WIN THAT BID ANNOUNCE THORNTON & LOWE MERGER!

London based Win That Bid, one of the UK’s leading bid-management firms, has announced their merger with tender and procurement specialists Thornton & Lowe, with offices in Greater Manchester, Central Scotland, North East and West Midlands, to further strengthen its position as the industry leader in the bidding and tendering arena.

Following extensive discussions between Directors from both businesses, the merger, will see Win That Bid remain in its current location, continuing to serve the capital and southern counties, but will operate as a division of the Thornton & Lowe group of companies.

Both Win That Bid and Thornton & Lowe, have built strong reputations as two of the leading providers of bid-management services, as well as strong commercial foundations, which will no doubt make the new entity, the envy of its competitors.

Director, Dave Thornton, was excited with the merger as well as what the future holds. He said: “Since Thornton & Lowe opened its doors, we have aimed to build a business that is both strong in foundation and ethics, but ambitious with its strategy for expansion.

“We already have a significant client base in the South, but wanted to make sure that we had a visual presence in the capital, to complement our regional offices in Greater Manchester, Central Scotland, Birmingham and the North East. Merging with Win That Bid is the logical next step to continue the natural evolution of our business.

“As a team of in-house bid and business-management professionals, we pride ourselves on our exceptional service, and we’re very much looking forward to the next chapter of our exciting story!”

Since 2009 Thornton & Lowe and its team continue to guide both SME and blue-chip clients through the tender process, giving them the opportunity to maximise success rates and stay one step ahead of the competition. Part of the Thornton & Lowe family of businesses also includes a business development division, M&D, as well as their training and education arm, Thinking to Success.

Sarah Green, Director of Win That Bid said: “We are overjoyed that we have merged with Thornton & Lowe. The future in our industry is a bright one, and we are confident we are able to offer a consistent, and truely outstanding service to all our clients.”

For more information, please contact a member of the team at one of our UK locations: London: 0203 405 1850, Greater Manchester: 01204 2338 046, Central Scotland: 01334 208 312, Midlands: 0121 523 1051, email: hello@winthatbid.com or visit www.winthatbid.com… we’ll bring the biscuits!

How To Win Bids and Tenders

Wondering how to go about winning bids and tenders? Writing first-class bids isn’t an exact science – but at Win That Bid, we’ve got the expertise to help you secure your dream contracts with ease.

Top Ten Tips for Winning Tenders

1.    Be thorough: answer every question in the bid document – missing out a couple of vital questions can lose you the entire bid.

2.    Know your marketplace (competitors & pricing): spend time researching your competitors and understand their pricing prior to the bid writing process.

3.    Appeal to your reader: offer persuasive, benefit-led responses and think about the customer – what’s important to them? What are they looking for in their supplier?  Don’t simply provide a list of features – if you want to win tenders, take your responses one step further and state the benefits.

4.    Have a model: build a library of standard PQQ and tender responses – save documents such as insurance certificates, policies and yearly accounts in one place that is easily accessible by others in the company.

5.    Outdo yourself: don’t leave your tender until the last minute – make sure that you have dedicated ample time and resources to produce the best possible result. If you can’t submit your best effort for this bid, why you are submitting at all?

6.    Be decisive: make a conscious decision to bid – if you are tendering ‘just because’, this is not the recipe for a winning bid.

7.    Discriminate: can you deliver this tender? Do you want to win this bid? If you win, what will happen to your other contracts? Make sure you’re bidding for business you really want.

8.    Understand the bid requirements – and adhere to them.

9.    Know your audience: read the bid evaluation criteria – what’s most important to the customer?

10.  Be proactive: engage with the customer – being invited to bid is a compliment, and likely to put your submission in a stronger position than a cold response.

 

Need some help winning that dream contract?

Call us today to discuss how we can help you win more business

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.

Procurement – Carbon Footprints

May 2011 saw the publication of a report outlining Bristol City Council’s Carbon Footprint that related directly to procurement activity.  [Please see the full report: Carbon Footprint of Procurement] Will we see more local authorities asking questions on carbon footprints? Probably not!

