Tendering is the process of creating a formal offer (or ‘bid’) to supply goods, services or works as requested by a government agency or private organisation. Procurement and tender specialist Celia Jordaan also sees tendering as an opportunity to work out what you do well in your business and use that to your competitive advantage.
Through her business, Ichiban Commercial Solutions, Celia Jordaan uses her global business experience to help WA businesses make the most of tendering opportunities and adapt to changes in the economy and global markets. We asked for some of her top tips for small business owners to create successful submissions and make the most of the tendering process.
Take your first steps early
According to Celia, tendering is likely to suit your business if you’re working in the B2B space delivering goods, services or works and looking to grow your businesses.
“Tendering takes time so it needs to be part of your plan for business growth. You need to work towards getting tender-ready,” she says.
“Being tender-ready means that you are already prepared with a proposal to demonstrate your capability and capacity to deliver the best value. When the right tendering opportunity comes through, you will be ready to respond so you can focus on what sets your business apart from others.”
Read each tender carefully
As Celia notes, tendering provides an opportunity to grow your business but also comes with the responsibility to complete the contract or project if you are awarded the tender.
“You need to make sure that you really understand what is needed, what you offer, what the terms and conditions are and that you will have the right cashflow, people and resources for delivering what you offer.”
While tenders might request similar information about your business and capabilities, don’t assume each one is exactly the same.
“Always take the time to read through a tender properly and make sure that you note items such as mandatory requirements,” says Celia. “For example, if you missed a mandatory site visit or do not have the required certifications noted as mandatory, you cannot tender.”
Ask questions if you need clarification
It’s common for small business owners to feel out of their depth when dealing with red tape and fine print, but Celia says this doesn’t need to be an obstacle to tendering.
“If you do not know what you are signing up for, ask for help. Read the contract terms and make sure you can do what is being asked of you. If you don’t understand a requirement, you can always ask for clarification. Just remember to follow the process and only approach the contact person as set out in the tender.”
You don’t need to start from scratch
Creating a library of tender responses can help streamline the process for future responses.
“Given the time it takes to complete tenders, it can help to set up your responses so you can re-use, repurpose and customise tendering responses for other tenders, proposals and your capability statements.”
“The process of tendering allows you to benchmark your business and determine gaps in what you do and can do better. By taking the time to create good structures, templates and using tenders to close out gaps and grow your business, you can repurpose the same information for other proposals and capability statements, and reduce the time it takes to do tendering.”
Learn as much as you can about the process
Celia notes that having a limited understanding of the tendering process can prevent business owners from taking advantage of potential opportunities. Her work includes helping business owners to learn more about tendering and she regularly delivers SBDC workshops on tendering.
“Not knowing where to start can make the process seem overwhelming and complicated. The SBDC’s Introduction to Tendering workshop provides an opportunity to explore the world of tendering and get tender-ready.”
“It is an introduction to tendering where we look at where to find tenders, work through an example to help you understand what to look out for in tenders and work through an overview of the process with a lot of practical tips. We also demystify concepts such as ‘value for money’ and how you can best apply this to your business, not only when tendering but in your proposals and quotes.”
SBDC workshop participants also get a workbook to help get ready to tender or improve their tendering systems and processes.
Find opportunities to tender
Celia recommends that business owners should take the first step by registering their business on the State Government’s Tenders WA website.
“Also consider joining any newsletters or supplier lists provided by your local government and the surrounding areas, as you may be able to receive updates on tenders. With the increasing focus on buying local , you want to optimise your opportunity to deliver best value for money to your local government.”
“If you sign up and pay for any tender notification service providers, choose one with short-term options so you can work out what tenders are available and whether tendering will work for your business. Some tender notification companies also provide updates on non-government tenders and subcontracting opportunities.”
Learn from each tender response
“Being awarded a tender is a wonderful experience and winning contracts will deliver more contracts,” says Celia. “However, being a competitive process means that often there can only be one successful tenderer. The benefits of being tender-ready bring so much more value to the process than just winning a tender.”
“For tenders you might not win, the tendering process still provides your business with an opportunity to benchmark your business in the market place and see how well you are delivering compared to others. Then, you can then focus on setting out clearly in your tenders how your business is delivering best value for money and why that would be to the benefit of your client.”
Find out more
Learn more about our upcoming Tendering and contracts workshops, including Demonstrating Value for Money in Tender Applications which will be presented by Celia, or book an appointment with our free small business advisory service to discuss ways to grow your business.
You can also sign up for our SBDC e-news for small business news just like this, every fortnight.