and councils.  The benefit of clear communication throughout the project is that a critical level of transparency is achieved, and the resulting trust that transparency builds between the parties.  Perhaps most importantly, clear documentation also has the effect of leveraging negotiations forward from-deal-point to deal-point to ultimate agreement.

Several projects that depended upon close cooperation between public- and private-sectors were facilitated by Willam and speak to his experience and expertise in this specialty area:

1.  Consulting with a regional bank on a key parcel of vacant land it owned in the downtown of a major city, Willam recommended the vacation of an almost-never-used public street that ran through the property.  The street was part of an old residential subdivision that predated the civil war; all the decrepit structures had long since been torn down.  The street was redundant and added no utility to the existing roadway network.  In recent years, the frontage road of an interstate highway bordered the property, rendering the property more useful for commercial than residential.  After shepherding the vacation of the public street through the complex city vacation process, Willam negotiated a win-win transaction for the sale of the street right-of-way between the city, who owned it, and his client, who was eager to purchase it to expand its land and recombine the formerly bisected parcels into now one parcel with commercial potential.

Following the street vacation and sale of the right-of-way, the bank soon sold the now assembled parcel to a developer for approximately seven times what it had been appraised for when Willam first began the project.  Today, there is a Doubletree Hotel and a Denny’s Restaurant on the site. The Hotel and Restaurant are sited exactly on top of the former right-of-way of the former public street.

In addition to the proceeds it received from the sale to the bank and the ongoing tax income it receives from the hotel and restaurant, the city ended up being relieved of the burden for ongoing street maintenance.  Because the vacant property surrounding it provided no “eyes” on the street, it had grown into a popular location for inner-city crime.  For that reason, the city council, police department, and the surrounding neighborhoods were also only too pleased to see it go.

2.  Consulting with an investment fund that owned property adjoining a public school, Willam recommended a public-public-private partnership that created a win-win-win for the parties.  The geometric configuration of the school’s lot was somewhat narrow across its frontage on a public street, as compared to its much greater depth.  Some refer to this configuration as a “bowling alley lot”.  His client’s adjoining property was similarly configured.  By working with the public school, the city regulators, and the investment fund, Willam planned and implemented the project that extended a nearby intersecting street through the two properties, bisecting them.  The school district and the investment fund participated jointly in the financing; the school district contributed excess land at appraised value, and the investment fund contributed cash.

Following the completion of the new street extension, the school district ended up with a more accessible site that could now be serviced from the new street along what was once the site’s depth—a much safer arrangement for the “two rush-hours each school day” of busses and parents’ vehicles when picking up and dropping off children.  The city received a new public street at absolutely no cost to it, a street that improved the transportation network by enhancing traffic flow in the area.  The investment fund was pleased because the resulting greater accessibility to its site produced a geometric configuration that changed the potential land use of the site and now qualified it for upscale multi-family.  An appraisal conducted following the installation of the new street extension indicated that the value of its land had increased some 300%.

BUSINESS AND TECHNICAL WRITING

 

“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

-Anonymous

How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things but by how well we are understood.

-Andrew S. Grove, CEO, Intel

Accomplishing important business goals usually involves the complex interaction of many different team members and stakeholders.  Organizing and motivating diverse participants to move toward a common objective is a challenge that can best be met with clear written communication.  Communication can inform or train, inquire or confirm, motivate or persuade.  A well-written progress report or summary of understandings has the potential to provide the leverage necessary to move proceedings and negotiations to the next level.

A number of Willam’s writing projects highlight his expertise in this specialty:

1.  Representing a professional service firm that consulted in the banking industry, Willam authored a white paper that helped establish the firm as a thought leader in the banking industry.  After conducting research that included a survey of bank asset managers, the white paper described a best practice for managing repossessed bank assets that enhanced their value and increased net recovery for the banks.  The white paper was published in one of the leading banking industry trade journals.  Following publication, reprints of the white paper then became the centerpiece of the firm’s prospecting and lead generation campaign.  The market position the white paper earned for the firm was important in helping it land what became its lead client, responsible for over $300,000 in billings.

2.  Representing a real estate developer, Willam’s research and position paper provided a viable alternative to an otherwise lengthy and expensive development process.  After doing the customary due diligence on the allowable uses for a particular property, the developer bought the property, only to be told by planning officials that the property’s zoning classification published in the current city ordinance (published zoning classification) that he relied upon was, in fact, not governing.  The planning officials claimed that the property’s published zoning classification had been superseded by a map exhibit contained in a recently passed city comprehensive plan.  The developer was told that if he wished to develop the property to the higher density allowed under the published zoning classification, he would have to go through the difficult process of attempting to secure an exemption from the comprehensive plan.

In researching the property in the city’s archives, Willam discovered that several years earlier the property’s former owner had paid in excess of $130,000 to the city.  In the time period in which the check was issued, it was learned that a major wastewater line was being installed by the city to serve a large area of the city in the vicinity of the property.

The archive files contained correspondence and detailed calculations of exactly how the payment amount was determined; it was to reserve future capacity in the line to serve the development of the property at the density allowed in the published zoning classification.

In a position paper which reported on his research, Willam asked the city to consider whether or not the payment collected by the city from the former property owner constituted consideration for an agreement between the city and the former property owner; obligated the city to actually serve the property with the capacity the former property owner purchased, based upon the published zoning classification and governing at that time of the transaction between the former property owner and the city; and, constituted a specific agreement between the city and the former property owner that trumped the more general comprehensive plan.

The city agreed and the property was grandfathered from the comprehensive plan. The developer had “dodged a bullet” and was allowed to move forward with his project the following week.

As a result of Willam’s research and position paper, the developer was spared from having to go through the public process to secure an exemption from the comprehensive plan.  That process would have had an uncertain outcome; taken five months or so; and would have cost several hundred thousand dollars in studies and presentation submittals to a variety of boards, commissions, and city council

3.  For a commercial construction and land development firm in which he was a Principal, Willam researched and authored a Condominium Declaration “in plain English”; one that could be easily understood by the layman board of directors charged with administering the rules and regulations of the community association.  Since its entry into the public domain by virtue of its recording in the public records, the declaration has become a widely adopted standard in the industry.

ACADEMIC AND SPECIAL INTERESTS

Willam is an alumnus of Case-Western Reserve University and Bowling Green State University.

He is a lifelong student and a voracious reader.  Recent topics of independent study have included:

  • Innovative strategic planning adjustments that may be required at the individual firm level in response to the persistent slow-growth of the U.S. economy
  • The “New Normal” U.S. economy
  • Realignment of U.S. role in the global economy
  • The Great Recession
  • Business Development Best Practices
  • Marketing Planning and Consultative Selling
  • Alternative and Renewable Energy
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”) and the natural gas revolution

PERSONAL

Willam has raised five children, and has five wonderful grandchildren.  He lives with Anezka, a strong-willed, two-year-old German Shepherd.

He is a man of faith.  In business as well as in his personal life, he attempts to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

 

PROPOSAL ACCEPTANCE

1901 Cervin          Austin, Texas          78728

Willam@ProposalAcceptance.com                                 (512) 751-3250