General Procurement

Tendering expert fuels new business wins

Sitting in a university library in the early 1990s, trawling through a copy of the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) in search of potential business, Tim Williams realised the information on tender opportunities was valuable not only to his own company, but to thousands of others.

Having turned his back on his plans to become a natural history filmmaker in favour of a global career as a diver and then project manager in the 80s oil boom, Tim set up Millstream, now a leading electronic tendering specialist which runs myTenders and Tenders Direct.

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

It also operates the national procurement portals for Scotland and Norway, and until recently operated a similar website for the Irish Government. When the Irish contract came to an end after nine very successful years, Millstream launched an Irish version of its popular myTenders site.

myTenders has been in operation since 2002, with more than 1,500 UK public sector organisations – from local and central government, NHS trusts and housing associations to the emergency services and armed forces – using the website to publish all of their new business opportunities on the website and to fulfil their legal obligation to publish in the OJEU.

Tenders Direct and its bespoke alert system allows private companies from all sectors throughout Europe who are seeking new business to identify these opportunities from the public sector.

More than 4,000 clients, from sole traders to SMEs to multinationals, now use Tenders Direct to ensure that they receive regular updates on tender opportunities, specifically tailored to their individual preferences. These include low value tenders, which offer particularly lucrative opportunities for SMEs.

Tim’s background as a diver led to a move into the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen and Millstream was born in 1989, with just three staff and a team of 30 contractors.

“We started out project managing underwater contracts and we were initially very successful in both the UK and Norway. During those early years the oil industry restructured and the opportunities for a niche business like ours were becoming harder to find, so we decided to diversify,” he said.

“At that time, the European single market was being launched and legislation for public contracts was being developed. Contracts were being published in the printed version of the OJEU five days a week so I used to spend hours every day at the library, looking for suitable business opportunities.

“We used the information for our own purposes but then realised it was useful to other people too, so we started up Tenders Direct, which sends targeted alerts to subscribers’ inboxes. We started with about 200 subscribers in year one and now have more than 4,000.”

Unlike the other tender alert services on the market, Millstream does not use the European Commission codes as they are are too inaccurate to identify business opportunities. Instead it has evolved its own system, which very closely reflects the range of products and services purchased by the public sector. Millstream’s staff read and manually categorise every contract notice to ensure that .their customers get all of the relevant opportunities without the distraction of irrelevant information.

Tenders Direct also has a dedicated tender sourcing team which is responsible for finding the contracts, which aren’t published in the Official Journal, that is those with a value generally less than £100,000.

“This part of the service is of particular interest to smaller companies as we provide them with business opportunities that they have a realistic chance of winning” said Tim. ‘Our target is to ensure that if a tender is published anywhere, then we will have that information available for our subscribers, so that they don’t have to worry about missing any opportunities.’

“We developed myTenders to collect notice information. Around 700 public authorities now use the website to post their tender notices, from councils to NHS trusts to the emergency services and Government departments.

“MyTenders is particularly good for smaller councils and housing associations who don’t have dedicated procurement departments as we have a very good telephone support service. With more than 25 years experience, our team of 42 has extensive knowledge and considerable experience in providing a range of electronic tendering services to purchasers in the public sector.”

With an increasing number of European governments and public authorities now handling procurement electronically to save money, time and comply with the latest EU regulations, Millstream works hard to ensure its websites are as user friendly as possible.

“In the near future procurement processes will all be conducted entirely online and the Government’s target is for procurement to be completely electronic by 2016, so harnessing technology and keeping on top of legislation changes will allow us to continue to grow the company and continue to provide a very high quality service.

“We already develop applications and add new features in response to demands from customers of the myTenders and Tenders Direct websites, as well as the national portals we run for several governments, including Public Contracts Scotland,” said Tim.

“As with everything we do, our aim is to make it as easy as possible for purchasers in the public sector to advertise their tenders and to help small and medium sized companies to identify new business opportunities and crucially to give them the best chance of winning that business.”

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