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John Cutt

Upcoming Free Webinars

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Looking to learn but too pushed for time? With our free webinars you can join us on your lunch break or watch previous recordings at your leisure. Lasting no longer than an hour, we cover a variety of topics relevant to suppliers. Our next live sessions explore different types of tenders, why they are important, and how to find and win them.

 

Finding and Winning Low Value Tenders – Tuesday 17th July 1.00pm – 1.45pm

Low value tenders can be of huge value to suppliers of any size, but are not subject to the full raft of regulatory requirements and can be difficult to find. This webinar provides:

  • An explanation of what low value tenders are
  • Advice on why they are useful for suppliers
  • An explanation of how to access them
  • An outline of what rules and regulations govern low value tenders

Book your place!

 

Frameworks and DPS – Wednesday 18th July 1.00pm – 2pm

The use of Frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) is on the rise, but many suppliers are unsure of exactly what they are and how they work. This webinar provides:

  • A description of what a framework is and how it operates
  • A description of a DPS and how it differs from a framework
  • An explanation of how to find these opportunities
  • Examples of ‘call-off’ mini competitions from frameworks and DPS

Book your place!

 

View details of our full day training courses

Simple Strategies for Success: Take the Initiative

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In his poem Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day, Delmore Schwartz observed that “Time is the fire in which we burn”. Anyone familiar with tender submissions will probably have sympathy with this sentiment. After finding a promising contract, it can be quite a struggle to prepare a bid within a limited time-frame while staying on top of existing commitments.

Many suppliers tell us that racing to meet tight deadlines while wading through piles of bid documents only to be rebuffed after all their efforts makes them less inclined to bother bidding at all. This kind of “reactive tendering” can be both exhausting and futile, so what can you do differently?

Try giving yourself a head start by scoping out your targets in advance. Is there a particular buyer you’d like to contract for? If you can build even the most modest relationship with them you can gain useful intelligence about their specific needs and procurement strategy. When they go out to tender, this can help you make your bid as bespoke as possible.

Is there an existing contract that you missed out on or are now in a position to go for? If you establish when it is due for renewal and start your preparations months ahead, you’ll have much more time to perfect your pitch without feeling pressurised. This will leave competitors who only became aware of it when the tender notice was published rushing around while you calmly put the finishing touches on your submission.

Explore our free resources for suppliers

Learn how Advance Tender Alerts can give you a head start

Simple Strategies for Success: Knowledge is Power

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Most of us are familiar with this quote widely attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It transpires that there is no record of Mr Einstein saying this, but there is truth to it regardless.

Suppliers struggling to win public contracts should keep this maxim in mind when considering their next move. If your bid has been knocked back, it is crucial that you find out why and take corrective action. Where did you fall down? What were you unaware of? How can you improve?

We find that one of the more common missteps made by aspiring contractors after unsuccessful bids is failing to seek as much feedback as possible from buyers and not conducting a detailed assessment of what they could have done better. Instead of allowing your efforts to be wasted, why not use them to your advantage?

Once a contract is awarded, suppliers are entitled to feedback from buyers including a breakdown of their scores and the characteristics and advantages of the winning bid. Conducting a thorough review of your submission with the information available can provide a wealth of applicable knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses.

Persisting with the same stale strategy may not be insanity, but it is certainly not sensible. If you learn lessons, hone your skills, and adjust your approach, you’ll be a much more powerful presence in the next competition.

Click here to explore our free resources for suppliers

Click here to learn about our bid review service

Simple Strategies for Success: Be Pragmatic

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One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from subscribers trying to win their first public contract is that they are tired of being knocked back from promising opportunities, with many minded to give up entirely and focus their efforts exclusively on the private sector.

This is entirely understandable when time and resources are minimal and the workload involved in bidding so substantial, but companies in any industry need diverse revenue streams in order to prosper and grow. Winning your first tender is not so much about the here and now, but about the future: once you have your foot in the door, many more opportunities will open up to you.

In our experience, it pays to be pragmatic when selecting your target. Larger contracts are unlikely to be awarded to a supplier with no previous public sector experience, so below-threshold procurements should be your focus; they may not be worth millions, but winning just one can prove to be a vital stepping stone for any company aspiring to win large government contracts.