The report does provide a response to the question ‘is the Carbon Foot a consideration for procurement teams’?  In basic terms the answer is ‘yes – BUT’. That but is always going to be there as cost is always a key consideration that outweighs marginal or woolly statements.

If it is not a primary consideration we need to really review what steps suppliers can take to ensure that carbon reduction targets are built into their responses in a way that does add value, has potential to score points and builds a credible, measureable indicator for the buyers without saddling the supplier with unnecessary burdens .

Carbon reduction will reduce operational costs in the long run, however for it to be really effective in council target terms it needs to have an annual impact that stands scrutiny.

Suppliers working in the areas listed should look at the development of their carbon reduction strategy for procurement as an opportunity to add value:

  • Construction
  • Sewage treatment and disposal
  • Refuse disposal
  • Waste Management
  • Community Services  including Health care

We should all be continually looking at our energy reduction targets, how we access our own services and materials with effective carbon management systems.

However most companies when asked will not have a clear understanding of what their carbon footprint is or how to measure it.

Therefore in our energy conscious market anything that demonstrates a clear commitment to sustainability and environmental management systems should include a carbon management plan.

A recent update to the EU Guide encouraged procurement teams to use environmental criteria in scoring tenders, note the point made:

“Applying environmental award criteria may make sense, for example, if you are not sure of the cost and/ or market availability of products, works or services which meet certain environmental objectives. By including these factors in your award criteria, you are able to weigh them against other factors including cost.” Section 5.2 of Buying Green 2nd Edition – EU Guide 2011 [Italics ours]

So to meet the environmental objectives the core of the response needs to offer better value and additionality that will make a real difference in the context of the council targets. Where do you begin? Possibly with these five steps:

1.       Measure/Audit your Carbon Footprint

2.       Report the results annually

3.       Provide evidence of reduction targets and how you are meeting them

4.       Substituting with less-carbon-intensive alternatives

5.       Renew the scheme regularly as products change

Suppliers can have a significant impact on Public Sector targets by adopting an EMS with a Carbon Reporting element, it may not be required in the Tender but it will not go unnoticed.

Do carbon footprints count? Yes if you link them to a carbon reduction plan and an environmental management system. These are much easier to introduce and will reward suppliers with an additional competitive edge.

SMEs and public sector tenders

What do the latest changes mean for your business?

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can feel locked out of government tenders by the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) requirements. The Cabinet Office wants this to change and over the last year they’ve taken some steps to do just that. In this article we’re going to take a look at what they’ve recommended and how that could make things easier for your business and applying for public sector tenders.

There are a few issues that face SMEs when public sector tendering. The first is that public sector departments are risk averse because of limited budgets and competing political demands. No authority wants to hire a small company and discover it can’t fulfil the contract. To avoid this UK government tenders focus on compliance and financial robustness, favouring established companies.

Worse, SMEs can be inadvertently filtered out of the process by asking far too much of them in compliance requirements or in the scale of the contract. The Cabinet Office is currently recommending that contracting authorities split their contracts into separate micro-lots for each required service. This ought to help SMEs by reducing the size of each contract and allowing them to take advantage of their specialist expertise that a large company trying to do everything might not possess.

The Finance Problem

Public sector tendering often requires demonstrating financial stability backed up with plenty of financial data, which can be a problem for many SMEs. They may simply have not been operating long enough to meet those requirements and probably lack the required level of insurance. They may not have enough staff to collate all the information they need.

The new guidelines encourage procurers to allow for alternative forms of financial information. UK government tenders and their contracting authorities are being encouraged to be more open about exactly what details are necessary.

Changes in “Technical and Professional Capacity”

The last thing any local authority wants is to be made complicit in some awful pollution or racism scandal by one of their contractors. So they’ve tended to put equal opportunities, health and safety and environmental compliance into the “technical or professional capacity” section of the PQQ. It can be expensive to prove that an SME is in compliance with all these rules.

