Writing Successful Proposals

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As stories are becoming increasingly popular to communicate business ideas, we will follow along as a catering manager writes proposals to convince her Board to fund a “tasty” new kitchen.

In this case,

You oversee the cafeteria at a major corporation. You’re responsible for 20 workers who prepare and serve free lunches to 500 employees at the company cafeteria. Ten years of use have taken their toll on your kitchen’s appliances. Your cooks are unhappy in their jobs and constantly complain about it. You put together some suggestions to ask the Board (your boss is the HR VP/Director) to approve spending money on new machinery. You might use this method to plan your writing project, complete with notes but no actual writing.

1. What is the end goal that I should always strive toward?

Get the money you need to upgrade the staff cafe’s cooking facilities.

2. I need to know my secondary goals.

It would be great to buy whatever tools I wanted without explaining every cent to the accounting department. To accomplish this and furnish the kitchen suitably, one would:

**Improve my rapport with employees and calm my concerns that they are forced to use antiquated, sluggish machinery.

**Stop the constant complaints from the staff when the food they ordered takes too long to arrive; it’s a waste of my time to listen to and address them.

Ultimately, I cut my expenses by using less waste electricity and working more quickly.

Make my workers happier, improving my standing in the eyes of higher-ups.

3. What, therefore, is necessary to accomplish these ends?

I need to draft a short yet persuasive document for the upcoming Board meeting that the members can read in the preceding week. The VP/Director of Human Resources has assured me that he would add it to his portion of the posted agenda. Since this is my only opportunity, I must make the most of it.

4. I want to know who my “audience” is and how they feel.

They are high-ranking executives who probably don’t care because they rarely dine in the worker cafeteria. Recent rumors of a hostile takeover attempt from one of our competitors are undoubtedly making them anxious. Since recent sales have been slow, they are probably in a frugal mindset.

Last year was the first time someone asked for money to be spent on staff amenities, and they were so generous that they approved enough money to remodel the restaurant entirely. Since the kitchen is out of sight of customers, guests, and most employees, they have no incentive to spend nearly as much again.

However, at the upcoming Board meeting, the HR Director will discuss a big recruitment problem, making all Board members aware that we are losing a significant amount of local job abilities and talent to our competitors in the next town over. This is due, in part, to their excellent training programs and personal growth opportunities, and also to the superb restaurant and gym that they provide for their employees.

5. How will people react to what I say?

A week before the meeting, in a paper with a stack of other documents, likely combined into one file or binder. Because of their busy schedules, they will probably only scan the documents on their way to and from work, on the plane, in the car with a chauffeur, at home on the weekend, or late at night in a hotel.

The HR Director will bring up the issue at the meeting, but it will take a back seat to the recruitment issue, and HR, in general, will probably be discussed relatively late in the discussion. If the executives have received bad news earlier in the day, they will likely be exhausted and irritable. A summary of my message may be posted to the company intranet at the Board level. Hopefully, it will be read after the document has been disseminated before the Board meeting.

6. I need to show my readers how this will benefit them.

More so than usual, I need to hum a benefit for my audience so quickly that it’s not amusing, or else my message will get lost in the shuffle and might not even be brought up at the Board meeting. Since the Board members never dine at the employee cafeteria, they have nothing to gain. To pause… the personnel is leaving for the competitor in the next town because of the better deal they offer, which includes a fantastic staff restaurant. My project will consist of a discussion on that matter. At last, we’re making progress…

7. How can I make the negatives appear less damaging?

The price. Yup. Tricky. Now I know what they’re thinking: “But only last year we paid to have the whole restaurant refitted, and now we’re being asked for more?” But what if that was just the first step? Hmmm.

What do you think? A title that goes something like this… Maximizing employee happiness is the last step we need to take to become the top local recruiters, and we intend to take it. To put it simply, I approve.

I need to convince them that upgrading our kitchen appliances is a wise investment because it will make it easier to attract and retain talented employees at a time when our rivals are actively courting the best of the local workforce.

