How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

There are two key pieces of work-winning collateral which are sure to be requested for each construction submission, whether it is a PQQ or ITT. These are project information sheets or case studies and CVs.

[Tweet “CVs provide the opportunity for the bidder to clearly demonstrate the calibre, skills and experience of the proposed team. “]

Here is my how-to guide to write winning CVs for construction submissions. 

#1 – The basics   

This is the basic information you need to include:

  • Name
  • Role/proposed role on the project
  • Qualifications

#2 – Profile of the individual  

Use this section to clearly align the person with the requirements of the project. Use the client’s language to reflect back their team requirements. 

Write an overview of the individual. This needs to succinctly describe the individual, their background, key skills and any particular specialism they may have. Specialisms may include particular sector, contract-type experience or building typologies.

The information included in this section needs to be relevant and appropriate to the project being bid for.

#3 – Proposed role on the project   

Why has this person been selected and what will their daily project responsibilities be? 

Clearly demonstrate to the client and their advisory team why this individual has been carefully chosen for their project.

Explain:

  • how they will interface with the client and project team;
  • who they report to;
  • how much time they will spend on the project, i.e. full-time or visiting; and
  • what their specific daily responsibilities will be.

#4 – Projects   

Demonstrate how the individual has added value and made a big difference on their previous schemes. Quantify the impact. 

Although it is important to put into context a person’s experience, merely describing the project really misses a great opportunity to demonstrate the calibre of the person. Include dates, project value and a brief project description, but use this section to focus on a person’s  specific contribution to a project. Also ensure the added value examples clearly relate to the project you are pursuing.

Examples of added value:

  • Developing efficient design to exceed minimum statutory standards.
  • Designing an energy-efficient heating/lighting/ventilation system which has had a demonstrable positive benefit for the client, saving them money (quantify the amount of money saved by the client through this solution).
  • Developing a construction solution which saved time, money or both.
  • Working on a site which was occupied throughout the build period.
  • Clear, quantifiable examples of innovation or sustainability.

#5 – Nice to includes 

Include the nice extras, including completion photographs and client testimonials. 

Please contact me to work with you on developing bespoke CVs or other bid collateral for submissions.

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Project information capture: a construction marketer’s biggest challenge 

Without a doubt a construction marketer’s biggest challenge is securing and interpreting a never-ending stream of project information to enable quality content marketing to be produced, build profile and win projects.

Project information capture: why, what, when?  

There are some key considerations for project information capture.

They are:

  • Why do we need project information?  
  • What does quality project information look like? 
  • When do I capture it?
Why do we need project information?

Project information shifts your marketing content and tender responses from being descriptive and features-based, to being outcomes and benefits-based. 

From a marketer’s perspective, quality project information is literally worth its weight in gold. I believe its value can be demonstrated in one simple formula:

(Quality project information = quality content) = more projects won + more people in work.

Showcasing benefits, rather than features, speaks directly to client needs and wants, as well as demonstrating innovative thinking and added-value. It also creates amazing bid responses, award submissions and shareable blog posts.

From a purely practical point of view, proactively captured project information goes a long way towards making any kind of submission process a lot smoother.

What does this information look like?

Quality project information clearly shows why your organisation provided a better service to the client and project than your competitors. It will tell a story using examples, evidence, pictures and some words.

First things first 

It may sound basic, but double-check the project details you have on record. Include the contractor, architect, engineers and of course the client. Also find out who the contact is for references going forward.

Speaking with your project-based colleagues (the who bit of the process)

Speak with technical colleagues about projects regularly and schedule a formal interview when the project is completed.

Consider the following points during your conversations:

  • Challenges of the project and the solutions developed to meet them. Challenges will generally focus around key areas of site, programme, budget or sustainability. These issues require innovation and ingenuity to solve them and its these solutions we need to capture and communicate efficiently to our stakeholders.
  • Benefits delivered to the client and project through approach.
  • Examples of innovation, including why the approach or solution was innovative and quantification of the project and client benefits.
  • Added-value examples.
  • Examples of sustainability, quantifying benefits.
  • Examples of cost and programme savings, with the impacts properly quantified.

Use these conversations to develop your knowledge (assuming you’re a desk-bound marketer). If you are unsure of technical language, ask for clarification. And remember the golden rule: evidence, evidence, evidence. Any claim which can’t be backed up by proper evidence or examples shouldn’t be included in any piece of collateral or content marketing.

Information storage 

Using a tabulated format like this facilitates capture, storage and eventual retrieval. You will also find that this kind of format will provide a great ‘starter for 10’ when putting together those pesky last minute PQQ responses.

Challenge Solution Outcome Benefit to the client Examples or evidence
Challenge A
Challenge B
When do you capture project information? 

Please see above about regular dialogue with technical colleagues and a project completion interview. 

I’m a great believer in creating a project sheet right from the project being formally commissioned by the client, so essentially project information should be captured and organised from a project’s inception.