In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk. Be selective about your bids and focus on winning one of the more modest contracts in order to give yourself the best chance of success. Your first win allows you to demonstrate your capabilities and gain vital references, which will be invaluable when making your pitch for a larger and more lucrative contract.

Click here to explore our free resources for suppliers

Top five considerations when bid writing

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If you are a public sector supplier and you’ve found a tender that you want to go for – great news!

Often some areas of a bid response get overlooked in the buzz of bidding for new business. Millstream Training and Consultancy offer bespoke Consultancy to companies looking for tailored support for their tendering exercises. This can be anything from writing a bid response for you, to reviewing a bid response you’ve already written

One of our consultants, Nicola Bramwell (BSc, MCIPS, MSc, PRINCE2), has written her top five ‘must do’s to follow in your next bid response:

1. Agree a response structure and consistent approach

This can include an overview, technical information, resources, and timeframe, so that the entire team uses a consistent style when preparing a response.

2. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask clarification questions

Most tenders will provide bidders with a timeframe to which they are able to ask questions relating to the tender e.g. the clauses included in the terms and conditions. It is vital that bidders take advantage of this opportunity to clarify issues which are vague or unclear.

3. Ensure that all team members adhere to response limitations

It’s common for tenders to include a word / pagination limit for each question so that all bidders are treated equally during the evaluation. If you don’t adhere to these, useful information can be discounted the tender could be deemed non-compliant.

4. Do not provide non-requested attachments / supporting material

As above, tenders will also specify any additional documents that need to be submitted. No bidder is able to submit documents outside of those specified, if they do, a bidder runs the risk of being disqualified.

5. Allow sufficient time for responses to be peer reviewed and / or proof read

When writing bids, it is easy for mistakes to be made, such as failing to respond to a certain point within a question or including typing errors or out-of-date information within a response. Get the entire bid to be peer reviewed and / or proof read by another colleague prior to its submission.

 

Find out more about our Training and Consultancy Services

 

When a local tragedy highlights national public procurement concerns

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In light of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy that shocked the nation, questions are being raised over local procurement policies across the country. Cost effectiveness and value for money are often the paramount objectives as local authorities continue to face budget cuts. It is paramount however that quality, and more importantly safety, is not jeopardised. Finding the right balance between cost saving and procuring services and products that are fit for purpose is key, but ultimately the welfare and well-being of the end user should be the priority.

Any buyer knows that cost doesn’t necessarily represent value or indeed quality but regardless, detailed specifications are there to be met and for a very important reason. What and who determines the specification, and exactly what this entails, is an important question and something buyers throughout the supply chain must be conscious of.

British safety regulations across many industries tend to be based on principle rather than set rules[1] which can create significant challenges to maintaining consistency and standards. Setting higher standards and adhering to best practice, rather than going with the cheapest bid which meets the specification, is something public procurement officers and regulators must consider.

This reinvigorates the debate over who should set these specifications and regulations. Should they be written by ‘experts’ from the relevant department of the contracting authority, or by that authority’s procurement officers? Or should this role be out-sourced to a third party within that particular industry and sector?

For example and in the case of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there are no regulations stating fire-retardant cladding material should be used on the exterior of tower blocks and schools[2]. However, it has become clear that industry body, Fire Protection Association (FPA), has been lobbying for this to be a statutory requirement within local authorities and businesses.

Within just one area of local government procurement, say for instance housing and more specifically high rise residential buildings, the vast number of tenders and therefore specifications to be met, add to the complexity. Issues around accountability and quality rise as the procurement complexity grows. Combined with a need to cut costs, this becomes a significant challenge to overcome and get right. But get right all parties must.

In coming months as the impending public enquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues, more questions on how to improve the public procurement system will undoubtedly follow. Regardless of its outcome, more focus will be placed on the decisions that buyers make, transparency, and who is most qualified to set specifications.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but nonetheless, there are some important lessons our sector can take away from this tragedy. Steps must be taken to ensure buying decisions are not considered a risk factor in the future.

I am keen to find out how you, as Buyers, feel about the responsibilities you encounter on a day to day basis and how you deal with this pressure. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

[1] https://uk.reuters.com/article/britain-fire-cladding-idUKL8N1JD3YI

[1]https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/16/manufacturer-of-cladding-on-grenfell-tower-identified-as-omnis-exteriors

 

 

 

 

 

SME week – 6 SME resources we love

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SME informationThe business world is ever changing. To keep on top of the latest trends, it’s important for SMEs to have a resource bank of insider tips and knowledge. We have compiled a list of our top five business resource websites so you have a go-to list of sources to help inform your business practices.

