Anywhere we go, there are problems. In your house, there are problems. Party, problems. Playing basketball, problems. On your way to work, problems. Inside your office, there are plenty of problems. Problems. Problems. Problems. They never go away. Okay, the problems at home, you can handle.
They are manageable. But in the office, it gets complicated. Your problem is the problem of you senior officer. And the problem of the whole team in the office is also your problem. It is not just a personal problem, it is an official problem. It is a business problem. And that requires a professional for a solution.
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Problem solving a profession
Because of competition, problem solving these days has become a profession. But there really is no such thing as a job, a profession called problem solver. Or is there any? We do not use such a term, for reasons it may sound awkward. “Hi, just call my problem solver late this afternoon.” No, we do not say it. But you can say, “Hi, just call my secretary late this afternoon.”
All humans as problem solver
But are there people who solve problems? Technically, and literally speaking, we all solve problems. Every action we do, we are solving problems how to move. When we smile, we are solving how to move our mouth. When we cry, we are trying to solve how we should react when hurt. When we read, we we are solving the problem of how a word should be read. Everything we do is solving problem. So basically, each of us is equipped with the problem solving skill. We all have it. But not everyone makes it a profession.
We do not have a title such as Problem Solver. But we have a title called Consultant. And what it does is provide solutions to a problem.
Consultant on ideas (not a solver on the physical level)
When we request for a consultant, we do not actually ask for his service. We ask for his advice. For example, if there is a problem in the office, let us say water leak. If you call a plumber, what he would do is go the faulty faucet and fix it. The consultant, if you request him, he will not look for the faucet. Instead, he will talk to the manager or the supervisor about the faulty faucet. So he would ask you to sit and talk about the faucet. Nothing else. Well, of course, he will give you an advice what to do with the faucet. Maybe talk a little about the causes why there is a leak, or maybe he would suggest you repair the whole pipeline. But that is just it, he just gives advice. He does not repair the faucet at all. The contrast is an exaggeration. But it drives the whole point.
The Magic Word: Proposal
We have defined clearly what a consultant does, but here is where the battle as a consultant plays. A consultant does not just come out in the field by a snap of his finger. NO. He still has to write proposal. And after writing a proposal, it is then that he waits for the client if his proposed solution is worth risking. It is a risk because it is not just about repairing something. It is not about repairing a faucet. The problems are usually about saving business, a sinking business. If faucets are dollars, a business firm is thousands, and even millions. So this has got to be taken by the perfect, right, professional person. And by the right person, it could mean as someone who is good at writing a proposal.
Writing a good proposal is a must-have skill for every consultant. If you want to be on top of the list being a consultant, you must have a good, well-written, proposal. A good proposal could be just the only thing that a client will look into or consider when hiring for a consultant.
So how does one prepare and write a good proposal?
- Identify the subject. It should be a basic thing to know what is being dealt with when trying to solve a problem. So one should be asking, what company is it, what is the background of this company? Is the company a computer company? Is the company a BPO? Is the company about selling goods? Is it an institution? Is it a government agency? Who are their clients? What is their specialty? What is their service? What is their product all about? Are they doing import or exports, or both? Is it a law firm? Or an academic agency?
- Problem Inquiry. Having known the subject, perhaps you have studied the company already. The next thing to do is inquire what is it that they want to be solved. What is their problem? What is crippling their company? What causes the problem? Is it internal or external? If internal, is it the employee or the employer? If external, how is it related to and affecting the internal issues? Is it financial? If so, is it fraud, or simply mismanagement? Is it miscommunication?
- Preview. Before you can offer a solution to the problem, you have to make an assessment first. Check how big, how serious is the problem. If it is just about repairing a faucet, then it is not a consultant’s main job. If it is about saving a sinking company, then see if there is still anything that can be done. If it can still be saved, how big is it? Assessing the problem is very important because it is from here you can decide if the case is for you to be solved.
- Scope and Limitation. Now that you have assessed the problem, will you be the right person for the job? If the problem is IT related, are you familiar about it? If the problem is about legal issues, are you a lawyer equipped to solve it? If it is about sports, such as winning in a basketball league, have you any experience in playing basketball, coaching a team, worked as a radio sports commentator? If it is about a choir trying to learn how to have good voices, have you any music-related experience to help the group?
- Solution. So now you have sorted out the kind of problem you are dealing with. And you thought you are the right person to do the job. How will you go through solving the issue? Are you going to set a meeting with the clients? Are you going to meet all of them, or just the employer or the seniors of the employee? Are you going to sit with them for a week, or is it just a whole day session?
- Make an Outline. This is important not only for you to go through but for your clients to understand and get a clearer picture of your plans.
- Budget Proposal. You need to state the proposed budget because there are many others out there falling in line for the competition. It is not just you. Having a copy will help the clients see which ones or which proposal is the perfect choice.
- Proposed Action Plan. It is good to have an outline. But a detailed one is even more recommended. If in the outline it mentions for one to climb the building, here, it enunciates the details on how to climb the building—is it by helicopter or or is it by rope?
- Time Table. Presenting your plans with a time table can help convince your client to choose you over other competitors. With a time table, the client can assess how much budget is needed. If it takes years, then state it. If months only, then they should know that it is just a month-long activity or project.
- Conclusion. From hereon, you state to yourself, and in your personal notes, that you are ready for the job. That everything is set up, from budget proposal, down to executing the plans.
- Show Your Proposal. Your last step would be to show what you have got to tackle the issue. Send him a proposal letter. Make sure the rest of the documents are included, plans, timetable, etc.
If you are into business problem solving, then you ought to know what it takes to make a proposal for any business-related problems. But whatever specific problem that is, it is usually a financial problem in general. The specifics could be about profit, investment, return, loans, sales, but basically it is always about money. Such problem is easier if the consultant has background in sales marketing, or probably in accounting.
Proposals in general are basically the same. Though it differs the moment you go down to specifics. But it is not just about solving problems. You look for the underlying issues, the concern. From there, study what can be done, and propose your own solution. It is just like a thesis.