Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

One of the main challenges of bid writing and delivering any kind of submission is having an endless supply of accurate information. This task is never complete, but done properly will enable you to focus on developing quality bespoke content for each pitch, rather than searching for material you know you have written before, but can never find when you need it…

I speak from bitter experience on this subject, because I know how tedious it can seem to go back through submitted bids to strip out and archive good content for the future. However, I have also wasted many an hour under a lot of stress sorting through previous submissions for golden pieces of information.

Generic information which is asked for time after time

There is much standard information grouped into business functions which is requested time after time. The more you do to organise this, the easier your life will be.

This information includes (but isn’t exhaustive):

Organisational information

such as certificate of incorporation, company number, VAT number, registered address, number of offices, description of services provided. Review and update annually.

Finance and accounts

(always worth getting annual statistics on turnover by sector and service as well, if you want to be ahead of the game). Review and update annually.

Quality management

Including QA certificates, standard text on approach and process, implementation and non-conformance, and complaints procedures. Review and update annually. Speak to the QA manager following any audits.

Health and safety

Including H&S certificate or relevant procedures and systems. It is definitely worth getting your head around CDM regulations if you are a bid writer/manager working in the built environment. The roles and responsibilities are different and this has an implication for the information required. It is also worth noting the CDM regs will be changing again in 2015, with big implications for architects.

Review and update annually and keep up to date with any changes in regulations, so you can speak to the H&S manager about them

Environment

Such as an environmental management certificate or similar processes and procedures. Try to also to gather information which demonstrates the effectiveness of initiatives. Also, if your organisation is involved in designing and delivering BREEAM-accredited buildings, you can never have too many case studies on how the grade was achieved and what the quantifiable outcomes have been.

Review the standard information annually and produce case studies on an ongoing basis.

People

This information can be wide-ranging, including Investors in People, policies on a range of issues from recruitment to development, staff numbers cut by grade and staff turnover. Best to make good friends with your HR team and ask them to provide a range of information on a regular basis.

Review and update annually

Discipline-specific information

Such as design approach or approach to planning construction projects. This information will be guided by quality management processes and will be available within the business. Ensure you are communicating it accurately.

Review and update annually and be aware of any updates or changes

Bespoke ‘golden nuggets’

This is the information which is created specifically for certain bids and other submissions. It is generally technical in nature and takes a while to produce. Examples can include ‘added value’, ‘BREEAM’ or technical approach, but again, this list isn’t exhaustive.

When the submission has been completed, go through the bid and strip out this content and archive it in a separate Word document. The most simple approach is to create one document with an index of the questions, along with the responses. This will enable you to quickly search through in future and will also provide you with a boilerplate or ‘starter for ten’ for those last minute submissions.

Again, this information can be reviewed annually or more frequently and updated with fresh content or examples. Always key to these questions is the quality of evidence provided to support your claims. Make sure you speak to your technical colleagues to know what is happening on projects.

Please get in touch with me if I can help you develop a standard information library for your business.

Leonie's top 5 tips for successful bid writing

When I was preparing for my podcast with Pritesh Patel this week, I thought about the top 5 things which are essential for successful bid writing, or to be a successful bid writer.

Here is the list as it currently stands…

Have an excellent approach to writing winning bid responses.
Critical to the success of any submission is an excellent approach to writing bid responses. Interrogate the question to define what the key words are and understand what the question is asking.

Don’t be tempted to shoe-horn a previous response into the gap. Certainly use this information as a basis, but refine it and create bespoke information for this project and client.

I will talk more about my approach in a later blog post.

Develop a broad range of skills, including writing, DTP and project management.
The three are generally expected and will enable you to be super-flexible, as well as a good prospective employee when applying for roles.

Bids tend to be put together in either MS Office, using Word or in Adobe CreativeSuite, using InDesign. If possible, be proficient at both approaches.

It is likely you will have one skill which you are less strong at. Be mindful of this and work to develop it.

Have an excellent library of standard information at your finger-tips.
Standard information can be a challenge and a bind to collate and curate, however it will create a firm foundation from which to produce excellent bid documents. There is a lot of standard information which is requested time after time, including financial, sustainability and environmental, quality management, health and safety and approach to design/construction.

Ensure the contents are regularly reviewed and when a bid is submitted, go through the document and save key content for use at a later date. This practice will save you so much time in the future. In particular, save bespoke technical responses which focus on added value or lessons learnt. Different iterations of these questions come up time and again.

Information management is something I am particularly interested in and I would love to hear how other people approach this.

Client knowledge and market intelligence.
Bidder, know your client and understand what is required for each project being bid for. What are the drivers of the project? What are the client’s concerns? Which key experience will support your claims? Who are the key people you should put forward as part of your team?

From a market intelligence perspective, understand the space you are operating in, key themes, risks, concerns and mitigations. It also doesn’t hurt to wonder who the competition is likely to be and how you can best neutralise their strengths.

Be passionate about the industry you work in.
I work in construction and the built environment and I have spent most of my working life in it. I love buildings and structures and am fascinated by the process undertaken to design and construct them. It’s an industry I find inspiring and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I really enjoy working with my technical colleagues to communicate their expertise and ingenuity to a wider audience.

For those of you wondering why I’m not an engineer or builder myself, it’s because my skills are entirely language and arts-based. I can’t count for toffee, so my buildings would never be straight.

Thoughts on the first few days of setting up a new business

Thoughts on the first few days of setting up a new business

Actually, so far I’m having a lot of fun. Thanks to social media and the many people I’ve worked with over the years, I am making connections far quicker than I thought I would. This is so exciting. When I speak to people about what I have decided to do, they are so positive. The milestone will be having a quotation for work accepted and being commissioned for a project. I aim for this to happen this coming week.

The benefit of offering services freelance is that I am now liberated from corporate machines and can be more active on Twitter and other social media channels. I can literally be myself, without worrying about infringing organisational policies. I am looking forward to exploring this facet in more detail over the coming months and years. It isn’t that I want to be particularly controversial, but I now have flexibility to undertake a range of projects in a variety of ways. For example, this week I am taking part in a podcast on bid-writing. I would never have been able to do this before and I am looking forward to explaining to the world exactly what it is that I do and how it adds value to businesses.

My biggest challenge so far is replacing the mobile phone which was stolen last week. A mobile phone is an integral part of modern life, so having one taken from you is rather a wrench. However, the experience is teaching me to be resourceful and I have been Skyping a lot over the past few days. This has the two-fold benefits of being able to see the other person and using Skype is free. Even better!

So, I am enjoying the working for myself experience and perhaps my only regret is that I didn’t do it years ago!