Thinking of tendering for social care supply work with a council?
Many providers thank that getting onto a provider list for a council will be great news; not necessarily. It is rarely generously paid and do you have the systems, the staff, the management and leadership in place to carry out the work.
Before you spend a lot of time and effort to expensively get nowhere, read the specification and ask yourself a few basic questions.
Have you really read the questions, the guidance and do you understand it? Should you decide to apply, keep re-reading the questions as you progress – focus.
Have you got the time and the expertise to pen up to 20,000 words in the time allowed?
What is my turnover in relation to the value of the potential contract?
How many years accounts does my organisation have filed at Companies House and what is my credit rating? If these are not accepted by the council and they ask for management accounts, are these available and are you prepared to disclose this level of detail?
Do you know your DUNS Number?
Do you have ICO registration?
Do I have a comprehensive set of current policies and procedures? The times that I have seen policies last updated several years ago and missing vital new legislation, contract with Citation or QCS.
Is the organisation’s GDPR correct?
Where is the organisation with regard to cyber security and backup? Is the emergency and disaster response procedure tried and tested? Is your organisation resilient and sustainable?
Does the organisation have the right insurance policies at the required values?
The tendering opportunity is for work similar to but not what we actually do, so why are you applying?
What does the organisation contribute to benefit local social value?
If the tender calls for a Good CQC rating, or the use of the Living Wage Foundation pay rates and you do not have these, don’t lie, they’ll check.
The local authority will probably want evidence from an ECMS, they may insist upon a particle system, have you got it, can you afford it? Is having it a benefit to the rest of your organisation should you fail to win the tender?
Are you actually eligible to bid?
If payment is slow, can your cashflow cope?
Use it as a chance to find out what is happening locally, changes to local supply chains. May there be an opportunity for your business outside of the tender, personal budgets, spot purchase, private market?
Audit your organisation against the questions, can we do that, can we improve?
Is our quality management system properly documented and does it link to all parts of the organisation? In some cases, is there a quality management system? If not, why not, install one swiftly.
How can we get to the point of being able to tender, what is our growth plan and it realistic and achievable?
How to respond well
Before you start, read the tender submission document and all that accompanies it. If something is unclear, use the Q&A section via the portal to ask, “clarification questions.” This is usually time limited so get in early and read all the clarification Q&A answers. Other answers may be helpful to you. Sometimes tender documentation is not clear and significant amendments may appear that affect your submission. In a recent example, TUPE was a part of a question, this was an error, TUPE did not apply. The process was withdrawn and re-started sometime later.
Find tender opportunities that fit your organisation, do not try and make your organisation fit the tender.
Answer the question, and in clear language.
Provide clear, evidenced answers and stick within the word / character count.
If the word count is 1000 and your answer is only 300, your answer is likely to be inadequate. If the word count is 1000 and you have 2000, you’ve lost focus.
If a specific font, or text size, or spacing is specified, stick to it.
Outline the benefits to the commissioner and to the clients of your bid.
Don’t cross reference one answer to another, each response may be marked independently, not as a whole.
Provide the right add-ons, policies, insurances, etc. & provide a contents list.
If there is a template, such as for costs breakdown, use it.
Use the right referees and make sure that those referees are prepared to respond when contacted.
Include detail and provide relevant examples.
If the submission includes slides for a presentation, do not change these when you attend to present and if you do not want your notes to accompany the slide, remove them.
Many councils use software that checks for plagiarism, so don’t use someone else’s answer.
Proofread before submitting and if possible, get someone who knows the sector and the locality to read and critique. Don’t rely upon spellcheckers.
Submit on time, but not at the last minute, just in case.
Don’t expect to win every one you apply for!
If you fail, ask for feedback, learn from that and also learn from the process of constructing the tender submission. Use it as an opportunity to improve both your organisation and your bid writing skills.
Best of luck.