Choosing a bid management consultancy

There are many reasons for recruiting a bid management consultancy:

  • The next tender is a must win contract
  • You want to improve your bid writing capabilities
  • You are short of bid management resource or a Bid Director
  • You need to find the best contract opportunities
  • Your Win Rate is simply not where you want it to be

Writing and managing a bid for a commercial contract or a local authority tender can be a daunting prospect, demanding skills that your company may not have needed before. However, hiring a bid management consultancy represents an additional cost, so what should you look for when choosing?

Find Tenders

It may be that you want to find the best contract opportunities for your business. Find bid writers who know their way around the arcane tender websites to find contracts for tender in whichever industry you are involved in, from construction contracts to public sector tenders. Moreover, find a bid writer who will be honest when assessing your capabilities and chances of success. There’s no point in wasting precious time and money applying for tender contracts you can’t win.

Bid Writing

Writing bids is a complex and time consuming process. Find bid writers who have years or decades of practice in assembling bid proposals, who understand the art of tender document templates and win themes and the most effective use of language. Search out bid writers with experience of public sector tendering as both bid writer and procurement officer, with detailed insider knowledge of the UK tender process. A good consultancy will vastly increase the pool of skills available to any company tendering for contracts.

Bid Management

Managing a bid is an enormous undertaking often involving months of work. Many stakeholders and hundreds of documents require co-ordination. Look for veteran bid managers and Directors with reputable accreditation (APMP or similar) and many years of understanding in how to win tenders. Find bid managers or Bid Directors who know how to deal with the inevitable crises and problems, and are willing to work out of hours to fix them.

How to Win Bids

Bid consultants don’t just have to write your bid; they can also transform your capabilities. Training sessions can show your staff how to tender for contracts and greatly improve their processes. They can help assemble the necessary documents and skills to get those local government tenders or commercial opportunities. Properly trained and experienced bid consultants can help you win that tender contract even if they are not involved in the actual process, by transferring their skills and experience to your team.

Win that Bid

Win that Bid possesses all of the qualities and experience needed to help you win that tender contract. Our multi-sector bid management specialists have worked across the industry and in procurement, and used those skills to transform the capabilities – and bottom line of many organisations. From training to bid writing, Win that Bid today!

Virgin Rail and the right to challenge

The origins of the Virgin Rail scandal last month rapidly became lost in the recrimination and blame, as the Department for Transport attempt to apportion culpability and pundits discuss the role and capabilities of the civil service. When self-styled “tie-wearing adventurer” Richard Branson launched his legal challenge to the West Coast franchise decision two months ago, it was widely regarded as a knee-jerk, even ill-considered action of a man known for scrappy battles on behalf of his business.

The DfT was due to award a long term franchise to FirstGroup until “significant technical flaws” became evident during their preparations for the Virgin lawsuit. These flaws became evident in the risk assessments of First’s winning bid.

Virgin faced substantial risks in mounting a challenge to the DfT. Some of these risks were revealed in the initial media coverage of the challenge that portrayed Richard Branson as an opportunist and a sore loser (not helped by Virgin Rail’s relatively poor public reputation). If the legal case had failed Virgin’s commercial reputation (and finances) would have suffered.

They had a number of options, all of them risky:

Under Public Procurement law Virgin could mount a formal challenge. To do this they would have to allege that the contracting authority has run the process in an unfair or opaque manner. If they were successful in this, the contract award would have to be suspended while the issue is resolved – allowing more time to discover exactly what happened (and why they lost).

Their second option would be a judicial review. They would need to show a public interest in such an action – easily achieved, given the political climate – but the latter stage would be more difficult. Virgin would essentially have to prove that no reasonable authority would have made the contract decision. Before the events of last month, this was considered unlikely to happen.

In the event, Virgin were able to prove that large parts of the process was flawed. The DfT has spent the last few weeks apportioning blame, mainly directing it at the civil servants involved. In turn, there has been a lot of scrutiny directed at the structure of the procurement process –

A great many qualified professionals have been lured out the public sector by higher wages in recent months, and this, combined with poor systems of review, greatly contributed to the fiasco. We have been discussing government initiatives on this blog for months – all of them seem doomed to failure if the Civil Service can’t do something to arrest the skills gap in government procurement.

