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Bid smart, win big: Five top tips for bid writing and commission readiness

Five top tips for bid writing and commission readiness web

In today's fast-paced business landscape, especially for pre-start and start-up businesses, mastering the art of crafting contracts and securing winning bids is not just a skill but a foundational necessity. 

So, how do you gain that competitive edge? Boost Flying Start business adviser Chris Trickett, a former managing director of an award-winning creative agency, offers five top tips to make your business formidable in the bidding process and add that extra bite to your bids with frameworks for success.

As you step into that crucial meeting, proposal in hand, there's nothing more reassuring than knowing your house is in order and you have systems in place to meet and exceed the tender's expectations.

In competitive bids, organisations that speak with authenticity about operational excellence, demonstrate their commitment to social impact, celebrate their diversity, and highlight their environmental sustainability, exude confidence in their pitches and win more contracts. 

1.    The foundations behind a bid

Processes, procedures, and policies are essential. If these terms are unheard in your boardroom, your bids might be suffering from a lack of structure or systems. Operational excellence relies on having systems in place to ensure consistent quality in your product or service. 

This may involve ensuring you have policies that sufficiently address organisational HR needs, or systems in place to ensure the protection and security of client data. 

Perhaps you haven't reviewed your equality, diversity, and inclusion practices in a decade, or lack systems to ensure reporting is accurate and timely. For emerging businesses, establishing robust processes and policies from the outset can significantly enhance your bidding potential and set a solid foundation for operational excellence.

Processes are the building blocks to your framework for success and the first step in being contract and commission ready.

2.    Getting the right team behind you

How well balanced is your team? Can you align the competencies within your team to the needs of the tender? 

Once your systems are built, it's time to address your team dynamics and skills matrix. Breaking down a tender into a set of competencies and matching them to your team's proficiencies will demonstrate your understanding and ability to meet the intricacies of the bid at hand. 

It will show you comprehend the tasks and have built a team that will meet and exceed the project or programme's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

For start-ups, aligning your burgeoning team’s competencies with the tender's requirements demonstrates foresight and an understanding critical for early-stage success.

Consider having your team undertake the Chartered Management Institute's (CMI) personal effectiveness test and building a culture of professional development. Competency frameworks bring clarity to you and your team about strengths, team dynamics, and personal effectiveness. 

They encourage good reflective practice and continual improvement, providing a common language when hiring for new roles and allowing you to communicate with clarity how your team meets the demands of your next bid.

3.    Where to look for new opportunities

With systems in place, a dynamic team, project briefs prepared, and budgets outlined, it's time to start looking for new contracts or grant opportunities. The best bidders keep a permanent eye on several online portals that house tenders and grant opportunities relevant to their sector. To facilitate contracts from the UK government and their agencies, starting points like Contracts Finder or the Supply2Gov website is useful. 

For new ventures, focusing on smaller, less complex tenders can provide a more accessible entry point into the bidding world, allowing you to gradually build your portfolio. While you don't have to pay to register for opportunities, consider that some tendering processes are time-consuming and drawn out, so always consider the return on your time investment as a factor in deciding whether to bid.

4.    Writing a compelling story

Tell your story. Inspiring the reader to care about your bid above others is an art form. Alongside empirical data and sound budgeting, interesting narratives and human perspectives are great tools in the bid writer's toolkit. If you are bidding for grant funding, there may be extra emphasis on showcasing the need, telling your story, and emphasising your impact. 

If you are a start-up, leveraging your unique journey and vision in your bid can set you apart, showcasing not just what you do but why you do it and the fresh perspective you bring. Consider including a case study or testimonial from your beneficiaries. 

The reader must understand the importance of supporting your organisation. Use a compelling human story to help them get on board and care about supporting your cause.

Good practice for writing compelling bids includes entering your team or organisation for local or national business awards. This helps you get used to working to word counts, being succinct and persuasive, and ensures you are well practised in crafting compelling stories around your team and their impact. 

An award win, with the accompanying prestige and free promotion can also benefit your future bids, public image, and team morale.

5.    Proofread everything!

If your tender is competitive, with numerous bids, it's highly likely the organisation will be looking for a reason to discard applications. Ensure you have completed every section, met the word count, and answered each question effectively. 

Bid questions are often scored individually; some may be heavily weighted, counting for a significant portion of the assessment process. 

Treat each section with the same importance and ensure you have met the criteria across the board, including data protection, reporting, and evaluating impact. Especially for start-ups, where every opportunity counts, meticulously proofreading your bid to ensure it meets all criteria can make the difference between success and missed chances.

The process of writing bids is a discipline. You will benefit from practice and gain insights if you ask for feedback from the tenderer. It's a skill you can develop and improve on, so keep at it and always be bidding for new contracts to develop your sustainability and commercial success. 

About the author

Chris Trickett Boost Flying Start 400Chris Trickett is a chartered fellow of CMI and a qualified business adviser for Boost’s Flying Start programme. He has extensive experience in business development and securing significant contracts across a wide range of sectors. 

The Boost Flying Start service is for early-stage businesses that have traded for less than three years, and aspiring individuals with a great business idea. It is aimed at leaders who have a bright and growing vision for their new business. This service will focus on building business and financial acumen and the core skills to establish a new business and drive sustainable growth. 

For more tips on writing tenders or applying for funding join Boost’s Flying Start masterclass: Contracts and Commission Readiness on March 1 – delivered by Boost business adviser Lynn Trickett.

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