Please don’t leave project information capture to when a job is handing over. Clearly the delivery team will have other things on their minds to be wanting to help you.

Construction Marketing podcast – capturing project information 

For some more detail on this topic, last year I took part in a podcast with Pritesh Patel and Mike Reader. On the podcast we discussed the challenges and provided some solutions. The podcast can be listened to here.

Next steps

If I can help you to to efficiently capture project information, or use it to create amazing content marketing or scheme-winning PQQs, please get in touch and let me know.

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Further to the post I wrote in November 2014 about the bid cost survey MarketingWorks and the University of Reading were undertaking, the results have recently been published in Construction News.

The results were very instructive and clearly demonstrate the need for everyone working in the construction industry to be:

  • more selective about the work they pitch for; and
  • spend much more time pre-bid getting to know the client and understanding their drivers, needs, concerns and aspirations for the project.

When I was working in-house, I spent much of my time being instructed to ‘take a punt’ on opportunities we were clearly not going to win, because we didn’t have the right relationships or experience. Basically we hadn’t done the right groundwork in advance. The impact of this was sub-standard submissions, no marketing and a very cheesed-off bid coordinator (or bid gimp, as I started calling myself).

There were some interesting statistics published in the article, including the rather startling assertion that some contractors are spending an average of 22% of their operating turnover pitching for work. If companies were more strategic about their bidding activities and the opportunities they were pursuing, they could convert this potential loss into a potential profit.

How much does it cost to bid a construction project?

The bid cost data was collected throughout 2014 and provides a snapshot of the industry during an improving market. It provided a sample of £11.3bn of total project value, of which £8bn has full cost data. This reflects a significant chunk of the total industry for the year.

Using this data, it was calculated the average cost of a winning tender was:

  • Contractors: £60,208 
  • Consultants: £23,821

These costs were calculated as an average across all respondents and project sizes.

This is where the 22% of operational turnover comes in. It is based on a conversion rate of 1:5. This figure will be challenged by many, however look at it from the opposite perspective. Basing your bidding strategy on a conversion rate of 1:5 still means you are planning to lose four out of every five pitches you submit. If your hit rate is lower than this, you are actually planning to be even less successful and therefore waste more overhead on pursuits you won’t win. Surely it’s time for a new approach?

Work-winning behaviours

The article points out that a number of behaviours play a critical role in work-winning, bid selectivity only being one of them.

Spend more time developing your proposal

This includes business development activities, like getting to know the client and understand the project, as well as bidding activities such as Go/No Go, proposal development and review. Clearly, this will cost the business more in terms of overhead spend, but if you are being more strategic and selective about the work you are pursuing, the costs will balance out and the rewards will be greater.

Client feedback, or lack of it

I know only too well the difficulty in obtaining quality client feedback following a submission, whether it has been successful or not. As Philip Collard rightly points out, the bidder not understanding the reasons for bids being unsuccessful “…leads to the conclusion that the industry as a whole (both sides of the work-winning process) are not valuing the role that feedback plays in improving the efficiency of work-winning approaches and behaviours.”

From a bidder’s perspective, if you don’t request feedback on bids, whether they are successful or unsuccessful, how will you know where you have gone wrong and how you can improve your submissions in the future. Similarly, clients must be prepared to provide detailed and valuable feedback to bidders, clearly highlighting perceived weaknesses and strengths. Closing this loop is essential if the industry is to make any attempt at continuous improvement where bidding is concerned.

Both Philip Collard and Jan Hayter (marketing director, MarketingWorks) can be contacted directly if you wish to discuss this research in more depth. You can also join in the discussion on Twitter via #bidcostsurvey.

The bid cost survey 2014

The people over at Marketing Works have been working with the University of Reading on a piece of research to understand the true cost of submitting bids in the construction industry, updating the original work undertaken in 2003.

The research is wide-ranging and surveys costs across contractors, subcontractors and consultants, sectors, and project values.

This is a timely piece of research, particularly in light of the recent UK SBS fiasco. If bid costs represent significant overheads for organisations in the construction industry, how can this process be more streamlined and how can competitors make sure they are successful?

I spoke with Philip Collard recently on how things were looking, ahead of the December deadline and he shared with me some interesting findings at this stage. Philip has also shared these on his Twitter feed, so I’m not saying anything I shouldn’t!

Key findings at this stage include: 

  • 18% responses are from consultants.
  • 9% responses came from sub-contractors.
  • 33% responses came from main contractors.
  • The average cost of a bid is approximately £45k, an increase of £15k from 2003.
  • A significant proportion of the bid spend is now in pre-bid activities, suggesting more activities around understanding the client before developing bid solutions and responses.
  • A Tier 1 contractor showed average bid costs being £200K+ for projects in £20-50 million bracket. Bidding costs equate to a significant chunk of overhead for businesses operating in this space.

The deadline to complete the survey is 5 December and input can be provided here: #bidcostsurvey2014. Results and analysis will be published in February 2015.

Follow the #bidcostsurvey2014 on Twitter to be part of the conversation.

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.