So, you want to start tendering for public sector work but you’re not sure whether your business is in good enough shape to take the plunge.
Maybe you’ve had a look at a few tender opportunities and are daunted by the number of questions, or the amount of information the buying authority is asking you to provide. How are you going to ensure your business ticks all the right boxes?
Below are 13 steps you can take to make sure your business is ‘tender ready’, so when you do find that perfect tender opportunity you want to try and win, you’ve got the best foundation to start from and have an edge over your competitors. You’ll want to give the tender your best shot, investing your efforts in demonstrating the outstanding qualities of your business, rather than spending valuable time gathering key information.
Most tenders require you to submit 2 or 3 references concerning work you’ve already completed of a similar nature to that described in the tender specification. Take time to write a comprehensive, but succinct, description of the work you’ve done previously, hitting the key points of your service and statistics to back up the contract performance and delivery. For each reference ensure you have a named contact and their details (name, role, email, phone number) and that they are happy to be used as a reference.
Make sure you document and keep any testimonials you receive, whether by post, email or online. Additionally, ask your customers for testimonials. These are great evidence that you’ve done a good job previously.
3. Case Studies
Think about putting together some case studies to demonstrate key aspects of your business, particularly where you’ve added value or gone above and beyond. Use names, dates, and ensure you include a requirement, the solution and the outcome. Again, use facts and figures to demonstrate how well you delivered the service and exceeded your KPI’s. Strong case studies also include a problem and an explanation of how you overcame it.
Are there any standard accreditation or qualifications in your line of business and do you and/or your staff have them? Contracting authorities often require these to tick their own compliance and due diligence boxes, so understand what’s required in your industry and get them in place. Examples include international standards like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001; industry specific examples include CHAS, Constructionline & CQC.
5. Organisation Chart and Staff Details
If you don’t already have an organisation chart, create one and keep it up to date as staff leave/join/move roles. Some tenders ask for details about who exactly will be working on the contract, and in some cases, require CVs to be included. Ensure you have key information about staff readily available (number of years’ experience, role, summary of achievements, key contracts/projects they’ve worked on and why they have specifically been selected to deliver the contract). Keep key staff CVs up to date.
6. Staff Training
If you don’t already maintain a staff training matrix detailing your staff and the training courses they have undertaken, create one and maintain it. It goes without saying but ensure the list of training undertaken is appropriate and relevant to your industry and the individual roles undertaken by your staff. You need to demonstrate to the commissioning authority that you have robust training processes in place, so the matrix should include the dates of the training, any expiration dates and any refresher training due dates (e.g. for first aid training). Tenders often ask about induction, in addition to ongoing training, so an induction checklist could be another worthwhile creation if relevant.
Many, if not all, tenders will ask for some form of demonstration of financial stability. You may be asked to submit the last 2- or 3-years’ business accounts and this can be at the pre-qualification or selection stage, or later on during ITT or even at contract award. Some tenders ask for minimum turnover levels (which at the very least will need to be at least twice that of the contract value) as well as specific ratios between profits and losses, assets and liabilities. This is to ensure that the contract winner is financially stable enough to deliver the contract.
All contracts will require suppliers to hold minimum levels of Employers Liability insurance and Public/Products Liability insurance, typically £10m and £5m respectively; as well as Professional Indemnity insurance if appropriate to the contract. Critically, most tenders do not require you to have this level of insurance at the tender stage, but will require confirmation that you will take out the required levels if you win the contract. Ensure you have your current insurance details, including policy numbers to hand.
9. Policies and Procedures
Research which policies and procedures are commonly required for tenders in your business sector and make sure yours are thorough, fit-for-purpose and up to date. Set up yearly policy reviews if you don’t already do so. If you’re lacking a policy, there are a number of services like Complete Tenders that can help with writing and implementing a policy into your business. Common policies you’re likely to need include: Health & Safety Policy, Equality & Diversity Policy, Quality Assurance Policy, Environmental Policy, Corporate Social Responsibility Policy, Business Continuity Plan, Safeguarding Policy.
10. Management Information
If applicable, can your systems and processes capture and provide Management Information about your service? If not, is it worth investing in a system? A tender may require you to provide monthly reports against KPIs, so that the commissioning authority gains assurance you are delivering the contract appropriately. Have you done this before? If so, what evidence do you collect to demonstrate how well you have delivered a contract? Keep a library of reports that you can use as evidence in a tender submission.
11. Corporate Social Responsibility
As public sector organisations are held accountable to us, the public, they themselves are required to demonstrate value for money when commissioning a service through a contract. Consequently, tenders often include a question on Corporate Social Responsibility for suppliers to show how the contract will facilitate the delivery of benefits to the wider community (i.e. residents, not just service users). Is your business currently doing anything to contribute to the local economy? What will you contribute if you win the contract? As a small business, you might recruit locally, but can you offer work experience or student placements for example? You will often need to come up with a plan to outline all of your social value commitments and show how you will achieve them; they will need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
12. Environmental Awareness
Similarly, tenders often include a question on your environmental awareness and what, as a business, you are doing to reduce your impact on the environment. If you don’t already have a policy, or an environmental statement, consider creating one. Think about the way you do business and how it impacts the environment. What processes and practices do you have in place to make your business more sustainable? Obvious categories for consideration are transport, production/raw materials, water use, power use, recycling (e.g. office paper, toner cartridges, any packaging you supply, old products etc). Again, consider collecting as many facts and figures as you can to help demonstrate your performance against your targets.
This is often the first place a commissioning authority will look to check you are who you say you are. Make sure your website is up to date and anyone viewing it can see at a glance what your business does. Make sure all links are working.