8. Have I proven that everyone stands to gain from this?

Yes. There’s no deceit here; the argument I’m trying to make is genuine. The thing is, I wouldn’t necessarily have looked at it that way from where I sit, and it wasn’t until I placed myself in the shoes of the audience that I saw things from a different perspective.

The ultimate suggestion…

Cover page/page 1

Step three, in-house catering:
… critical to ensure a happy crew and reap the full benefits of the restaurant’s renovation from a year ago.

How a small budget for new appliances in the kitchen would improve our already stellar in-house catering service…
… and make it worthwhile as a significant employee perk that exceeds what our rivals provide their workers with

Page 2

The current dilemma

Our in-house catering service is now among the best in the city, thanks in large part to the renovation of our staff restaurant last year. Meanwhile, the “back of the house” culinary equipment has not been updated since 1999. Even with our well-trained and highly-motivated kitchen crew, this outdated equipment causes significant delays in the service of customers’ meal orders. In light of our recent products and sales drive, which has resulted in shorter lunch breaks and the ensuing pressure for orders to materialize faster – not slower – customer displeasure with restaurants is on the rise.

The tertiary issues

We can’t afford to have our staff catering service fail at a time when Bozo Ltd is using its impressive on-site amenities as a selling point for potential new employees. The “front of house” restaurant fixtures that were upgraded last year helped get things back on track, but they couldn’t have done it without the support of modern kitchen equipment. The old kitchen appliances may soon need to be replaced anyway because they no longer conform to health, safety, and hygiene standards.

How to Fix It

Less money is required for kitchen equipment now than was spent on restaurant renovations last year, but the return on investment will be higher. We must attract and keep talented people; the money we’ll spend on new equipment will help us do that.

Implementation

Overleaf you’ll see the results of a comprehensive survey I ran comparing the costs and benefits of all relevant machinery. With my extensive background in managing commercial kitchens, I have provided specific suggestions for saving money. To save time for upper-level management in the Purchasing and Finance departments and to guarantee the most effective overall solution, I am also pleased to oversee the purchase and installation of the equipment myself.

The End Result

The final piece in ensuring that our staff facilities not only match but outperform those of Bozo Ltd and any other local businesses wanting to attract high-caliber workers is to upgrade the kitchen equipment in our staff restaurant. You’re aware that, rather frequently, a top recruit would choose one company over another based on seemingly negligible factors like these. This program is designed to encourage them to join and remain with us.

Page 3-4

How much money do we need?
(specifics on what you’ll need and how much it’ll cost)

Results expected
(faster preparation and serving, less waste, less energy used, etc.)

Approach to Implementation
(what may be purchased now, and how/when could it be set up)

Evaluation of Results
(how quickly progress could be seen, what to expect, results from a poll of employee happiness, etc.)

And the autopsy results…

The tone and voice should be thought of first. We avoid flowery or formal language and get to the point, but we aren’t overly friendly or chatty. This is a no-nonsense business language designed to convey our point quickly and clearly while giving the reader enough background to grasp the whole picture.

Cover page/page 1

Step three, in-house catering:… critical to ensure a happy crew and reap the full benefits of the restaurant’s renovation from a year ago.

This serves as a headline, drawing attention to the most critical aspects of “what’s in it for them,” as opposed to “what’s in it for me,” the catering manager, or even the workers who will profit from it. The message brief identified two primary sources of stress for the target audience: (1) the difficulty of finding and keeping qualified workers in the face of intensifying competition and (2) the fact that substantial funds had already been allocated to the restaurant the previous year. Since they might use the preceding argument as an excuse to avoid making this additional investment, I’ve made a big deal out of the fact that the kitchen equipment is the “final link in the chain…,” implying that they intended to refit the catering operation in two stages, this being the second.

How a small budget for new appliances in the kitchen would round up our first-rate in-house catering service… and make it worthwhile as a significant employee perk that exceeds what our rivals provide their workers with

The term “relatively modest” is demeaning despite its lack of meaning. It’s likely true that the restaurant renovation would have been a waste of money without updated kitchen equipment, but it wouldn’t be very diplomatic of us to come right out and say so.

