Ideas Versus Proposals

Going From an Idea to a Proposal

Having worked with hundreds of coaches, I’ve seen the gamut between coaches who have ideas and coaches who come up with full proposals to get new clients.  And because a gym is like any other business in that all businesses need clients, this advice should apply universally.  So if you are fresh out of college or working your first job, take this advice to heart.  It took me many years to learn it.   -Paul

Ideas are easy:

While some are better than others … ideas are general topics that might work if X, Y, and Z is done.  Ideas take sufficient planning, proper management, sufficient resources, and excellent execution.  These are topics that need to be put into your Proposal.  Getting people to say they’re interested in an idea is easy, getting them to commit to a proposal is where the real work is.


Proposals take planning.  You need to weigh the costs and benefits of your idea.  You need to anticipate its short comings, determine backup plans, etc.  You need to investigate similar efforts by co-employees or competitors.   You are asking a business to commit time and resources to a project — that’s a big deal, respect that.

Proposals need to have:

  • Details on what you are asking for.  These are called deliverables.  Deliverables need to be discrete both in terms of quality, quantity, and time.
  • Allocation of responsibility of the executables,
  • Allocation of risk if the deliverables do not occur as you predict, and
  • What you want to be paid for delivering those details.

Common Pitfalls for New Personal Trainers:

Risk Allocation is Unbalanced.  

Don’t be surprised if your next potential client or employer shoots down your idea, when you allocate all the risk of failure to them.   If you don’t have an amazing reputation already (and a great reputation can lower risk), they will probably decline your proposal.  If you won’t back your own idea, why should they.

The Proposal is not Balanced With the Ask

A proposal is a contract that a person can sign, one in which  you’re asking someone to take real action that could cost them money, time and/or their reputation.  The quality of the Proposal will often change the acceptance rate.  If you only put in 30 minutes of time and are asking for 40 times that amount in hours or fees, the risk of failure will be too great.   You may get a nod, but acceptance of that proposal, no.

Typing up an idea and expecting people to treat it like a proposal

So you’ve been thinking about this idea to get clients.  You’ll get a table outside the local Whole Foods.  You send that idea to your boss in an email like this:

Dear Owner,

Please review my new Marketing Proposal.

Harry’s Proposal for Getting Clients at Whole Foods
  1. Figure out how to get a table/booth at Whole Foods
  2. Come up with some giveaways for local shoppers
  3. Put together a special offer to interested people
  4. Results: increase awareness of gym and get new clients.

Budget: 40 hours.  – Harry

Guess what?  That’s an idea.  Just because you wrote 4 steps down, doesn’t magically transform this idea.  There are potential problems with that idea, and while it could potentially work… asking your local gym to commit 40 hours of time for you to research this idea… probably won’t be approved.

Incidentally, if you’ve been successful working with Whole Foods in the past, send us a proposal, we’ll consider it.

Interpreting a Favorable Grunt as a Green Light to Work on Idea.

It’s only human to want to be accepted.  Recognize, that a not of appreciation for your idea is not a commitment by your business to move forward.

The Boy who Cried Idea: 

Mr. Idea-of-the-Week.  A person who comes up with great ideas every week, but does not thing to develop them.  People like that tend to be viewed as more time wasters than anything else.  If you cannot follow through and develop your own ideas, why should your business listen to them.

Summary: Businesses always try to Minimize Risk

If you actually create a proposal, make sure you are the best person to do it.  If the business already have employees who are better suited to this proposal than you, they will assign the proposal to your team member.  While that may get you some recognition, it probably won’t generate you new work.  And there’s no point in sulking about it.  Ideas and proposals cannot be protected via Intellectual Property Laws (typically business own every idea you come-up with anyway.)  Think about your strengths – and come-up with a proposal you are well suited to execute that minimize the risk to the business.  Put your own money and butt on the line, and you’ll see your acceptance rate sky-rocket.

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