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How to win public sector contracts – top tips for small businesses

The public sector spends a staggering £50Bn+ on construction related activities each year and are going to great lengths to reduce bureaucracy and remove the barriers for small businesses wishing to compete for this work. Richard Ratcliffe, a procurement professional who has worked across both public and private sectors, explains some actions small businesses can take to make the most of these opportunities:

1: Contracts Finder - It’s a good idea for small businesses to register on Contracts Finder, a government website where work opportunities and awarded contracts are posted by many public sector bodies for works above £10,000. The service is free of charge and you can create an account within a few minutes.

www.gov.uk/contracts-finder

2: Procurement Portals - Most public sector organisations use a procurement portal of some type to issue tender documentation; and there are many portals in the marketplace! Knowing which portal to register with can prove tricky although they generally all link back to Contracts Finder. Once you’ve setup your account with your chosen service then you should receive opportunities for work, no matter which procurement portal the buyer is using.

3: Local Supply Chain - Public sector bodies often engage larger contractors for their capital schemes which often excludes smaller businesses from becoming involved. However, many organisations now use Local Supply Chain to help them source suitable contractors for their work opportunities. The service is free of charge and you can quicky create an online profile to promote your business to buyers and win more work.

app.localsupplychain.co.uk

4: Be Prepared - Most clients will expect you to complete an online pre-qualification questionnaire and be prepared by making sure you have some key documents ready to hand. These documents generally include the following:

  • Insurances - (Public liability and Employers Liability, Contractors All Risk and sometimes Professional Indemnity). In terms of values and limits this will depend on the actual contract size.
  • SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement) - It’s generally recommended to ensure that you have a valid SSIP certificate as this document will generally reduce the number of questions you have to answer. There are many providers for the SSIP certificate, with the top three being SMAS. CHAS and Constructionline.
  • Financials - Last 3 years of company accounts (P&L and Balance Sheet) are normally requested as part of the selection process.
  • Company Policies - Usually a selection of policies are requested such as Anti-bribery, Modern Slavery, Environmental and H&S to name a few.
  • References - Two or three references for work that you have recently completed.

As part of the Local Supply Chain platform, you can create an online profile for your business which includes the above information. This can be useful from two points of view:

Firstly, it’s a good place to store all the documentation and the platform will remind you when things expire.

Secondly you can promote your business to potential buyers at any time by sharing your profile with them.

5: Your Website - Most buyers will look at your website at some point, so it’s worth checking that you are happy with your website and that you have a good presence on the internet. There are also many skilled people and businesses out there that can help you create and refine your website and perhaps during lockdown is a good time to undertake a review.

6: Meet the Buyer Events - Prior to lockdown, there were many of these events held around the country, usually held in large conference rooms with buyers having stands and time slots for suppliers. More recently these have been held online, although there is no one place you can go to find details of all the events – Google searching is a good place to start looking.

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