I remember my moment of epiphany about government tendering. It came about because I was tired of businesses complaining about the problems in tendering to governments:
It’s too complex, it’s too bureaucratic, it takes too long, it’s biased, repetitive, small businesses can’t win, big business has an unfair advantage, the requirements aren’t always clear, it’s too demanding, it’s too costly, it’s confusing – on and on and on.
You’ve no doubt heard them all as well, if not experienced them. It doesn’t take much research to find such complaints are common not just to Australian federal, state and territory governments but also to overseas jurisdictions.
At the time I was Chairman of the Darwin Branch of the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce, frequently the recipient of such complaints. I knew governments are hard to change. Bureaucratic enquiries, like tenders, take time. And after them the complaints still come.
The view I took was that while we couldn’t change the government’s approach we could perhaps help businesses improve their tendering processes. So we organised a seminar with an appropriate range of speakers, including government.
In preparing for that it seemed to me the underlying problem was COMPLIANCE. That was where the complexity, detail and time came in. The inevitable and almost universal reaction to the bureaucratic burden of compliance was to submit the MINIMUM required to comply with the requirements.
The result, a boring document almost indistinguishable from the competition. And a decision based largely on price.
The two faces of Janus
What if, instead of seeing the tender as a bureaucratic burden, they saw it as a SALES OPPORTUNITY? What detail would they put in then?
In many coaching sessions since then in putting that proposition to struggling tenderers I could see the light come on in their eyes.
Where did it all begin for me?
My learning in bid preparation and tendering began in the 1970s in aircraft industry, working for Hawker de Havilland Australia Pty. Ltd. I moved up in the marketing ranks, becoming Marketing Manager, International and Civil and then a more focused bidding and negotiating role as Contracts Development Manager.
That involved working as part of a team or with full responsibility and submitting bids to companies such as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed, and Westland Helicopters.
And then there was the bid to the Burmese People’s Pearl & Fisheries Corporation for small patrol boats. The negotiation was an interesting experience.
Of course there has been some study along the way. My qualifications include B. Ag. Econ (University of New England), MBA (University of New South Wales) and a Diploma in International Marketing.
And then there came consulting, coaching & training
Without many years’ experience at senior management levels, which I have had both in the private sector and government, you can't or shouldn't get into business consulting. Industries I have worked in include aerospace, aluminium boats, farm machinery and retail industries with responsibilities in general management, marketing and export.
For over 27 years I have been helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) years as a business consultant, helping them get back on the path to profitability and growth, finding the leaks, plugging the holes in their business.
One of the biggest holes for businesses of all sizes I found to be tendering and quoting. For more than 14 of those twenty plus years I have been running Tendering Essentials workshops and backing that with one-on-one coaching.
Over 50% of the coaching assignments I’ve carried out related to tendering
At times clients would call me in to assist them write their tenders or the compliance parts of their tenders, with some success as my testimonials testify.
Have you ever felt like doing something downright silly, even insane?
Have you ever found yourself in one of those situations where things are downright difficult, disaster is staring you in the face, and all that is left is to say "there's gotta be a way outa here"?
Many years ago I found myself in the latter situation because of the former decision.
I'd been studying my Master's degree part time, while clawing my way up the company ladder in my aerospace industry days. It was pretty hard yakka. I was doing more hours at lectures than I did in my last year of my full-time Bachelor's degree, let alone the assignments that an MBA demanded, plus growing company responsibilities. To use the vernacular, I was knackered. I was looking for a less cerebral challenge.
Challenge - hmm. Why don't I ride a motor bike to England? Never mind I'm not very good at mechanical things. Never mind that the 250cc bike I've got is not suitable. Never mind that in the 1970's Indonesia was not particularly happy with Australia so I couldn't go through there. Malaysia was, but I couldn't go through Burma (full of bandits), nor Bangladesh (just had a war to separate from Pakistan. That's alright; I'll ship to Sri Lanka and go from there. So I did.
Let's skip a bit to get to my opening para above. Picture this. Its about 5.30 in the evening - dusk. Light is fading, and light rain is falling. The road ahead is pretty straight and a gentle decline sloping ahead. At my feet, lying on its side, is my motor bike. The front forks have collapsed, the front wheel hub is fractured, there is no-one around.
Where am I? I'm geographically dead square in the middle of the Asian side of Turkey.
And what came to mind - "There's gotta be a way outa here!"
The bike -what was I riding? For all you classic bike fans, it is a 1969 Triumph Trophy, ex-New South Wales Police. Notice I said "is". I still ride that bike. It's a bit like Grandma's axe (3 new handles, 2 new heads, but still Grandma's old axe).
Now the reason I tell this story?
How often have we found ourselves in a difficult situation in our business, putting in tender and after tender, quote after quote, all to no avail. I thought tendering and quoting was meant to lead to more business are supposed to be profitable. THERE'S GOTTA BE A WAY OUTA HERE!
Yes there is, and I'll help you find it, just like the Turkish truck driver who helped me move on.