The Cabinet Office has asked contracting authorities to remember that this section should only be about previous similar contracts, quality control and technical staff. This doesn’t mean that the compliance issues are now irrelevant: instead, the local authority is likely to use the “eligibility” section to ascertain whether the bidder has a record of dumping hydrogen sulphide into municipal swimming pools. The hope is that the move will draw a much clearer distinction between mandatory and discretionary grounds for disqualification, helping SMEs. If a contracting authority isn’t clear about where the line is, ask!

Big Changes in Best Practice

The Cabinet Office has issued a model PQQ in line with all these new changes which government departments are now required to use. By only including the minimum requirements of the regulations, the hope is that the bar won’t be set too high for SMEs to consider. Better still for SMEs, the Cabinet Office has a “mystery shopper” report. Suppliers are being encouraged to report poor procurement practices and unclear tenders.

The new guidelines for PQQs all aim to make the process simpler and cheaper for SMEs to engage in, and provide more outlets for them to question decisions or get feedback. Not all of the potential hurdles have disappeared, but they have got lower.

We would love to hear about how the changes have affected your business so what do you think?

Interested in finding local government opportunities?

Interested in hiring a bid writer to help you win a local government tender?

How to Find Tenders

People often ask us how to find tenders for their business.  There are hundreds of portals in the UK – some generalist, some specialist.  Some charge a membership fee and others are free.  This article sets out a few ways to find yourself some great tendering opportunities.

Contracts Finder
Contracts Finder is a free new service for businesses, government buyers and the public. This service comes from the Government and you can find:

· live contract opportunities

· closed tender documentation

· contract awards and contract documents

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily)
TED is the online version of the ‘Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU)’, dedicated to European public procurement. Public procurement in the UK and European Union is governed by a number of Directives and Regulations and all tender opportunities above a certain monetary threshold must be published in the OJEU. TED provides free access to business opportunities. It is updated five times a week with approximately 1500 public procurement notices from the European Union, the European Economic Area and beyond. Register on the TED website for free to get started.

Where to find Global Sporting Opportunities

Where to find Local Authority opportunities

It is worth finding out how your local authorities manage their tenders however we find that in the majority they use their own online portals, advertise in local papers and/or use an external company like Exor to manage their preferred supplier database.

Central Government

Try these for size

NHS

The Department of Health is divided into a number of business units for purchasing purposes, each with their own budgets.  We have selected a few ways to monitor different tendering and business opportunities

Specialist

Each sector often has its own specialist portals and we have put together a list of some of them

What do you think of our How to Find Tenders list – have you got a favourite to add?

Tender Writing: Creating compelling win themes

Creating a killer set of win themes can make the difference between success and failure when pitching your solution to a potential client.  Win themes are basically a set of marketing statements that should run through your proposal or tender writing.

When tender writing creating your win themes is the place to start. If you’re having trouble creating a strong win theme, try brainstorming the following potential issues facing your client:

  • What risk does your client most fear concerning this project?
  • Is there any red tape that your client is particularly concerned by? New legislation? Discrimination regulation? Noise pollution during construction? Archaeological excavation?
  • What special vision does your client have for the project? To what extent are they looking for quality, excellence and innovation?

Then make a list of the following:

  1. Imagine you are your client. Rank the concerns you have just brainstormed from the biggest to the smallest to create an issues list in order of importance.
  2. Next to each of these issues, brainstorm all the ways in which your project can offer a solution.
  3. Rank these solutions against your competitors’. Can you offer greater quality, reliability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness etc.?

You now have two lists, an issues list and a solutions list. Can you link the ideas near the top of each list?

The ideas from this process should enable you to find the main subject of a competitive and relevant Win Theme.

Having problems with your Win Themes and want to put together a killer presentation then give Win That Bid a call today.

Tender Writing Insights: What no PQQ, Francis Maude?

The hills are alive with the gentle rumblings and occasional cheers about the possibility of scrapping the PQQ (pre-qualifying questionnaire) stage of the public tender process.

