Get ready for your first tender

Get ready for your first tender

Picture of Zirk van den Berg

Zirk van den Berg

Being able to do the job won’t always win you the tender.

However, you must make sure you can do the job before you bother to put your hat in the ring. Otherwise, there is no point. So, before you embark on a tender, first work on your capability. To take the step up, you have to be able to deliver the goods.

But let’s assume the Request for Tender is out and you’re at the point of being confident of your ability to deliver the project. How do you give yourself the best chance to win the contract?

As confirmed above, the key to a successful tender is not just about being able to do the job – often so can everyone else who puts in a bid. The key is to convince the evaluators you can not only deliver the project as required, but also provide good value, ensure safety and that your organisation does good in the world.

For each of these, you need proof.

Evaluators know that anyone can claim to be committed to quality, safety and the environment. These claims should be backed up by independent endorsements and documented facts.

This is an area where even a smallish investment can greatly improve your chances of winning the contract.

Document what work you do

The easiest way to address this is to document the projects you work on. Take notes and photographs. Write up project information. When doing this, remember to not only make a list of the tasks you perform, but tell the story: What were the aims of the project? What were the constraints and challenges? How did we overcome them? What was the result? 

It’s always easier to do this immediately after the project is completed. A good idea is to have a project closeout form with prompts to capture all the information typically asked for in RFTs. Get hold of some older RFT/RFP/ROI forms and see what they ask for.

As part of this exercise, record any positive feedback you receive, with the name, role and contact details of the person providing it. Ask clients for testimonials or comments you can later use to provide reassurance of your abilities.

Compile good CVs

You also need to get good CVs for your people, to prove their capability. First, collect any existing information on them. A tender is a form of jobseeking but requires a different type of CV that is purposely compiled to address the attributes evaluators look for. They typically want to see details of qualifications and training and career history. These you should be able to compile using your training records and personal CVs that may have been provided when you appointed these people. Evaluators also need to know what skills the person offers. Think about what the person brings to the job and write them down.

The CV also requires a general introduction or profile, a description of the person’s abilities and relevant experience, and what role they will fulfil in the project. For industries that have distinct projects with start and end dates, e.g., construction, it is very important to provide descriptions of comparable projects the person had worked on, including any special personal contributions they may have made to overcome challenges.

Like with projects, you should be able to compile reasonable base CVs without outside input. All of the above can be done with staff input, without spending an extra cent.

Get certifications

Your business may be able to apply for and gain a number of industry certifications without substantially changing what you do. Others may require improvements in your business, but that can only be a good thing.

If you can show evaluators you have recognised qualifications in safety, quality, environmental, socially responsible practices, etc., it gives them assurance you are a good company to deal with.

These might be certifications for SiteSafe, ISO9001 quality management, ISO45001 health and safety, ISO14001 environmental management, health and safety prequalification or Living Wage certification.

Do good things

Broader outcomes, i.e., the total effect of your business activities on the wider world, has become increasingly important in bidding in New Zealand, with central government and many other authorities evaluating company performance in this area. This is about the impact of your business on the environment and society.

As with your work performance, a good first step here is to document what you already do. Ask yourself social questions such as: How does our staff makeup reflect wider society? What training and career opportunities do we give staff? Do we pay them a Living Wage (at least $22.10 per hour)? What do we do that benefits local businesses? How do we involve Māori and Pasifika in jobs? Do we ever do things for free for schools, clubs or churches?

The same with the environment. What do you do to reduce carbon emissions and minimise waste? To save water and energy?

You may find you actually do a lot already. Just make sure you can describe it and back it up with evidence.

Importantly: Are there some of these good things you can start to do, or improve?

Get help

If you’ve done all the things described so far, you’ve already done a lot to increase your chances of winning the contract. Many companies are lucky enough to have people on board who are good at putting documents together and who can submit a strong bid.

If you don’t have the internal ability or capacity to do this, engage professionals who do this for a living to put your bid together. They can adapt your content to meet the requirements of the RFT and make sure it is presented to best effect.

And even if you do have in-house resource, you might want to strengthen your case for a must-win bid by getting a professional bid writer for some or part of the bid, e.g., to interview staff and adapt CVs to address the particular requirements of the tender.

Regardless of the outcome of your first bid, the content you’ve gathered and developed will give you a good starting point for future bids and to secure work for your business.

By Zirk van den Berg