An Interview With Ome Almeda

For this issue we interviewed Ome Almeda, Administrator, Support Services, for Valley Medical Center, Renton, WA. Ome routinely talks with, screens and hires design consultants as VMC continues to expand.

How important is cost in selecting the winning firm?

When I read a proposal, cost is a non-issue, initially. What is important is the quality and the content of the proposal. First they have to address the issue—the requirements of the RFP. Then they have to tell me why VMC should buy their services—what are the benefits? And I need to know what makes them different from the other firms proposing.

So, you like to see that right up front in the proposal?

Yes. In fact, I want to see that in the Executive Summary. Save the detail for later. If I don’t get what you are offering me in the first ten minutes, I will lose interest. This means that you are taking too long to convey your main message to me, which should be, How can you help me?

What do you want to see in the proposal itself?

I need to see the firm say, “We are experts in doing what you want and we can meet your needs.” Then they need to demonstrate their expertise in their proposal. They must show that they understand the problem on a given project.

How can they do that?

By showing that they understand how I work in my organization. The first thing is, they need to understand that I have a client—the hospital—and that I am making decisions on behalf of my client. The more they know about my relationship here with my client the better they can offer something that I feel good about offering to my client.

The firm that knows the most about my needs before they write the proposal has the best chance of winning. They still have to write a good proposal, but they are in the best position to win the project, because they know what I want.

Once you release an RFP, can firms call you and ask questions?

Oh yes. When an RFP has been released, an experienced firm will contact us and say, “We have read your RFP; we want to be sure we qualify for the project. Can you give us an idea what this project is all about?”

I like this approach because if a firm asks us what we need, that means they are looking at how they can really help us. Or, they may choose not to waste their time writing the proposal, which means they won’t waste our time making us read it.

Another key thing the firm can do before they write the proposal is to ask us what we can do for them, what do they need from us in order to make a proposal that will help us meet our need. In other words, I appreciate when they say, “We can do this work for you, but you need to give us more information.”

It’s unfair to expect the consultant to produce something for my organization by guessing what we want. Sometimes we don’t give them all they need to know in the RFP.

We are interested in forming a partnership with the firm, so that together we can meet the needs of my client—the hospital. That means sharing information before they write the proposal.

What advice do you have for writing the proposal?

No flowery words. When you write a proposal, the critical thing is to go into the nitty-gritty right away—what can you do to help me with my problem, and why is it beneficial for me to hire you? Give me details of your experience and how that will benefit us. Be specific. Don’t let the reader make assumptions; if I assume, I may assume wrong. Don’t let the reader guess what you really meant. Call out clear and direct benefits to me. Don’t leave it open-ended. Be specific and direct.

Also, give a lot of thought to the Executive Summary. That is a very important part of the proposal.

And don’t send a lot of brochures or other information. It’s not the number of pages you send me, it’s the content that counts.

When you get marketing material, do you read it?

Actually, no, I don’t. I segregate that right away. It doesn’t tell me anything about how the firm will help me get this specific project done.

One last thing: Do you read the whole proposal?

If I get interested.

What will make you interested?

If you tell me how you can make my life easier.