Over the past year, we have seen many businesses lose a number of clients on their books, which in turn has affected revenue. This uncertainty has been a cause of stress and worry for many business owners who have looked into other sources of cash flow.

One of these sources is public contracts. This could be work with the NHS, Universities, schools etc. These tend to be long term contracts that supply a secure and steady form of income for the business. Having these businesses on your client list also provides a seal of approval from recognised bodies, which can of course bring further business in for you.

So how do you go about finding and submitting bids for new work? The step-by-step process is broken down below.

1. Find out where these tenders are being published

You may be vaguely familiar with the OJEU system, which stands for The Official Journal of the European Union. This was the main source that tendering organisations used to find new work across the EU.

As a result of Brexit, OJEU has been replaced by ‘Find a Tender’ (FTS), a UK-only platform which will feature tenders from 1st January 2021 onwards. However, it’s worth noting that any contracts that were accepted before 2021 will still be featured in Tenders Electronic Daily (TED), which is a supplement for OJEU tenders until the contracts have been completed. All contracts will then be found via Find a Tender.

UK businesses can still bid for OJEU tenders, but they will have to adhere to separate rules as the UK is now a non-EU member state. To find out more about changes to OJEU tenders, read Thornton & Lowe’s guide.

2. Have a bid/no bid decision

Once you’ve found some tenders that might be of interest, it’s important to take time to properly understand what the business requires rather than jumping the gun and submitting bids for every single request. It isn’t a numbers game. Writing a decent bid takes time, so use it wisely for work you think you are perfect to deliver.

It’s also important to research the client. Find out who they are and what they hope to achieve, then appeal to these goals in your bid.

Also, take time to research who your competitors are likely to be – you won’t know for sure, but you can take an educated guess. What can you offer that they can’t, and equally what can you offer to compensate for their unique selling point.

3. Bid documents arrive – now prepare

Once you’ve decided which bids to go for, now it’s time to review the bidding documents that will have been sent your way. You may want to print them out and make rough notes in the first instance.

Then, it’s time to plan who is writing which parts, as well as efforts you may need from other members of the team, e.g. retrieving certain documents that only accountants have access to. Set deadlines and make it very clear what you need from each person.

As the main person overseeing the bid, you need to establish your ‘win themes’, which are essentially the proof that you can deliver as well as specific reasons you should be chosen over others. Communicate these to the team so that they know which aspects of the business they should be emphasising.

4. Write the bid

Now it’s time for the most important part. You will get input from different team members at different stages, so paste these into the bidding document as soon as you receive them and make any necessary changes. Make sure you do allow time for final changes and edits to be made by the stakeholders of your business.

5. Submit it

Once you have everything back, have submitted it and have final approval from stakeholders, it’s time to submit the bid. You may want to use the waiting period to take time to reflect on what did and didn’t go well – e.g. were certain documents missing or outdated? Could communication be better next time?

Eventually you will be notified if you won the tender or not – hopefully you did, if not, you at least have content you can use in future relevant bids and learn how to improve next time.