4 Lessons We’ve Learned in 4 Years

August 22, 2022, Once Upon an RFP turns four years old.

Since 2018, we've blossomed from a one-woman operation to a rapidly growing team of proposal consultants, communications coordinators, marketing specialists, operations gurus, and program managers. We've expanded our remote workforce into three time zones, with colleagues ranging from seasoned experts to college students. We're a WBENC-certified Woman-owned Business and WBENC/SBA-certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB), and, of course, we've learned a thing or two along the way.

Below, we feature four of the many lessons learned over the past four years.

Lesson 1: Find Your People

We mean people who understand your vision, mission and goals and share your passion. Finding the right people is vital to building a business from the ground up.

“Our people” includes our team members and collaborators – consultants and employees — and our clients. Making a difference for our clients is a powerful component of our why.

Building a passionate team can be both daunting and time-consuming. For us, there’s a careful balance between like-mindedness and innovation. Different work styles, experiences, likes, dislikes, and methods can lead to powerful moments of strategy and collaboration.

However, too many differences can create rifts in the team, especially when coupled with inflexibility. In the Once Upon an RFP world, high-functioning teams are communicative, creative, collaborative, compassionate, and willing to compromise.

Regarding clients, we’ve learned that supporting other small businesses is where our hearts lie. We love our corporate clients – just differently because we share more similar experiences with our small business clients.


After receiving our Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WOSB certifications and because of the networking and mentorship opportunities those certifications provide, we’ve met many small business owners and team members who have experienced the same ups and downs as OUanRFP. As a result, we have discovered new ways to support small businesses, including support for diverse certification applications, strategically helping them expand their businesses through public sector opportunities, and with services that bolster their businesses through messaging, branding, focus, and vision.

Lesson 2: Sustainable Growth > Rapid Growth

How often do we hear Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare applied to business? There’s a reason “slow and steady wins the race” is a cliché.

However, the value of the lesson far outweighs its overuse. The media loves overnight success stores. They’re rare in business, and when a business name or brand is suddenly everywhere, it’s the result of time and consistent effort.

Avoid locking yourself into what might, at the time, seem like the fastest or easiest way forward. The path toward success is not always linear; we learn and grow daily as entrepreneurs. Consistent action, reflection, and redirection organically and continuously fuel business growth.

Lesson 3: Embrace the concept that "you don't know what you don't know."

Entrepreneurs frequently feel they need to be experts – and do everything – in every facet of their business. When this expectation is synonymous with being a business owner, entrepreneurs find themselves stuck and afraid to ask for help.

However, finding and hiring people to take tasks off your plate as your business grows is vital to sustaining that coveted continuous growth. You don’t need to be the salesperson, human resources department, finance officer, trainer, project manager, and marketing expert all at once.

Almost immediately after starting the business, our founder sought mentorship in Fabienne Frederickson’s Boldheart Business Program. Caryn learned to identify her strengths and passions.

We model the “Unique Brilliance” method Fabienne teaches in Boldheart. Using the Unique Brilliance quadrant, we divide our responsibilities into four categories:

  • Unique Brilliance.
  • Excellence
  • Competence
  • Incompetence

From there, it’s easy to see what you should prioritize taking off your plate versus what you love to do.

Fabienne says, “When you begin to hire people who are uniquely brilliant at the things you’re not brilliant at, this is how you grow your business exponentially.”

Lesson 4: Set Big Goals, Achieve Big Goals

Wait, weren’t we praising sustainable growth over rapid growth? Shouldn’t we stick to small achievable goals instead of big ones?

In building up a business’ longevity, setting big long-term goals is key to developing and realizing your vision. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Those goals are like a compass guiding your business’ future, directing you to sustainable growth and informing your daily business decisions.

Key Takeaways

Four years, one pandemic lasting more than ½ of the business’ life, multiple economic crashes, and a whole lot of lessons later, Once Upon an RFP has taken a stand as a changemaker in the procurement and business development industry. We’re proud to hire diverse, talented, and compassionate individuals who are helping to change the future of the professional world.

Thank you to the OUanRFP team, our amazing clients, and everyone who has made this dream a reality. We can’t wait to see what we achieve together in year five!

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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