The Blob

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Just where in the Hell have I been?

I think I owe you an explanation. I've been offline since January 4. Rumors have abounded that I was abducted by space aliens, on a top-secret mission to North Korea, or even worse, just plain delinquent. It was actually much worse.

I've been in RFP Hell.

RFP is a three letter profanity that is actually an abbreviation for Request For Proposal. They are about as welcome as a GPS-guided smart bomb visiting your house. Weighing in at about 4-5 pages when I get them, and about 100 pages when we complete our response less than a week later, they usually hit when you're already too busy, and expect you to drop everything to complete them. Since my last known appearance here, I've been hit with 9 of these little beauties. In short, I've had no life, no sleep, no peace. Typically, I've been given one, maybe two weeks to turn around all the answers required, which meant that I worked on at least one RFP each week. The end result was a document whose answers stretched out to about 100 pages, and an Appendix full of exhibits that could stuff two three inch binders apiece.

I just loved the questions I'd have to handle, like:

Give us the sales and earnings for your company and all its divisions for the past five years.

How many employees do you have?

Explain everything that has ever happened since the dawn of time. Please do so in one paragraph. Please provide concise details, Appendix references, tables, figures, graphs, charts and illustrations. Why? How? When?

What wood would a wood chuck chuck, if a wood chuck could chuck wood?

You get the idea.

I found that I could answer about 80 percent of the 300-odd questions that would get thrown at us about our operations, our products, sales, services, technology, infrastructure, operations, personnel, and financial stability, ad nauseam. It was the remaining 20 percent that would kill me. For that, I would need the cooperation of others. And that meant motivating people to make the RFP a priority (who cares if it is to retain $10 million in business with a current client, the loss of which could lead to the loss of jobs?). Sometimes I used charm. Other times, I used a cattle prod. I witnessed procrastination on a mass scale. And became a walking zombie from lack of sleep. Typically, I would make FedEx at the last nanosecond. And sweated out tracking packages, in the hope that a FedEx employee munching a Pop-Tart and scratching his nuts in Tampa would get off his duff and make sure my package got on the truck to Sarasota. After all, RFPs have inflexible deadlines.

I love my life. I love coming home at 2 AM after having been at work since 6 AM the day before. And knowing I would have to be at work again at 6:30 AM later that morning. For the third day in a row. My wife and kitten no longer recognize me. I no longer recognize myself. But I think this is what they mean by job security.

We'll see how the work of the past seven weeks shakes out. With a little luck, the pain and suffering I've endured will help create new jobs, while helping to secure my own. Nobody said work was easy. Interesting, yes. Easy, no. But I'm glad to be back.