The Tender art of Tendering
Almost all major contracts to design, evaluate, build and maintain our public and private infrastructure are secured through a competitive bidding process. The list of services, facilities and professional advice that is also subject to “tendering” has grown significantly in recent years. I first came across this curious process in my early career as a university research fellow.
My research back in those days generated great amusement amongst friends and family since I was charged with an analysis of the bus and coach industry in the UK. I attracted still more derision when I later became involved in rail franchising and passed neatly from bus to train spotter!
So, what has this to do with competitive tendering? The provision of most publicly supported bus and rail services are delivered through contracts and franchises secured through a bidding process which aims to achieve best value or lowest cost. It was by this means along with my subsequent responsibility for providing school transport and supported bus services in West Sussex that I came to learn the tricks of the tendering trade.
Since those heady days, I have switched from gamekeeper to poacher and much of the work secured during my time as a consultant was through competitive tender, (including an interesting spell on evaluating HS2}. Having moved further into the “black arts” I now spend my time helping others to understand and exploit the opportunities to win work through the tendering process.
Apart from the evident fear that even the most hardened professional has of tendering the common complaint that I hear amongst large and small businesses is that the whole process is a “waste of time”. It need not be, a few simple steps can be taken to increase your chances of success in this competitive environment. These relate to having confidence in your strengths, knowing what outcomes the client is truly seeking and placing a realistic value on your skills and time.
The procedures and bureaucracy associated with tendering are more easily overcome than you might think so my final advice is not to allow the process to put you off; there are some rich pickings for those who hold their nerve and whilst you may need to kiss a few frogs there are plenty of handsome tenders to be won!