Richard Branson’s decision to challenge has been vindicated. The DfT has ordered a number of independent reviews and Virgin has been awarded a short term contract under circumstances that some rivals claim were actively uncompetitive (there should have been a tender for the contract extension). Since the fiasco Virgin has changed strategy dramatically, aiming to expand its market share into the East Coast lines that GNER and National Express mismanaged back into government hands three years ago (under contracts similar to the one offered to FirstGroup). They will likely also retain the West Coast franchise in the long term, if they can see off competition from Abellio.

Virgin Rail weighed up the risks inherent in challenging the bid and made the strategic decision to do. Meanwhile, we’ve been noticing that numerous tenders are having their deadlines put back – maybe as a result of jumpy procurement officials? Win that Bid can help you weigh up the risks in your own bids, and comprehend the contracting authority.

Paying attention to EU procurement rules so you don’t have to

The Cabinet Office has released a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) discussing the latest results of negotiations in Brussels about changing the procurement rules which ultimately define public sector tenders. These EU rules can be a bit obscure and so it is interesting to get a window into the process and progress of these discussions.

There are a few specific areas of interest to bid writers within the document.

Reducing minimum timescales

The government has supported proposals to reduce the minimum timescales for responding to advertised procurements and preparing tender documents. So far a reduction from 40 to 35 days has been agreed upon, under the open procedure.

Increasing the use of self-declarations

Regular readers of this blog will have seen several articles about government initiatives (not to mention scandals and complaints from business) surrounding the length and requirements of public sector tender PQQ documents. The latest response is to increase the use of self-declarations, whereby only the winning bidder must submit documents and certificates proving their status, while self-declarations of compliance must be accepted by the procurement officers up to that point. This will be a welcome change for SMEs and smaller bidders, if it isn’t open to abuse.

Financial Requirements for SMEs

The Cabinet Office has continued to argue that SME business should be encouraged by breaking large bids into lots, at the discretion of the purchasing authority. It also wants to reduce the turnover requirements relative to contract size. Together with proposals in favour of “innovative public service delivery-agents” such as employee owned “mutual”, these are further moves in favour of diversifying the pool of bidders from which governments and public sector purchasing authorities draw their contracts.

The final results of these discussions will probably be adopted in early 2013. Win that Bid can help bid writers keep up to date with the latest public sector tender developments.

Could the G4S security contract have worked?

Last week Win that Bid published a blog quoting a director from G4S as he proclaimed the rise of police privatisation. I wasn’t entirely positive about the prospect… and even as it went live on the site G4S became embroiled in a massive contract scandal reported across the world, destroying their share price.

There has been lots of press coverage about the company’s failures, but what about the contract itself? Could they have succeeded in meeting it at all?

There were warning signs last September, when the firm reported that it would not be able to recruit more than guards than it was originally contracted for without a great deal of prior warning. The Home Office then took four months to confirm what it actually needed (far more than the contract called for, naturally). All security staff have to be centrally vetted and licensed through the Security Industry Authority (SIA) before they can be deployed, drastically slowing down their recruitment process. There seems to have been an awful lack of clarity about the pricing structure of the tender contract, which allowed the Olympic Sponsors to add more and more requirements to the contract. G4S simply couldn’t provide the resources asked for, and didn’t communicate that very well.

This raises a second issue with the contract: there was no provision for outsourcing. The authorities wanted to hand the entire £200 million contract to a single security company. This created problems for G4S and seems like a wasted opportunity; Win that Bid has worked with plenty of qualified security companies in London. Many of them were very interested in pursuing Olympic security contracts and were disappointed to find that there were no opportunities for them do so, either because of the sheer scale of the contract or because they were vulnerable to changes in the tender contract. The tender contract isolated G4S; before taking the contract they should have considered their contingency plans in the event the requirements changed, as they usually do in contracts this large and politicised.

Based on these facts, G4S certainly appears to have a strong case to complain about the government’s conduct in this contract. It hasn’t taken that opportunity. Possibly, it simply doesn’t want to jeopardise the security contracts it already has with the government. The political climate and the scale of the bid certainly left G4S in a very poor negotiating position; something that any company should consider before bidding for a tender.

A company trying to win any bid, let alone a security contract, should make sure they plan for contingencies. G4S weren’t prepared for big changes in the contract, and have paid for it.

Police privatisation: an arresting opportunity?

David Taylor-Smith of the security company G4S recently grabbed headlines by stating that private companies will be running large parts of the UK’s police service within five years. His statements were supported by news that at least 10 police forces are considering outsourcing parts of their service to the private sector in response to funding shortfalls brought on by government cuts.

