7 Steps to Winning Business from Local Authorities and the Public Sector...
Do you know that Public Bodies, including local authorities and councils, are actively looking for local businesses to become suppliers?
I must admit that my appreciation of these opportunities, and the value that they can bring to a business, was low.
That is, until I was introduced to Phil Austin, who opened my eyes to the potential for businesses of all sizes.
I was so impressed with Phil's understanding of the subject and track record that I asked him to write an article explaining how any business can take advantage of this opportunity.
When I asked Phil to write this article, I also asked if he could write a guide to winning business from Local Government, which is available here.
In this Results Report article Phil explains the...
7 Steps to Winning Business from Local Authorities and the Public Sector
If you have a small to medium sized business with a reputation for good quality, and are established as a reliable supplier of goods or services, expanding into the public sector – and especially local government – could be a great way to grow.
There are vast numbers of public sector or publicly funded bodies to consider, in the UK and overseas, for example:
- Central and local government and their agencies
- Regulatory Bodies
- The Police
- The Fire and Rescue Service
- The NHS
- The BBC
- Housing Associations (also known as Registered Social Landlords)
- Education Bodies
Local authorities and councils are being encouraged by central government, and are keen themselves, to source a wide range of products and services locally as this plays a key role in supporting the development and sustainability of local communities and economies.
That means that everybody has a local council nearby ready and willing to do business with suppliers in the area.
Here are the 7 steps to winning public sector business...
Step 1: Get your objectives aligned with the organisations objectives.
An important thing to realise is that if you want to do business with the public sector, you must follow their terms and procedures and adopt their values.
This may sound like a mouthful of words, but it is extremely important. The council will have detailed priorities in terms of economic progress, the environment, sustainability, continuity, employment, budget achievement, safety, hygiene, cleanliness and many other issues.
Your organisation, simply operating as a responsible business within the locality, will be able to contribute to some or many of these items. You are probably already doing so, or could do so with some small changes.
You can get this information from a number of sources.
Firstly, go into the council's web site. Look for their priorities and areas of emphasis and significance and start making notes.
Another good source of information is found in the minutes of committee meetings. You can ask to see these at any time. Scan them visually for areas of interest and make notes as you go.
Of course you may have to cover a lot of material to find a few 'gems', but it's usually worth the effort. The council's budgets are another good source of information especially if you can drill down to a detailed level.
For example if you have a gardening business, look in the 'Leisure and Recreation' section and drop down to 'Parks Maintenance' or other appropriate headings. This may be meaningful to you, especially if you can compare it with the previous year's information.
At the end of your research, align your products in terms of the council's priorities and objectives.
Step 2: Identify the opportunities that could be available to you.
Council Procurement Officers are normally helpful, friendly people who genuinely recognise the Council's need to buy products and services from local suppliers with a good reputation.
Armed with your understanding gained in Step 1, make a date to see them and be ready to make a short general presentation of your work showing directly or indirectly how it will contribute to the council's objectives.
This presentation can vary from a few concise spoken sentences, to a five minute graphics show. But no more!
Once they understand, in general terms, what you can do they will quickly tell you how you could fit into their scheme of operations. This is your first foot in the door.
Step 3: If the possible work has a value of more than £2,000, ask for a copy of their Pre-qualification Requirements.
This will tell you what you must do to get on their preferred supplier lists.
With them, explore the time frame relative to achieving this important step and your first tender submission for work identified in Step 2 (above).
Don't worry if, on the first read through of the requirements, some of it sounds like gobbledy-gook. But beware that if your work is going to be in excess of about £140,000, you may fall under the EU tendering process which is a bit beyond the notes in this bulletin. But still doable, of course.
Step 4: Familiarise yourself with the terminology.
Normally, a set of pre-qualification requirements contains a lot of terminology that has specific meaning to the council, but is not particularly self-descriptive.
You may have to come to grips with a number of ISO Management Standards for example ISO 9001:2008, depending on your products or services, abbreviations such as TUPE or FOI (you will find these in copious detail on the internet), policies and procedures.
Step 5: Determine the things you will have to do.
You may have to gain formal certification or accreditation in a number of areas or do other tasks in advance of your first tender.
In some areas, for your first tender, it may suffice that you have just commenced the certification process and provide the progress details with your tender.
The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. But you need to make sure you know what you are doing here. This can be a costly and frustrating area, if you get it wrong and it can be difficult without the right help and advice.
Step 6: Submit your Pre-qualification Application.
You may be asked to provide different or additional information if you have not conformed to the council's precise expectations.
Step 7: Assemble and submit your first tender.
Recognise that this could be your first of many tenders, and that you will not win them all.
Because much of the work in assembling a tender is replicated, set up your files so that the contents of one tender can be reproduced easily in successive tenders.
I call this a 'tender machine'. When you do not win a tender, you can ask for reasons why you were not successful.
Note these reasons and change your tack on the next tender. When you do win a tender, it is equally important to know why you won, and to do it again. And Again.
Remember: More than 40% of Public Sector tenders are lost due to non-conformity of tenders, as opposed to pricing factors.
What are the Benefits of Public Sector Work?
- There are obvious financial benefits from winning increased business
- Local authorities pay suppliers' invoices promptly, so make very reliable customers
- A snowballing effect: once you have demonstrated capability and reliability as a public sector supplier your reputation will spread because you will be recommended to other public organisations. A couple of well delivered council jobs could, for example, open up jobs for the NHS.
- As a public sector supplier you will gain enhanced credibility in the private sector.
- Your status as a growing business and growing employer of local resources will enhance your local corporate image.
More Notes on How to Get Started - Getting Organised
Concurrently with the knowledge-gathering exercises that you will need to carry out, there are some practical matters you should be addressing to stand the best chance of success.
- Set up your website to attract local authorities. Make sure you get your priorities and process alignments correct. (See Step 1 - above)
- Create a local authority 'track record' from scratch. Get organised. Record your contacts, submissions, follow up actions and dates, failure reasons, success reasons, and so on.
- Prepare your policies and procedures. Again this is an alignment activity.
- Understand your probable certification and standards requirements. This is industry-dependant, and very important to have and apply.
- Hone your presentation skills. It's easy to improve in this area.
- Get on your local authority supplier lists. This big step will be the result of much earlier effort.
I hope the information in this article leads to your next "big win" and to developing an excellent stream of quality public sector business.
Get Your Free Guide - "Getting Started with Local Government"
This is a 52 page guide packed with information which, although intended for sale, Phil has agreed to make available free of charge to Results Report subscribers.
You can get your free copy by following this link.
Reading and absorbing the content of his guide will give you real background information, and allow you to decide on the areas you need to explore in more depth.