Love Me Tender

In recent weeks I have been working on series of tenders with a number of partners, all in the interests of securing income in these ‘difficult’ times.

These tenders have varied from an excellent copywriting opportunity for a Council who wish to build a story bank of City success stories to other tenders that include a cultural visitor centre’s website and associated material; a large marketing/branding job; and marketing communications material for two education clients. I have also been on the other side of the fence drafting, issuing, receiving and collating replies for another client. Based on what I have experienced as a gamekeeper I was able to turn poacher again.

In all my years working at UU, we took what I now see was a very blasé approach to inviting tenders. The general attitude was ‘if they want the job badly enough they’ll do whatever work is required to put in a decent pitch.’ This included requests to provide graphics and visuals, often at short notice. We would have made suppliers jump through various hoops which, to their credit, they did without crying foul. In retrospect, in terms of purchasing the institution treated local small businesses very poorly and certainly showed little understanding of the business realities of life in a small business.

The advice and guidance from the purchasing people was helpful but seemed more designed to avoid litigation than to attract the best and most contemporary or suitable design. Latterly they introduced greater rigour to the entire process, introducing a series of scoring mechanisms but in my view assessors make a decision on a potential supplier especially after a beauty parade and then ensure the paperwork supports that decision. This may not be the PC thing to say but it is a fact.

Latterly I have been on the receiving end of a series of tenders emanating from government departments and government agencies. I suspect that there is a team of purchasing ‘consultants’ going around giving courses in: ‘Tender Documentation Best Practice to Achieve Value for Money’. Aside from the fact that printing off these behemoth documents to actually read them can write off an entire ream of paper, a lot of the information asked for does nothing to establish the actual graphic design or copywriting capability of my friends and I.

In one case, a tender from an organisation that supposedly exists to promote and support SMEs required a devastating and time consuming level of detail. This is time of course that is well spent if you are successful, but a waste of potential fee charging time if you are not. In this case an army of businesses no doubt beavered away jumping and even skipping through the various hoops placed in the way. The outcome? No decision was made, and the likelihood of a re-tender. Don’t you just love them.

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