Essential Tendering Is Essential To SMEs

Learn to say no, and your business with thrive!

As an entrepreneur, it’s really hard to say no to a business opportunity when it comes along. That fear of missing out, the thought that you may have just passed on the greatest invention since sliced bread (some people were actually bewildered with the concept of sliced bread).

I’ve experienced this first-hand, that inability to say no. I built up a reputation over the years as the guy who has 50 businesses on the go at any one time. From a boutique web design company  and a co-working space to a tender alert service in Iraq, yip Dave Thomson never said no and boy did he pay for it.

(There will be a cheesy classic catchy tune with every blog, so if you don’t have Spotify head on over and put that right)

After years of constantly being stressed and anxious about how I would fit it all in, I decided it was time to change. I was introduced to the book Essentialism from author Greg McKeown by our very own Mo Devereaux, and now I get a real buzz when I say no to building a new website or passing on the latest start-up idea. “Essentialism” – avoiding the undisciplined pursuit of more and doing only those things that are essential – has transformed my life. Finally, I can focus on my family and this business, the one I have truly wanted to build for over 10 years.

Never miss an opportunity, then go out of business!

We’ve coined the term ‘Essential Tendering’ at The TenderHood because we strongly believe that less is more when it comes to bidding on tenders. It really doesn’t matter if there are 30 perfect tenders out there for you (if you can even find them), as an SME you have limited resources, and it’s all about saving time and money. So being really selective about which tenders you bid on is an essential part of your business strategy.

And this is what Essential Tendering is about – using the tools and training out there to make good decisions about which tenders you bid on, if any (stay with me). One of our competitors has the tagline ‘Never Miss An Opportunity’, but this really is bulls**t for an SME. It’s not about missing an opportunity, you should be focusing on what is the RIGHT opportunity for you and your business strategy. Don’t burn through your valuable cash and time on the wrong tender, it could cost you big time.

Finding balance is the key; balance in your life, your workload and keeping your EGO in check. It takes bravery to defy what other people think you should be doing or making decisions based on what you have done in the past.

So where do you start?

First thing first, trust your gut! I mean it. If something does not feel right, then walk away. If you go to bed asking yourself why have I invested all of my company’s limited money and resources on a tender I don’t think I can win, or don’t actually want to win, then you have your answer.

You might be asking yourself – is that is even a thing? Well I can tell you from experience it is, having been in the room when the HIPPO (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion) sitting at the top of the table has made us bid on a tender when everyone else in the company knew it was the wrong move. 

What ends up happening (after you have wasted your time and money) is you take your eye off what really matters: your business, your main product, your staff. Before you know it, you’re 18 months into a project and the rest of your business is, well, dying.

Only ever bid with clarity and purpose

You want to be very clear on the “what” and the “where” before you bid on a tender, but most importantly be very clear on the “why”.

Internally as a business you want real clarity as to why you are bidding on a particular tender and whether it fits with your purpose? This of course begs the question, do you really know what your purpose is? For example, The TenderHood wants to build a website with the best tender matching service in the world. But for us to bid on a tender to host websites – while it may leverage our skill sets – would clearly be a waste of our energy, time and money. You always want to stay true to your overall purpose.

Clarity is also essential so that everyone is on the same page. Even if you have to go back to your boss and ask them to reaffirm what the plan is (or if you are the boss), ask yourself this question – if you gave this tender a rating of 1-10 in terms of importance, fit and capacity, what would it get? If you don’t give it an 8, then say “bye-bye”.

Don't be a time optimist

I am terrible at this. I always think I can fit everything in. But the reality is that I have 24 hours in a day like everyone else. The “planning fallacy” is a real thing. We all underestimate how long something will take to complete based on our own biases.

I’ve seen myself draw up some of the most detailed day plans you can imagine. If I just take 5 mins to do this, then I can use the next 7.5 mins to complete that. As a rule of thumb, I find that however long I think something will take, I end up doubling it!

