Yes, More than 25% of government spend went to SMEs in 2015, either directly or in supply chains. Put another way, that’s £80 billion of business going to companies like yours – and if you don’t build bidding into your business strategy, you’ll never see your share.
The sheer size and complexity of some public sector projects means a national or multi-national company will be the only one with sufficient experience and resources to manage the programme. But this in itself creates opportunities for SMEs since the principal or prime contractor but will inevitably go to the market with tenders for smaller, subcontracted packages of work.
It’s worth remembering, too, that prime contractors often start looking for SMEs to work with them in fulfilling a major contract long before they even bid for it. That’s partly because they know they will have to submit a supply chain risk analysis as part of the tender - so it’s worth building alliances with these bigger companies well in advance.
SMEs can also enter the public sector supply chain through joint ventures and framework agreements.
Joint ventures with larger companies or fellow SMEs are a way of enabling novice or small bidders increase capacity, reduce risk and build experience in the public sector.
Framework agreements are deliberately designed to engage small companies in the public sector supply chain for routine services and products. Departments such as the NHS and social services are increasingly using framework agreements to deliver everything from cleaning to catering and elderly care.
They don’t any more. Local authority and government purchasing departments are required to get best value, not the best price. When weighing up competitive bids, they must take into account the whole life cost and quality of the product or service being offered and build in sustainability and social and local value tests. SMEs are therefore often in a far strong position than larger companies outside of the region when it comes to delivering contracts local to them.
Everyone starts somewhere - the most successful big companies working today with the public sector were once an SME like you. Bid Pro Quo works with many companies at entry level and can help you explore the possibility of building a joint venture or bidding under a framework agreement. Both of these are good ways for an SME to gain a reputation for delivering small packages of work well and getting a foot on the public sector procurement ladder.
Remember the Bid Pro Quo mantra: Be Prepared. Be Strategic. Beat the Competition. Yes, if you are serious about working in the public sector it will require some initial time and investment. But once you have the training, management systems and accreditation in place and fully understand how bidding fits into your business plan you will be more targeted, more efficient and more likely to win – not just once but time and time again. Many Bid Pro Quo clients find the learning process as important as the outcome – from identifying gaps in training and accreditation to improving bid management and document presentation.
Successive changes in legislation and government policy have made public sector tendering more transparent and more accessible for SMEs than ever before. They are advertised though a wide variety of channels, from online business magazines to official journals and government and local authority websites. The difficulty is not so much in finding tenders, but in deciding which are best for your business so you don’t waste time, money and effort chasing bids you will not win or do not fit with the strategic aims of your business. Bid Pro Quo Tender Search helps in that initial selection process and makes sure tenders are the best fit for you.
Turn it into an opportunity. The first thing to do is ask why you weren’t successful. Public sector organisations are required by law to explain where the weaknesses were in your bid and you can request a face to face interview to discuss it. This is often hugely valuable in informing and improving the construct of future bids. Second, study the contract award notice carefully. Not only will it name the principal contractor, who may well be looking for subcontractors to supply the project, but you can also use it to help forecast when the next procurement process will take place, so you can Be Prepared.