Building Your Business
Significant Appetite for Public Procurement in the Border Region

14 June 2016

PLATO EBR, Monaghan LEO and IntertradeIreland have been working in partnership to support businesses regionally with gaining a better awareness and understanding of tendering opportunities. In particular, the three-way partnership is seeking to develop knowledge of public procurement practice North and South of the island which should add significant value to small business owners and strategically position such clients for growth.

The recent tendering and procurement seminar, held in the Creighton Hotel Clones, was over-subscribed attracting approx. 20 companies to engage in the first part of the ‘Go To Tender Lite Programme.’ The workshop was introduced by Dr Cecilia Hegarty of PLATO EBR who cautioned companies “…Small and medium-sized enterprises work in an increasingly competitive business arena where submitting quality and cost competitive proposals is key to securing new business but it is equally important that bids stack up for those submitting a bid – it has to make a financial difference to the bottom line of the company”.

Darren Richardson of Clarity NI who delivered the seminar on behalf of IntertradeIreland provided attendees with information on tenders, proposals and quotations; finding contracts and qualifying thresholds/opportunities;  the importance of having a bid strategy; and helpful hints and tools for writing a successful bid and avoiding your tender submission going into “Box 13, otherwise known as the bin!”

Darren suggested a few basic rules:

  • Don’t over-engineer what the supplier requires – give them what they want at a competitive price in other words “Don’t offer them the champagne taste if they have beer money”. Use the indicators provided in the terms of reference to guide your response accurately – provide the right product offering at the right price.

  • Often tenderers lose out because their submission is half-baked instead of fully-baked and ready to eat – it is the same ingredients and price but tenderers have not sufficiently planned the process to allow for accurate completion of the submission on time and Darren urged companies to think twice about submitting a bid if they are “winging it/whacking it in and hoping for the best” – it might affect future bids. Every time you submit a bid you should be confident in that it meets the brief and your company has a competitive advantage. Darren used the words of Conor McGregor: “We have not come here to take part, we are here to take-over”…suggesting you need to feel you can win the title otherwise it is work/time you are committing unnecessarily – a strategic approach is required.

  • In using a music analogy, Darren suggested with practice the company becomes more adept in submitting tenders and to stick at the process if you think it is worthwhile for the bottom line of your company – some public sector contracts are awarded for 3years plus 2years, therefore it does create stability for a growing company. In addition, if companies are asked to provide a quotation often they have a 1 in 3 chance of securing the business and perhaps they should focus on the cumulative advantage of smaller contracts (e.g. up to the value of €25K) as opposed to larger tenders which tend to have more submissions and therefore lower probability for success.

  • Darren also reiterated that the company should be strategic in its approach to tendering practice….”the only thing worse than losing a tender is gaining a contract that you should not have won” meaning that it would be difficult for a larger company to service this contract never mind a small cash-stricken company who took the approach to gain a contract at all cost – it serves little in terms of the long-term process.

  • Don’t under-estimate the time it takes to submit a successful bid – a 3-week timeframe is often the norm and longer if one-person directing the charge.

  • Make sure if you are registered on the relevant websites and your company is listed under the appropriate CPV code for your products and services.

Guest speaker Helen Milligan, MD of GEM Oils reiterated the importance of answering the questions posed fully and be mindful of the scoring attached to each question, and the importance of filling information gaps. Helen was keen to point out to attendees that “when a contract goes out again for tender the incumbent [the company previously awarded the work] is actually at a disadvantage compared to others who have likely received more extensive feedback as to why their proposal was unsuccessful last time around….and companies should think about this, and have a go, it is far from a done deal!” Helen indicated that for companies trading cross-border, getting into public procurement across the border is a natural next step and the processes on both sides of the island is similar and it is important that companies know which websites etc. are of relevance to their industry sector and IntertradeIreland can further assist companies in this regard. Helen’s top tip was to “Keep a formal record of tenders you lose out on and when they are likely to be re-advertised and work in diary dates to re-submit a stronger bid next time.”

Balithin O’Reilly, of Monaghan Local Enterprise Office, who is driving this unique Partnership Initiative indicated that further ion will take place to ‘identify tender-ready companies’ seeking to engage in this first ever local pilot. Blaithin said “the next part of the Programme involves local delivery of a 2-day programme and further intensive mentoring in-house [on company premises] in an area which the companies want to specifically work on such as Building Consortia, Developing/Critiquing a live tender and so on."

In summary, this three-way Agency Partnership affords small business owners in the region the opportunity for a localised and flexible approach to engage in tendering and to develop their own company standards and practice for attracting new business whether this be from private and/or public sector opportunities.

For more information and/or queries please email Cecilia@platoebr.com or blaithin.oreilly@leo.monaghancoco.ie

Guest Speaker Helen Milligan MD of GEM Oils

  • Cavan
  • Louth
  • Meath
  • Monaghon