Taylor-Smith’s statements simply focused minds on a trend already causing consternation among many observers. The American experience in privatised law enforcement has been riddled by stories of corruption, genuinely horrible scandals and enormous pork barrel spending at taxpayer’s expense. And while people laugh at the classic Fry and Laurie sketch from decades ago, areas of London have already reverted to the Victorian situation of overlapping private spaces patrolled by company personnel, disrupting police response times and creating some disturbing civil rights issues. If frontline police services are privatised, precedent suggests that most of those tender contracts will go to established firms with extensive backroom contacts.

Not all of the requirements being investigated by the police are so controversial. Managing the vehicle fleet, providing legal support and even helping victims and witnesses; these opportunities for bid writers are all less likely to be delayed or prevented by political clashes.  Existing companies experienced in public sector tenders for maintenance, human resources or social care could find important roles within the police force.

Bid writers looking to win public sector tenders in the police force must be aware of how politicised the process could potentially become.  Consider the image of the company and be ready to discuss issues of social value during the bidding process. The stated goal of the outsourcing deals is to reduce costs; bid writers will encounter procurers who hope they can reduce their overheads while improving levels of service at the same time.

As more information about potential police tender opportunities becomes available, companies should carefully consider their options. Win that Bid can help bid writers, both in putting together an appropriate tender document, but also in deciding whether an apparently lucrative policing tender contract is going become a dangerous albatross in the long term.

Get Tender Ready with The TROC button today

What Does It Mean?

Get Tender Ready with the TROC todayCompanies that have passed the TROC (Tender Readiness Online Check) or otherwise prequalified to respond to large private or public sector invitations to tender may display this symbol.

What Does It Mean For Tendering Authorities And Procurement Officers?

Public Sector organisations should look for this symbol on SME company websites, because:
  • An SME company displaying THE TROC TENDER READY symbol is indicating that it has met the minimum criteria qualifying it to respond to a Public Sector tender
  • This means that the tendering body can confidently approach the company and invite them to participate in a procurement exercise.
  • Looking for the TROC TENDER READY button will help tendering authorities to meet the Government’s aspiration that ‘25% of public sector contracts should be awarded to SMEs’.

The TROC Tender Ready symbol is a private sector initiative, with no government funding or taxpayers’ money involved.

Companies who have successfully completed and passed a Public Sector PQQ or won a contract within the last TWELVE months should contact info@procurementconnection.org.uk to get their badge and press pack.

It’s up to the both the Private and Public Sectors, as well as the press and other media organisations, to raise awareness of the TROC Tender Ready symbol: it will help procurement officers to identify ‘Tender Ready’ busineeses and therefore help more SMEs to win Public Sector contracts.

What exactly does the buyer want?

When aiming for a tender contract it’s important to consider what the procurer wants from the contract. This is a vital part of winning contract opportunities.

Public and private sector organisations are putting a relentless focus on cost efficiencies. Many companies believe that the main role of their procurement team is to deliver cost savings and this will be a critical aspect of many contract opportunities.

However important these savings are, they may not be the only goal of the organisation. This is particularly true of companies that are looking to expand their business. They may wish to increase their productivity and competitiveness in the long term, by introducing new systems, methods or tools. Equally, they might want a new approach to a critical area of their business which appears to be failing.

The majority of procurement work involves SMEs. These companies do not always have the most effective procurement methods and so it is particularly important to communicate with them about the aims of their tender contract and discover what it they want now, and what they will want in the future.

Have you been paid yet?

Recently an alliance of small business lobbying groups sent a letter to the Business Minister Mark Prisk, highlighting one of the biggest problems facing companies tendering for contracts in the UK today: late payment.

The numbers present a clear picture of the both the scale of the problem and who the mostly likely perpetrators are.

  • Large companies are responsible for 48% of late payments and account for most of the £24 billion owed to small and medium suppliers in the UK.
  • Late payments for UK Government tenders or charity work constitute just 9%, less than public/private concerns.
  • Both the public and the third sector have improved their record in recent years .
  • Prominent excuses given include a lack of payment authorisation and reports that the “cheque is in the post”.

Encouraging Prompt Payment?

Businesses can be scared to “name and shame” large corporations who mess around with their tender contracts, despite the fact that late payments break businesses. In these circumstances, it can be difficult to know exactly who to complain to. A poor UK government tender PQQ structure can be flagged up for the Cabinet Office to look into, but what about a multinational?