And don’t forget that, like any project, a tender bid is just as reliant on other people as it is on you. It’s not just about finding the time to complete the bid, it’s the time it takes to get a response to a query, or a final decision on the award. What do you do in the meantime when you have no cashflow from this bid, do you go for another contract or do you wait for the result?

What you do is: you bid with clarity and purpose so that the bid fits with both your business strategy and into your work pipeline.

“You don’t need more time in your day. You need to decide.” – Seth Godin

Meet yourself where you are

I just love that line – “Meet yourself where you are”. I heard it for the first time when I was doing my mental health first aid course, and used it in my previous blog about having fun.

In terms of essential tendering, this just means pause for a second and take stock of where you are and where you want to go. Celebrate your successes and the fact that you are still in business. I mean it, your business is alive, that’s a win in the current climate.

Now breathe, step back and look at the next opportunity from a position of clarity and strength, not stress or external pressures.

You, and only you, are your own worst enemy

I know that feeling – you just want to win this tender so that your main competitor won’t. Well, that is just a terrible strategy. Because guess what? After you win that tender, it’s you who has to fulfill it and your competitor goes off making more money somewhere else.

Don’t worry about what your competitors are doing. Just make sure that you are being the best version of yourself and build the best business you can. Don’t let other people or companies dictate what you bid on. Make sure its based on clarity and purpose (you are starting to get the message, right?).

Be realistic, and do the numbers

Everyone likes to think they can win a contract. Why wouldn’t you? You have built the best company in the world, right? And what you do is so much better than your competitors too, right? Well unfortunately it’s that EGO again. Do the numbers first!

  • What does your team capacity look like during the timeframes this contract needs to be completed?
  • Do you have the funds to increase your team if you have to?
  • Is this actually what you do, or are you going to try a sneaky pivot? Does this mean you are missing skill sets, or is your current team going to have to learn something new? How much is that going to cost?
  • Is the rest of your company on board, and has each team done their numbers? For example, if this is software, have you asked the dev team how much time it is going to take to develop?
  • All said and done, will you make a profit at the end of this?

There is nothing wrong with taking a jump and having a go, but spending that 60 minutes with the calculator and a pencil and paper might just save you a lot of cash.

And what about that IF YOU BID ON ANY remark?

This is a really massive gigantic huge secret, so keep it under your hat, ok?

Public procurement information is totally free and available to anyone who goes looking for it. And inside that lovely free information are leads, lots and lots of leads.

“You are out of business if you don’t have a prospect.” – Zig Zagler

You can find the name of a supplier who has won a contract, strike a relationship with them and then, well that is up to you. Partner with them? Contact the buyer who awarded them the tender and introduce yourself?

And not only leads, do some market intelligence. See what is selling, where it is selling, what pricing looks like, which companies are being successful, and what they have that you don’t.

This is where The TenderHood is miles ahead of our competitors (oh now my EGO is full throttle, but it’s true). Our machine learning is able to dig into data that other companies can’t, and not only that, but match the type of data specific to your business strategy. And we have more amazing features coming in the months ahead.

You really don’t have to be bidding on tenders to win in the public sector. Use the market intelligence data to identify prospects to better position yourself on the playing field. This is a great strategy for an essentialist.

So there you have it, folks. There really is no need to go jumping into the first tender you find or feel like you are missing out on. There are LOTS (see what I did there) of opportunities for SMEs to win business in the public sector, you just have to be smart about what you do and subscribe to the notion of Essential Tendering. As Greg McKeown says;

“Essentialism is a mindset—not a tactic or tip to do more”

What do you do as part of your business strategy to win tenders as an SME? Do you have any tips on how to build better connections? What would you like to see The TenderHood doing to make your life as an SME in public procurement easier? Use the comments field below.

Some Useful Stuff

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Think your manager could need just a little bit more persuasion?

Kick-Ass Read

Here is a book you should read (or listen) to kick ass and win in business!

Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less.

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SMEs don't have a second to waste. Check out this great tool to help make you productive and stay ahead of the game.

Toggl – Time tracking for better work, not overwork.

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