Gate Left Open


  • Medium sized architecture and engineering firm in operation for 40 years

  • Excellent CPARS from Federal contracts

  • Ongoing projects for government agencies and private clients

  • Highly credentialed staff of engineers (structural and mechanical), planners, architects and interior designers

  • Long experience in the world of Federal GOVCON

  • Familiarity with proposal development and lifecycle

OpenArchitecture’s Story

OpenArchitecture is a mid-sized architecture and engineering firm with a 40-year history of outstanding performance on its projects, for private sector clients and federal government contracts.  Recently, they’ve identified an area with even more potential: municipal contracts.  Getting into the smaller world of municipal awards has been harder than anticipated, so they reached out to Laurel Rock for help.

Instead of looking ahead, OpenArchitecture wanted Laurel Rock to evaluate documents that had NOT won awards recently and let them know our findings.  Once the pages were in our hands, we had an internal contest to see why the well-reputed firm wasn’t awarded the contract.  Within moments, we identified several likely reasons OpenArchitecture’s offer did not advance in the bidding process.

Surprisingly, this team of professionals had not followed the instructions in the RFP.  Page limits were exceeded, forms and signatures weren’t provided and the proposal wasn’t organized in the desired order or structure.


  • Technical staff acting as proposal coordinator(s) & writer(s)

  • Pathological love of copying and pasting

  • Disregard for limitations in RFP

  • Unfamiliarity with localities where they wanted to win contracts

  • Staff not allocated to developing relationships at municipal level

  • Did not contact Laurel Rock until AFTER they had lost this lucrative opportunity

Evaluation Findings

  • Page limits for specific sections of the response were exceeded

  • Did not address certain topics in the narrative portions that were called for

  • Response structure, imposed by the municipality, was not adhered to

  • Required forms, such as acknowledgement of no conflict of interest and insurance coverage certifications not included

  • Signatures of Key Personnel not provided in allocated area


It was extremely difficult to provide this feedback to the company.  Their work requires scale drawings with insane levels of detail and the laying out of specifications for builders.  Their knowledge of environmental, OSHA, and labor regulations, along with building codes in multiple locations showed up in their technical volumes and demonstrated that they can integrate multiple layers of instructions/requirements into their deliverables.  Somehow, they did not generalize that attention to detail to following the directives in the RFP.

To circle back to the picture at the top of the page: they left the gate open, even though the sign clearly said to keep it closed.  That left money on the table.

Rock-Solid Recommendations

  • Dedicate one staff person to overseeing the proposal, or outsource the whole thing

  • Contact proposal experts well in advance of due date

  • OR; allow Proposal Experts to assemble their offering before the due date

  • Utilize independent review to confirm all requirements are met and formatting instructions followed

Proposal Evaluation FAQs

What’s another benefit of using a proposal evaluator?

Writing a personal resume can be terrifying, trying to pair your firm’s previous work with the minute requirements of an RFP is terrifying , time-consuming and tedious.  Make sure all the aspects of the earlier work mimics the scope of work for the current solicitation.

What’s the benefit of using a proposal evaluator before I send in my proposal?

Proposals are time sensitive and exceptions are not made for respondents.  Using an external evaluator forces you to adhere to a schedule.

Why do I need my supplemental documents checked?

Shall, will, must… all of those need to be answered explicitly in your response.  Otherwise, your efforts could be wasted and the proposal dismissed out of hand.

Does a proposal evaluation guarantee a win for my company?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  Making sure you fulfill all the requirements DOES make it more likely, though.

How can proposal evaluation help me with past performance?

Resumes, references, site plans, CPARS, addenda, and state corporation commission forms are examples of some of the documents your proposal might require.  Your firm is responsible for providing them. An independent and objective reviewer can  make style, tone and substance changes, and prevent you from submitting irrelevant information.