Page 2

The current dilemma

Our in-house catering service is now among the best in the city, thanks in large part to the renovation of our staff restaurant last year. Meanwhile, the “back of the house” culinary equipment has not been updated since 1999. Even with our well-trained and highly-motivated kitchen crew, this outdated equipment causes significant delays in the service of customers’ meal orders. In light of our recent products and sales drive, which has resulted in shorter lunch breaks and the ensuing pressure for orders to materialize faster – not slower – customer displeasure with restaurants is on the rise.

The explanation is in the name. Be aware that I foresaw another possible “get-out clause” for someone not wanting to authorize the spend, namely, that it is not the age of the equipment that causes delays, but rather the inability/laziness of the kitchen staff. The above line may not persuade them that the cooks are excellent, but it demonstrates that I am prepared to counter any objections they may have. In many cases, it is all it takes to halt its progress.

The tertiary issues

We can’t afford to have our staff catering service fail at a time when Bozo Ltd is using its impressive on-site amenities as a selling point for potential new employees. The “front of house” restaurant fixtures that were upgraded last year helped get things back on track, but they couldn’t have done it without the support of modern kitchen equipment. The old kitchen appliances may soon need to be replaced anyway because they no longer conform to health, safety, and hygiene standards.

Here, I provide evidence and support for the claim that the restaurant’s renovation was only the first half of a two-part project and that the failure to implement my proposed solution—re-equipping the kitchen—could have severe repercussions for our ability to recruit and retain talented chefs, despite the updated restaurant decor.

How to Fix It

Less money is required for kitchen equipment now than was spent on restaurant renovations last year, but the return on investment will be higher. We must attract and keep talented people; the money we’ll spend on new equipment will help us do that.

The “final push” section, if a sales document, will be found here. Once the document’s purpose has been stated, as we have done here (earlier on), the solution section serves more as a bridge, providing an opportunity to remind the reader that the action we need from them has positive consequences for them.

Implementation

Overleaf you’ll see the results of a comprehensive survey I ran comparing the costs and benefits of all relevant machinery. With my extensive background in managing commercial kitchens, I have provided specific suggestions for saving money. To save time for upper-level management in the Purchasing and Finance departments and to guarantee the most effective overall solution, I am also pleased to oversee the purchase and installation of the equipment myself.

This part of my message brief addresses the “secondary considerations” I mentioned, namely that I’d like complete freedom in structuring the project, with no interference from other divisions or superiors. After a thorough investigation, I’ve concluded that my extensive background as an industry specialist and my willingness to save the Board’s time and effort in management by taking charge of the project myself are the most valuable contributions I can make. It’s a win-win situation because I get to direct the project how I see fit, and they don’t have to do any more work.

The End Result

The final piece in ensuring that our staff facilities not only match but outperform those of Bozo Ltd and any other local businesses wanting to attract high-caliber workers is to upgrade the kitchen equipment in our staff restaurant. You’re aware that, rather frequently, a top recruit would choose one company over another based on seemingly negligible factors like these. This program is designed to encourage them to join and remain with us.

Even though it’s only wishful thinking, this paragraph helps wrap up the main page and remind readers of the most important details and how they might personally benefit. A reader’s head nodding up and down in silent agreement is always a usefully positive antecedent to the prospective deal, and the phrase “as you know” can do just that, provided it is used respectfully rather than patronizingly.

And so? A plan so compelling not even the most corrupt authorities can resist adopting our point of view. Have fun!

Author of 30+ books in the nonfiction/business genre, best-seller Suzan St. Maur instructs you on how to hone your writing skills for any audience. Including original writing and editing and a library of books and digital books with more than 400 freely accessible articles. This a fantastic approach to improve your English for business or blogging… Write a touching toast for the wedding… improve your Twitter with… Energize your LinkedIn updates by…, to say nothing of the rest. Come on by at this minute…

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