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Getting your foot in the door – where to start with business development
2016 and 2017 sees many public service spin-outs face the prospect of re-tendering for their core contracts. To mark this milestone, we are publishing a series of articles on bid writing and business development. Read the first in the series below.
The earlier you are into the odyssey of bidding for public service contracts, the harder it seems. At the start it is all about getting your foot in the door and winning that first piece of work.
Perhaps your organisation has recently spun out of a Council or NHS Trust. Or you are a few years old and making the leap from relying on grants to your first contract. Either way you need to know where to find those all-important opportunities and be ready to go when the right one appears.
Here’s our four key bits of advice to novices starting the journey.
1. Know what’s out there
Rules around public sector purchasing mean that, above a certain value, all opportunities must be advertised. These ads are put online on the various ‘procurement portals’ such as the Contracts Finder, Tenders Direct, or various local sites, such as The Chest in Greater Manchester.
To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up and check these regularly. Put it in the diary and get your team to help you.
2. Keep your ear to the ground
Information is power in the contracts game. You need to make sure you are as informed as you can be and, if possible, hear about opportunities well before they hit the procurement portals.
Get to know your commissioners and build the reputation of your organisation by attending events and getting involved in consultations. Do your market research: who are your competitors? Where are the next contracts likely to be come up? Is a preferred partner or strong incumbent?
It’s worth trying to building relationship with commissioners in quieter times, as once a procurement process starts they will be restricted from communicating freely.
3. Get au fait with the process
EOI, ITT, PQQ, MEAT, BAFO… Expression Of Interest, Invitation To Tender, Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, Most Economically Advantageous Tender, Best And Final Offer… get to know the lingo and the processes behind public sector procurement.
Find a friendly face on the commissioning side to explain it from their angle. All authorities do it slightly differently and your local commissioner will often be pleased to see a new entrant in the market. Get hold of examples documents to see how they are laid out and what they expect.
Pay attention to the small print as you don’t want to waste your own time. For example, if you are a spin-out or have received grants from government in the past few years, you may be affected by ‘state aid’ regulations intended to protect competition.
4. Prepare standard bid documents
Every tender you respond to will have a set of standard requirements, for example they need to see your most recent accounts, statements of CQC registration, insurance certificates and other compliance documents. Make sure you have then in one place and that they are kept up-to-date so that you can respond quickly.
The least you can do is to be prepared. Follow these points and you will have made a good start on your journey.
For more articles in this series click here.