For the longest time, the global public procurement space has been a preserve for a select few who have since become largely established companies and now dominating the trade by winning most public authority and government tenders.

Furthermore, the complex technical jargon, string of tender documentation and stringent financial requirements do not really strike a note with many entrepreneurs especially SMEs. These, among other factors, are currently responsible for hindering SMEs from noticing and taking advantage of the numerous opportunities available across the public sector. When most of us think of the tendering process, we think YIKES!

The most vibrant and stable economies are powered by SMEs that are actively growing and employing more people thereby contributing to their country’s GDPs in a constructive and sustainable way. Evidently, this is a major missing link within most economies in Europe and some other parts of the world.

One may ask therefore, why SMEs are not actively participating in and winning tenders.

There are a multiplicity of factors to this effect that include but are not limited to; Lack of knowledge about the available opportunities, lack of a proper understanding the bidding process, complexity of the local and regional rules and regulations for tendering, a negative attitude about looking for business abroad and last but not least complications that come with translating the different tender opportunities or notices and also doing the same for the different offers.

Further, the resources needed to develop a competitive bid for a government contract as well as the fixed costs associated with the administration have traditionally given large businesses, firms and organizations an advantage over SMEs.

There are many other potential upfront cost-related barriers that continue to limit the ability of SMEs to participate in the procurement process. These costs, due to economies of scale, are also higher in small firms than in medium-size and large firms and are spread out through the entire tendering stages involved.

In our 10 year experience, we have been able build on our experiences and exposure and through this process have been able to discover that there largely still exists specific barriers and market failures that continue to make it difficult for SMEs to actively and successfully participate in procurement processes. Beyond costs, these barriers and failures generally take the form of information, finance, regulatory and capacity obstacles that have become institutionalized especially within public procurement.

As an entrepreneur, what can I do?

The two most critical steps are to organize your internal processes when it comes to sourcing for public procurement opportunities and standardizing the process of preparing your responses despite the size of your team.

Majority tender opportunities are publicly listed in print media, RFP/RFQ documents can be accessed for free and a number of online sources Annual Information Day & Brokerage event in BrusselsEnterprise Europe Network cooperation opportunities databaseBrokerage eventsorganisedby the Enterprise Europe NetworkPartner search NCPsCaRECORDIS partner search platformNational Contact PointsCORDIS project databaseHorizon 2020 SME Instrument. But how do you know when an opportunity that fits your business is available for you to apply considering most tenders are usually open for only 2 weeks? A manual process of doing this search will not suffice. You need to set an automated way in which you can get daily and weekly alerts for you and your team. This service can be found at Tenderio

Secondly, it is still shocking to know that almost 80% of all tender responses are disqualified during the very first evaluation stage due to minor technicalities such as labeling of the document, serialization of the pages or a missing regulatory compliance requirements. This anomaly could be cured by setting up a dedicated team to handle this process for your organization.

Lastly, let me share with you some tips and tricks that you could use when preparing your tender documentation to win that tender or project financing the next time you set out to find that answer to the question #wheremymoneyat

  • Make sure that your promised outputs are sufficiently quantified. For example, if you point out in your bid that you will use an ICT tool to reach out over 30,000 people through a number of activities, make sure that those said activities are sufficiently justified.
  • You must ensure that the proposed measures to exploit the project results are specific and that the exploitation plan is sufficiently addressed in the project and even when it takes place after the project, it is developed within the project.
  • You should be realistic in the estimation of the costs that you will use in the execution of the said project. You must for example have justifications for some costs. Case in point, we provided for 18.000€ for a social media campaign that we did not fully explain thoroughly in our proposal and it thus became a shortcoming on our side.
  • The aspect of Risk management must be sufficiently addressed, including the most important risks and appropriate measures to mitigate those risks. This shows your commitment to successfully deliver your services in the tender or proposal and you are most certainly bound to earn extra points because of this.

With the above discussion, we hope that you have learned a thing or two that will put you in a good position to win your next tender.

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