You could try encouraging prompt payment by the tender issuer. The letter to the Business Minister suggested a clampdown on “prompt payment discounts”, a strategy in which suppliers offer discounts on products in exchange for guarantees of payment on time. Several business advice websites suggest doing just that to incentivise punctual payments for commercial tenders. A company considering this should ask themselves whether they want to be paying the buyer extra to do what they claimed they were going to do on the tender contracts.

What can businesses do?

The best answer – and unfortunately the most complex to implement – is to make your business more resilient in times of unexpected cash flow problems relating to late payment. We can help you transform the capabilities of your business. Firstly, it’s important to consider how many sources of income the company has. It is dangerous for a company to rely on just one major contract or tender.  Another important safeguard to pursue is a high credit score. Being transparent about the financial state of the company can be helpful in other aspects of winning bids, especially for new companies who may not be able to provide the several years of financial data requested by most UK government tender PQQs. Win that Bid’s Bid Management service can help you assemble the right documents.

Don’t let yourself get pushed around.

Companies should also research the organisation issuing the tender. The sources of information aren’t always immediately obvious. This is an area in which a consultancy like Win that Bid can really help you in assessing whether to pursue an opportunity. Carrying out credit checks on potential customers is a good start. Communication between the supplier and the customer is always important: You should be clear about what the payment terms of the tender contract are and request clarification if they aren’t clear. And if the customer does try to change the terms of the contract, a supplier should make it clear that it expects something in return.

Tender checklist – Submission

Having reviewed your document here are some things to check before submitting it.

  • You may want to deliver the tender document in person to ensure it arrives on time and in best condition.  If so, remember to take a timed and signed receipt.
  • If you use a courier make sure they are a firm you trust and that they do not attach the name of any company to your package.
  • If sending by post, check whether or not your franking machine contains your company  name.  This must not appear anywhere on your document.
  • Send two copies of the document to your client along with an SAE (self addressed envelope).  If you do get the job, have the client sign one and return it to you.
  • If submitting it electronically, ensure you can get a record of its dispatch and receipt.
  • Monitor the issuing authority until the closing date of the award, and contact someone if you do not hear anything by that time.

Tender Writing Policies: What’s the point of an environmental policy?

Green issues have never been so important to consumers, which is why proving that you’re responsible and intelligent with your resources has become so vital.  The best way to do this is with an environmental policy.

For SMEs as part of a supply chain your buyers will be feeling the same pressure to provide environmentally sound services as you are.  These days it’s not only the biggest contracts or the public sector that require an environmental policy as standard.  Green targets and Corporate Social Responsibility mean that everyone is just that little bit more concerned about the environment.

There are lots of reasons to think about how energy efficient your company is.  You might have a genuine concern for the environment, you may understand that being green sells or you could just want to cut the cost of waste.  Whatever the reason for creating your environmental policy there will be lots to think about.  How many of these apply to your business:

  • Energy Efficient technology – Whatever sector you’re in there will be energy efficient technology you can update to.  Though initial costs may be high, check how much you could save over the lifetime of a piece of equipment.  There are even savings to be made in the office: ‘Office-based business activities are responsible for the emission of around 6.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. It is estimated that energy savings of up to 20%, equivalent to more than £157 million, are possible across the sector’ [The Carbon Trust – http://bit.ly/8ZbDIL].
  • Behaviour Change – If you don’t want to shell out for lots of new, green equipment simply changing behaviour in the workplace can still have an effect.  Making sure that employees understand why these new practices are being introduced and that they’re motivated is key to success.  You could even appoint a head of efficiency to help get everyone on board and make sure they follow through.
  • Wrapping and Packaging – The amount used in packaging is increasingly an issue so it’s useful to think about what you can minimise and what can be recycled.  If you want to find out about legislation or savings there’s a lot of info online, here’s a good place to start : http://envirowise.wrap.org.uk/.
  • Water – We don’t often realise how much water we use.  Putting in a water metre can help monitor how much your business spends.  Also, fitting different appliances can help, did you know spray taps can reduce water use by 60 – 70% compared with conventional taps?

Once you’re ready to write your policy, keep it short and easy to understand.  Make sure your goals are realistic, and that the actions you’ll take to achieve them are ones your employees understand and are enthusiastic about.  Schedule reviews so you know what targets you’re hitting and what you’re missing.  Getting it right can really make a difference, so if you need help you can always ask about our services.

You can keep up to date with new environmental legislation by subscribing to NetRegs Update, a free, monthly email newsletter.