Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oh so many hoops

I'm jumping, I'm jumping. I guess this is old hat for those of you used to submitting major grant apps to U.S. gov agencies (or maybe the hurdles for small business funding are entirely different), but it's rather frustrating following a host of different guidelines all purportedly for the same thing, but each having its own twist on what is required, in what format, to what degree of detail, answering which particular questions. Then, there are the specific guidelines from the prog manager, which need to be covered, but where is up to the submitter.

I suppose the harder the process, the more self-selecting the applicants, which in the end can't be bad for the quality of the proposals (at least I should hope). And the better they are (and the fewer there are of low-quality) the less likely the reviewers are to get burnt out, and make snap judgments on applications that may take the better part of 3 weeks full-time to prepare. I'm using 100 hours as my rule of thumb for these sorts of proposal preps. That's a lot of unpaid time. If the funding comes through it's all worth it. So far, I've been pretty lucky. We'll see this time around.

If I get this one, and if the second stage of my other contract comes through, I should have no problem hiring three post-docs in the fall [I say, optimistically]. Scheduling is really up in the air. I've got to get my draft prop in for that Stage 2 contract, then I'll get six months more funding on the Stage 1 part. Great, that'll cover my expenses and put a little more in the company's coffers. But surely not enough to hire anyone.

I met with an accountant today to get some guidance on setting up my accounting methods for the higher level of scrutiny that the Stage 2 contract requires. Word is getting the accounting method approved is the most likely hold-up for getting the contract approved and processed. The better I do now, the less likely I'll hit that gap in funding. He was actually impressed with how organized I was, and validated that everything looked good. Doing my best. I'm trying to find the balance between self-reliance, and working outside my core.

Last year, when faced with the prospect of shelling out four grand of my own money to hire a grant writer editor, I balked, and opted to do it myself. Fortunately, I had a strong support network with my wife and a couple counselors from the state's entrepreneurs' office. Turns out it all worked out for the best. But, at the time, I had to make a choice about which of two proposals to write and submit, because I hadn't the energy or time to write both. Who knows: maybe hiring the help would have allowed me to submit both.

This time around, I hardly showed any drafts to anyone. RocketMom is reading over the "final" draft now. I think that's the first anyone has looked at it. It feels good to have the self-confidence. If I can manage it, I'm going to try to pull together another proposal in the next two weeks. I got a bit of a reprieve on my contract extension draft. The one gatekeeper sent me an official invitation from her end, resetting the date for submission by about a week. That will be my first priority next week (once this new grant app is submitted). Since it's a draft, and not that involved, I may be able to pull it off in a day or two. I'm less worried about the second new one, but I'd like to submit something if I can do it. It's a much smaller level of funding, but every bit helps get me closer to a product I can market commercially.

I expect to be handling more and more of these in time, and I'll need all the self-reliance I can get. But... do I also want to be the firm's accountant? At a certain point, I need to be adept at delegating tasks. Beginning this week, I have a new part-time assistant. It's nice to be able to pay a summer intern $12/hour to handle the details of things I don't really want to spend the time on. One big project this week is learning what he can about project management software, to help me decide which to purchase, and to reduce my learning curve. It's been interesting for me to just come up with small tasks (and have no problem doing so) to toss his way.

I'm putting in my plans and budgets an IT/Administrative Assistant position. I'm still spinning about the possibilities. Years ago I did have some part-time employees when I ran a gardening service. But this is different, WAY DIFFERENT! Still nothing's set. The Jell-O's in the fridge, but the power could still go out. Cross your fingers.


Lilian said...

Fingers Crossed!! They've been like that since before this even started! It's so neat to be able to follow and cheer you on in this new endeavor!

I imagine it must be a relief to feel self-confident about your grant and proposal writing! I for one feel pretty ok about my cover letters. It's still a pain to crank them up, though... it always is, right?

ArticulateDad said...

I think the worst thing about the dismal academic job market is that it beats the self-confidence out of so many amazingly talented people. I've only regained what was rightfully mine (and which rightfully belongs to so many other wonderfully creative scholars out there). STAND UP AND BE COUNTED! You know who you are.