Successful Bids & Tenders

Neil Williams

28 Mar 2018

The value of public sector procurement of goods and services in the UK is around £300B. This is circa 10% of nominal GDP. Additionally, many firms in the gas and electric utilities sector must also comply with procurement rules somewhat akin to those found in the public sector.

Therefore public ITTs are an important channel to market for Tilix and we successfully dipped our toes in the tendering pool in 2017. The lessons learnt and positive encouragement from our early expeditions are proving to be invaluable. In summary, the general axioms we have developed are:

  • Bidding in partnership is powerful. However, it takes time, effort and humility to create a winning team.
  • Build experience and confidence in lower priced contracts first.
  • Continuous engagement with e-tendering portals is necessary.
  • Assessing opportunities requires delicately balancing optimism with hard-nosed business nous.

These core tenets are elaborated below.

Bidding in Partnership

It is rare for a micro-businesses like Tilix to have all the necessary skills, experience and availability within its pay-rolled staff to respond to all of the contract opportunities that come on its radar. Therefore, Tilix has long understood that for success in public tendering we have to leverage options such as freelancers, sub-contracting and consortia.

Tilix has invested significant time and effort in building a roster of trusted associates. These people are not employed, rather they are freelancers who form part of Tilix’s resource base to be used when work is sold. For sub-contracting, Tilix has built solid relationships with near-shore and off-shore firms that offer flexible knowledge work services including programming, market research and graphic design.

Of vital importance in 2018 is the formation of an alliance between NovAzure, Sustainable Direction and Tilix. The three firms share very similar vision, mission and operating models. Together we are gelling as a formidable prospecting and bidding group. Whilst Tilix has a background in electrical engineering and the utility sector, NovAzure specialise in oil and gas industry. Sustainable Direction bring a third dimension: that of environmental engineering.

“We are delighted that being agile and building trust through collaboration has created a fruitful partnership with Tilix and Sustainable Direction” - Christopher Gruen, MD NovAzure

Assessing Opportunities

Time is of the essence and it pays to start working opportunities as soon as they are published. Despite the need for responding quickly to the starting gun, pacing for a long game is essential. Whilst individual opportunities sometimes require haste, the overall race is a marathon not a sprint.

A quick look at a contract notice should only take 5 or 10 minutes. From this an outline of the possibilities should emerge. To aid this process, we have standardised the format and tools we use to communicate within the prospecting group.

Whilst prospecting, deciding who should take the lead is a key milestone. Whilst this should not be fixed in stone, it is important to set expectations early and to move quickly from prospecting to bid management mode, where we expect to invest the equivalent of between 2% and 5% of the contract value in our time and effort.

Taking a detailed look at a contract notice is the first step in the bid management process. This often allows the group to reflect on past success and to engage in optimistic dialogue with potential collaborators.

E-tendering Portals

Contract notices are regularly posted in a number of online portals from central government, devolved government, local authorities, utilities, European institutions and other bodies governed by public law. The ones Tilix watch like a hawk include:

Effective filtering and communication of new opportunities within the prospecting group is vital first step. Whilst we like to have a wide funnel at the top, it is important to maintain perspective and control. We do this through:

  1. Carefully crafting search algorithms to sort the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Investing time and effort into continually monitoring and improving this filtering process.
  3. Using Trello and other digital technology to bring the tendering team together.
  4. Making the content in our Trello board easy to read and interpret.

Building Experience & Confidence

Within the first few months, our prospecting and bidding group has made an excellent start. It is clear that having an open mind and being flexible opens up more opportunities. The group’s confidence is growing thanks to the following wins:

  • A place within a 3-4 year framework to provide energy industry expertise to a central government body.
  • A position in a call off contract to deliver energy efficiency advice to SMEs. The programme is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by a UK university.

Undoubtedly the prospecting and bidding partnership has created a very positive result. The 3 firms are raising each other’s game and we are optimistic that we will be punching well above our weight before too long.

NovAzure, Sustainable Direction and Tilix are all micro-businesses. This segment is a significant part of the UK economy. We are delighted that Lord Young’s REPORT ON GROWING MICRO BUSINESSES, highlights the fact that micro-businesses want procedures in place to make contracts quicker to award, and more certainty about the likely success of a tender. We are delighted that a key recommendation in the report is the creation of “single market” principles to provide a simple and consistent approach to procurement so that micro-businesses can gain better and more direct access to contract opportunities.