Got a timely wake-up call yesterday, in the form of losing a contract bid for a major job. Timely, in that I'd been getting a little cocky about a string of wins and didn't see this one coming. Ouch - especially since I was the incumbent. The universe's way of keeping me grounded, it seems.
So after a few minutes of fussing, cussing and blaming, I settled down and started journaling. Here's where I am so far...
I got beat out by a new comer – a 1 (2?) person consulting 8a with government-specific creds and great packaging. I am ultimately very competitive. I hate getting beat out. But this little firm beat me, fair and square. On image, at least. Maybe on competence and results, maybe not. But me smugly “knowing” that they client won’t get as good a result as they would with me does not mitigate the fact that I did not get this contract.
The real question for me now is am I going to really jump in here to compete in a way that will win biz?
I know what to do: redo my business website, be crystal clear on
what I offer to whom, and compete. Really compete. Not this half-hearted uncommitted approach I’ve been taking. My client work is whole-hearted and totally committed - my effort to "show up fully" in this market is not.
Doing is not the issue. What do I want? It means making a conscious choice. I’m at a turning point, actually. Bite the bullet and compete or don’t. But be very clear I have a choice. Instead of feeling bad or pointing fingers, this is all about me stepping up (or not), and then being accountable for my decision. And being at peace with it. In hindsight, I did see this coming - and by this, I mean a turning point, not the smaller "this" of losing a bid. I just didn't want to deal with it.
This is a wake up call. It’s time to decide. Consider. Choose. Then act.
Losing this bid could be the best outcome, actually. It asks me to pay attention. To stand up and stop playing small, making due with what lands in my lap. It’s not a sustainable strategy for getting what I want: serenity, peace, contentment and joy.
What I'm not clear on yet is the right choice for me now. I need to sit with this. Check in with myself and the small circle of wise mentors and supporters I've learned to both trust and believe. Maybe this is just part of my transition strategy. Could I tolerate it more if I saw it as a means to an end? I know I don’t want to be a big federal contracting firm – if I did, I would be acting to do so.
But can I be successful “enough” to get what I want: the platform and means to other things? Can I make enough of a living and really help my clients, without eating up all of my time or creative juice, to engage enough with the book arts (learn, create, build relationships) to eventually sell my work, have a studio and teach?
Instead of making up stories about why I lost this one, I met with the client. Apparently I was one of two finalists (out of 19 proposals), but lost major points for not including resumes in the proposal package. Huh?! While the contracting officer was angsting about what to do (the client says they really, really wanted my firm to get this), the new-comer appeared at a significantly reduced price. Fearing a protest, they went with the low price.
This story raises several things for me...I'm mortified that I may have lost a 6-figure deal because of an oversight...I'm suspicious that this is not the whole story (there was some back and forth for further details along the way - why not ask for the resume?)...I'm relieved that I did, in fact, stack up to the competition...and I'm grateful that this client has asked me to work with them on another project.
And I'll dig a little more. Will attempt to have an honest conversation with the contracting officer to see what more I can learn.
After walking around angry at the world - and taking it out on my husband, dog, clients and friends - for about a week, it finally occurred to me during yoga this weekend that I'm really furious with myself, not them. I'd been sitting on these feelings, petrified of letting the "truth" sink in.
As I move into them instead of denying and acting them out, the lightness, clarity and detachment I'm starting to feel is welcome relief. I'll still have the meeting with the contracting officer this week and learn all I can, but I no longer feel hooked by this experience.
My work this week is to see if I can cultivate maitri, loving-kindness, for myself. To see what I've done with honesty but gentleness. To see what I do without turning it against myself.