  1. Bdaily Business Blog

Bdaily was founded in 2009 and provides timely news, advice and opinion content useful for SMEs. What’s good about Bdaily is that you can target news stories for specific regions in England: North East, North West, Yorkshire and London as well as national and international coverage.

  1. Gov.uk

If you’re looking for a range of advice for your small business or startup, or even if you’re just in the planning phase, gov.uk has a range of resources: advice on writing a business plan, financial planning and support, and links to the various schemes the government runs.

  1. Smallbusiness.co.uk

With a dedicated Q&A section maintained by small business experts, smallbussiness.co.uk is the hub for start-ups and SMEs looking for insider knowledge. The site covers the most important topics and advice for SMEs covering finance, business management and technology.

  1. Federation of Small Businesses

Established 40 years ago, the FSB provide a wide range of business services to their members. What makes them stand out is their legal edge: online you can access fact-sheets, legal documents and read their blog to get into the nitty gritty of regulations.

  1. Startup Britain

A ‘national campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’: Startup Britain offers inspiration, resources and guidance to help people start and grow their own business. Startup Britain have local support centres and run events which you can find via their interactive map online.

  1. Tenders Direct – Things to help you

For guidance specific to public sector tendering, our ‘Things to help you’ section on Tenders Direct has guides, infographics and handy procurement links to help suppliers with their procurement exercises.

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SME week – The top 5 procurement acronyms

Infographic of the top 5 procurement acronyms

Do you know your AINs from your PINs? You sure CAN.

Tendering in the public sector can involve many acronyms that suppliers will need to get their heads around. We’ve taken the top five acronyms used in the world of procurement and made them into a handy infographic.

For more terminology explained, download our ‘Tendering Terminology’ guide to help you understand the jargon and help take the pressure off your bid response.

 

Infographic of the top 5 procurement acronyms

 

SME week – How to approach your first tender

Advice on writing your first tender

Advice on writing your first tender

With many years of experience winning client’s work, we know how to manage a bid exercise for the best return for your business. When you receive a notification of a tender that is of interest, what are the next steps?

1. Acquire the documentation

Download all documentation and store it in a designated folder on your computer. If you only have a hard copy of the tender document, make copies and keep the original safe.

NB Do not mark or write on the original as it will be needed for the final submission.

2. Distribute and gain feedback

Circulate the tender documentation to the people who will be working on the bid should you choose to do so. Let anyone involved in procurement in the organisation know about the interest in bidding for the work. Allow your team to give feedback about the business opportunity: highlighting concerns and ideas early on will make the process much easier.

3. Review

Read the tender documents thoroughly to assess whether a tender is right for your business. It is not always possible to know from the short tender notification description or summary if the tender is right for you. Think about your turnover, experience, years trading, accreditations and affiliations e.g. ISO 9001.

4. Work with relevant departments

To help you make the decision to go bid or not bid, work with the relevant departments to help you identify the benefits and barriers to your company fulfilling the contract.

If you need any help finding opportunities, Tenders Direct does all the legwork for you by searching over 500 sources for public sector business opportunities. Sign up for a free demo to find out how Tenders Direct can benefit your business.

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SME week – Are you ready to tender?

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If you are new to tendering, it can be difficult to anticipate what a buyer is looking for in terms of capabilities from a supplier. You don’t want to miss out on a contract opportunity if you are itching to bid, so where do you need to be to be classed as ‘ready’?

At Tenders Direct, we work with companies every day who are looking to tender for public sector work, and sometimes it can be difficult to find out from an authority what they are looking for in a winning bid response.

To prepare for tendering exercises, we have compiled a checklist from our years of experience in public sector tendering: the Tender Readiness Checklist. Some top tips are having technical information about your products or services to hand, and having an idea of industry pricing standards before you start to bid. Our guide shows you what you need to complete, and areas where you may benefit from developing on your current capabilities in order to tender more successfully.

Tenders Direct also has range of other guides and infographics housed in our ‘Things to help you’ section on our website. Here you can find many tendering resources that will improve your understanding, and chances of being ready to break into the public sector successfully.

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