Francis Maude has confirmed that by scraping certain parts of the PQQ process, it will help encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to win public sector contracts. Nice sentiment but is it really going to help the SME? At Win That Bid, we spend some of our working day with clients to help them with the tender writing and PQQ process and quite frankly some of them are so badly written and poorly assembled, you wander what the Buyer was thinking of. Maybe they were thinking of what they were going to do at the weekend or what they are going to have for lunch, definitely not thinking about the job in hand. Often they are riddled with errors, contradictory text and have confusing sentence structures which all add to the hassle of the tender writing task.

Inspite of these frustrations, we must remember that the questionnaire stage serves an important purpose. It helps the buyer reduce the amount of unsuitable bidders whilst suppliers spend a fraction of the time finding out whether they are/are not suitable. Imagine if the way to win contracts meant going straight to tender? This would mean that SME would have to spend much more time tendering to no avail which could ultimately mean less companies compete. Francis Maude’s intention is good, however, perhaps he needs to think about his approach. Perhaps it is not the process that is at fault, more the interpretation by buyers.

Often irrelevant questions are asked and demands for policies and procedures need to be met even if they have nothing to do with demonstrating one’s capability at delivering the actual service. Francis Maude should focus on delivering more training and guidelines to buyers as well as reviewing the PQQ process to ensure the all important fairness to the SME market.

What do you think? Tell us or drop us a line on any aspect of the tender writing process.

Tender Writing: Your proposal checklist

Proposal Checklist – Preparing to write your proposal submission

Now that you have thought about how your company will handle the tendering process, it is time to think about writing the tender itself.  There are things you should consider, and information you should gather, before beginning to write so you create the best document you are capable of.

  • What do you know about your client?  This information can be extremely useful in knowing how to pitch your document.  Perhaps the client is looking for particular benefits, for example price or level of service.
  • Make sure you are not just there to test the market or to make up numbers.  You may even want to think about requesting your customers sign a non-disclosure agreement before presenting.  This will help to ensure any ideas or information you wish to protect remains yours.
  • If you are bidding for something the customer has previously received from someone else, what can you learn from the service provided by the current or previous supplier?  You are allowed to ask the customer about this and it may help lend more insight into how to fit your bid to their needs.
  • Make sure you have all the latest information from your team, are you up to date with all the work your they have been doing on the bid?
  • Have you collected all of the relevant documents and information you will need when writing your bid, in particular, your quotation?
  • Read all the requirements and follow the instructions to the letter.  It may surprise you to learn that lots of bids are rejected simply for not complying with the instructions.  (Or it may not surprise you at all, if yours has been one of them!)
  • Remember you’re in competition.  It may help to think about what you would consider if a company was bidding to you.

Landscaping Contracts and how to win them

With all the possible variables and changes involved in the work, contracts for landscaping can be tricky to get right.  Before you start it may be useful to do a ‘walk-through’ of the property.  Not only will you get a better idea of what the client wants but you can start to think about how you will approach the tender.

Of course, the landscaping industry has changed over the years.  One common concern is that since the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) many public sector contracts are awarded on price above all else.  Work is often categorised as ‘unskilled’ together with services like waste and recycling.  Therefore, work tends to be outsourced meaning more of it is carried out by casual labourers instead of trained professionals.  However, many local authorities will assure you that, as they are answerable for quality, they do take training and qualifications into account.  So if you are thinking about public sector landscaping don’t underestimate the importance of organisations like ROLO and LANTRA, and even the ISO 9001s and ISO 14001.

Keeping an eye on opportunities is all important.  Landscapers could be considered to have an advantage here as the seasonal nature of work, particularly in the public sector, indicates when the busiest periods are.  For smaller companies though, looking for private sector and domestic work, making sure you’re aware of all the best opportunities is a little more difficult.  So don’t forget that services like ours are always there to help.  These are tough times for everyone but knowing where to look and how to bid will hopefully mean regardless of whether there are green shoots for the economy, you’ll be growing some of your own.