AM Bid founder Andrew Morrison and managing director David Gray
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AS MORE businesses look to bid for new contracts both in Scotland and further afield, bid experts Andrew Morrison and David Gray, directors at AM Bid, conclude their list of bid trends for the new year:
- Diversity and inclusion: In addition to bidders needing to provide evidence of their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, they can also deliver important outcomes via the social value element of contracts. An example of an organisation that can assist with both recruitment and links to ethnic minority-owned SME businesses is the highly successful Black Professionals in Construction (BPIC) Network. Started less than two years ago, it is already demonstrating what can be done by working in partnership with main contractors and interested parties.
- Referendum: Depending on how Covid-19 goes and the economic recovery from it, the Scottish Government has a manifesto commitment to push for a second referendum before the end of 2023. This may have some impacts on perceptions of Scottish bidders in UK markets, or on non-Scottish bidders to Scottish markets. Of course, the public sector evaluation panels will be expected to maintain strict political neutrality. Bidders, especially on long-term contracts, need to give some thought to how their contract would be delivered if Scotland votes to become an independent country.
- Bid recruitment: Whilst 2020 was largely an employers’ market due to the pandemic (e.g. redundancies, furlough, short-time working, etc), 2021 has seen a reversal of this with candidates currently in the driving seat in most sectors. There are resource challenges with many vacancies in the bid sector and some bidders are really struggling to attract/retain staff. For example, we recently had a tier one contractor in the construction sector ask us to help them simultaneously recruit four bid directors and three bid writers on 6-12-month interim assignments. Whereas previously companies required bid staff to be present close to five days per week in their office, the pandemic has completely changed this. Most people are no longer prepared to live with a five-day per week commute to an office and will change employer if they feel they are coerced into something they don’t want to do. People have embraced the change to home working and many want contracts that have flexibility with hybrid working arrangements. It is very common to now see jobs advertised with Location: UK/some attendance at office e.g. London, required. IR-35 is also really having an effect on some of the interim assignments. HMRC will be stopping their light touch approach to compliance in April 2022 and there will be some hefty financial penalties coming where the wrong choices have been made around decisions on employee/worker/contractor status. Getting the right advice on these matters is vital.
- Thought leadership: People who sit on evaluation panels and make/influence procurement decisions are not in a bubble. They are increasingly consumers of digital/social media. Whilst we may think that none of this could have any effect on public sector procurement decisions, as long as these decisions are made by human beings, then the subliminal and emotional elements of decision-making should not be overlooked. Give thought to how you can pique the interest of decision-makers, especially by creating content in places where they are likely to consume this. For example, look to follow your target organisations and decision-makers on social media and connect with them where this is possible. Like some of their content and in this way help yourself and your business get on their radar.
- Procurement events: There has been some return to in-person events in 2021 and a mixed bag of virtual events. Depending on the progress in combatting Covid-19, expect to see more in-person events in 2022. We are also seeing some event organisers looking at innovative hybrid models of simultaneous in-venue and live streamed options. Bidders who make the effort to connect with their markets e.g. at in-person events may get ahead of other bidders who choose to hang back. However, risk assessments and Covid-secure arrangements need to be given important attention by all involved.
- Bidding as a profession: The importance of bidding as a profession continues to grow. APMP (the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) has over 1,000 members in the UK and APMP certification (to foundation, practitioner or professional status) is being seen as a differentiator by many recruiters. APMP has made a successful pivot to delivering courses, networking and events virtually since the pandemic started.
- Marginal Gains / Bid transformation: Whilst super-bidders have looked to be continuously improving every part of their bidding function and bids, many are now appreciating the difference that external bid professionals can make. For example, AM Bid has been booked for a six-month bid transformation project by a major contractor as part of their drive to achieve 100% business growth in a five-year period. The directors recognise that it could be difficult to achieve this growth with their current set-up and that external bid professionals can help turbo-charge bidding success.
Andrew Morrison and David Gray are Directors of AM Bid and creators of Ultimate Tender Coach, an online bid training programme designed to give SMEs all the skills they need to win public contracts.
As industry leaders, they host regular LinkedIn Live shows where they share industry insights, interview experts and highlight best practice in winning business.