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The Support Provider’s Dilemma: Is this Person Coachable?

May 24th, 2017 | by Jayne Berkaw

If you’re an entrepreneur seeking to improve your chances of winning SBIR/STTR funding for your technology, ask yourself this: Are you coachable?

According to author and international consultant, Timothy R. Clark, “Coachability is the willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. When we are coachable, we are prepared to be wrong. We can withstand a high degree of candor. We are willing to let others evaluate — and perhaps even plumb the depths of our performance because we understand that the journey of personal development cannot be traveled alone.”

At BBCetc, we coach hundreds of entrepreneurs each year. They are in the process of developing amazing technologies and are usually intensely passionate about what they’re doing. They want to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Competing for SBIR/STTR money requires the discipline and patience to follow the steps that are required.

Our challenge at BBCetc is to harness that passion and help entrepreneurs keep an eye on the prize – funding to go to the next phase; one step closer to commercialization. We are their best friends, worst critics and most ardent editors. If they are willing to accept feedback, process it, and act on the new information while sticking to a timeline, we keep them on task and on deadline.

No entrepreneurial support provider expects a client to lie down and surrender. We thrive on the exchange of ideas and the challenge of giving your project every possible opportunity for success. But ask any support provider and they will be glad to share story after story of their coachable clients who learn and improve versus the uncoachable people whose projects never get off the ground or fail utterly.

In our estimation, uncoachable people tend to be:

  • Defensive and negative toward critiques
  • More likely to “talk over” the coaching and less likely to listen
  • Unwilling to learn from their own mistakes
  • Dismissive of others’ expertise
  • Inclined to hear only what they want to hear and disregard the rest
  • Driven to be “right” rather than successful
  • Easily discouraged

Coachable folks:

  • Realize that being “too close to the problem” sometimes means you can’t see the big picture
  • View coaches as partners trying to improve your product, not adversaries
  • Don’t dismiss suggestions out-of-hand, but carefully consider constructive comments and act accordingly
  • Don’t take criticisms personally
  • Learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others
  • Start with the assumption that perfection is impossible, so better is always an option
  • Take their losses in stride and try again (and again if necessary)

Coachability is a life skill that will serve you at school, in your relationships, at work and at play. A proverb says that only stupid men learn from experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience.

If you are coachable you will also be wise!


Jayne Berkaw is Director of Marketing and Outreach for BBCetc

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Who Needs SBIR/STTR Training Anyway??

April 20th, 2017 | by Jayne Berkaw

One of the first things we advise our clients or prospective clients to do as they look forward to preparing a competitive SBIR/STTR proposal is to give themselves a leg up by starting off with some training. Lots of people don’t think they need training before they embark on the complex proposal preparation process. Maybe

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Top 10 Brilliant Ideas and Stupid Mistakes: Secrets of Phase II Proposal Success

March 15th, 2017 | by Lisa Kurek

Last month, we outlined our top 10 dos and don’ts for getting your Phase I NIH proposal in shape and ready to submit before the April 5 deadline. This month we continue that theme by presenting what we have determined, over years of reviewing proposals, to be our top 10 brilliant ideas or stupid mistakes

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10 Dos and Don’ts for Your Phase I NIH Proposal

February 2nd, 2017 | by Lisa Kurek

If you’re planning to submit for the April 5 NIH SBIR/STTR deadline, now is the time to start laying out the steps you’ll need to take to get your polished, compelling Phase I proposal submitted before the deadline. Over the years, BBCetc consultants have reviewed a great many NIH proposals and accumulated a long list

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Match Your Product to Agency Mission for SBIR/STTR Success

December 9th, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

Finding the best agency to fund your new product idea can be frustrating. You’ve identified a market need and know exactly how to solve the problem of your preferred target customer. The only catch is that the agency does not share your enthusiasm for the proposed product or its market potential. How to proceed? First

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Post-Award Changes Don’t Have to Be Daunting

November 11th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

You’ve submitted an SBIR/STTR proposal and have been awarded. Great news, right? But before you receive any money something in your company changes from that portrayed in your proposal. Panic time? Not necessarily. Agencies recognize that the budget presented in your application is somewhat “experimental,” and between the time you submit and receive any money,

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Applying to NSF? Time to Get Cracking!

October 17th, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

The National Science Foundation has released its SBIR 16-599 and STTR 16-600 solicitations. These are two separate solicitations, this cycle with the same deadline of Dec. 6 and now with the same maximum budget of $225,000 for a Phase I award with a duration of 6-12 months. We’ve highlighted some key considerations for this cycle’s

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Be “Pitch Perfect” When You Talk to Program Managers

September 6th, 2016 | by Becky Aistrup

Imagine you are in an elevator with someone who is important to your business. You have from the time you step in until the doors re-open to present your busy listener with a succinct understanding your technology, the problem-solving impact it will make and why they should take note. And, you must do this in

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Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking: Long Name, Easier Submission

August 24th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more and more SBIR/STTR applicants are choosing to make their submissions through the Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking – or ASSIST – introduced late last year. If you haven’t heard about ASSIST, it is NIH’s web-based service for the preparation, submission, and tracking of

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Don’t Make these NIH Submission Mistakes

August 11th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

Navigating the maze of registrations, forms, the ins and outs of submission through the NIH’s web-based Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking (or ASSIST) can be a challenging process for even the most experienced SBIR/STTR applicant. With the NIH September 5 deadline approaching, we thought we’d share our top 5 mistakes to avoid

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