Goodbye and Good Riddance We Say, To Those 20+ Page RFPs with Their 200-Page Responses.
Five years or so ago your editor was part of a panel on RFPs, and the subject of “RFP-LITE” came up. The idea was to do something a lot simpler - and a lot shorter than most “formal RFPs” tend to be - given the fact that more and more companies are requiring their staff members to test the market for all the products and services they buy every few years.
We must confess that we were not big fans of this idea at the time. Back then there were very significant differences in the capabilities, management and staff “sophistication” - and in the internal control systems and all-important financial resources of the top five or six transfer agents - and at most of the other industry service providers, like proxy solicitors, IR consultants and financial printers - and there still are, to some degree.
Your editor also agreed - and we still agree - with one panelist’s observation, quoting George Bernard Shaw’s play, The Doctor’s Dilemma, that “all professions are [essentially] conspiracies against the laity” So there is no substitute for doing a very thorough job - and for using true experts, with insider expertise - to explore all of the truly important factors in making smart choices among service providers.
But recently, we received a challenge from a very large public company - with a very large shareholder base - that hadn’t searched the provider universe for 15 years. Aside from a just-out corporate mandate to review and look to pare down every significant line item in their budget, they realized that the shareholder servicing world had changed dramatically since their last contract - which, with exhibits, amendments and the binder weighed-in at about five pounds.
They wanted to challenge a very few carefully selected providers to think from a ‘zero-based perspective’ - and to think very much outside the box - and to focus intensively on new and better ways to get things done - and to save both time and money, while, ideally, improving service overall…which is what we call “optimizing.”
They liked our longstanding advice to get suppliers to “sing for their supper” by offering up their own very best ideas, which - guess what - led automatically to a very short RFP; less than two full pages, plus two pages of information the recipients needed to produce a fully responsive “indication of interest, plus indicative pricing, on which [the company] can rely.”
Initially, they wanted to keep the responses to 20 pages max - with no marketing ‘fluff’ - and no exhibits. But in the end, they took our advice, to say no fluff, no ‘stuff’ - and to suggest 20 pages as the maximum – but to say they’d be open to a few more pages if there were more than 20 pages of compelling new ideas.
All of the responses came in well under the 20- page limit - and were extremely responsive to the requirement in the RFP to cut straight to the chase and to eliminate all but the most important things a prospective customer needed to know. So the responses, which were indeed light in volume, were heavily loaded with relevant info, and not “lite” at all.
It should be noted, of course, that a second round of careful due-diligence is still required if a change of providers falls out of the competition - and either way, all new contracts require careful vetting by “subject-matter experts.” But here too, the company will be looking for a new contract that is written in plain English, and that cuts straight to the chase: No five-pound tomes allowed, or needed, we say: Many of them are, indeed, “traps” for the uninitiated and/or the unwary.
We think that the respondents were not only challenged, and stimulated by the shorter format - and the orders to cut to the chase - but were absolutely delighted to forego the usual, mostly canned and cut-and-pasted 200-page responses they were used to cranking out. Readers, do feel free to call us if you’d like to discuss the “lite but heavy” RFP methodology in more detail.