Personally I still feel relatively new to it all as I know there are stalwarts in the industry who have been applying for tenders for much longer than I have, and probably secured much larger ones too.
However as you’ll know if you’ve ever read previous blog posts of mine, or you keep up to date with our social networks, we’re pretty open, honest people and if we can shed some light on the matter to help another business person, we're happy to share our journey and a few take homes to help out….
How it all startedOur first ever tender win was a collaboration in 2009 with another local company. They had a good track record of securing Government money and they were applying for AusIndustry funds as part of the SBO or Small business Online project.
Because we had the smarts on the subject matter in question, and they had the track record of securing and winning Government tenders, it was a logical step for both parties to collaborate. We were lucky enough to be informed we had won our first tender (albeit in collaboration) right before Christmas 2009. You could say it was a nice Christmas present!
Take away #1: If you haven’t applied for, or won a tender before, look to collaborate with someone who has to increase the credibility of your application. Government agencies are risk-averse and love to deal with ‘tested and proven’ business. In my experience you can’t generally win tenders without having previously won tenders, so if this is your first one, be creative about how you get started.
Check out a short video about this win here (though please note, I have never used and do not necessarily endorse the company who produced the video):
The second winIn early 2010 an opportunity came up to apply for a tender being offered by the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) to develop and deliver webinars to small businesses across Australia. We offered another company the opportunity to collaborate, but they never got back to us in time to meet the deadline, so we backed ourselves and threw our hat in of our own accord.
And what do you know, but we won it! I can tell you, your first independent tender win feels pretty sweet and is something you should certainly feel proud of yourself for. I’ll certainly never forget pulling into a petrol station as I took a call that day to tell us we had been successful. I wanted to skip in and out of the petrol pumps (but restrained myself and turned the mobile off for obvious safety reasons!)
Take away #2: Back yourself to have a crack on your own. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Our first major grant winEach year, most local councils give out minor and major grants for a wide range of initiatives. In our area there are 4 rounds of funding each year in a range of categories: Community Development, Cultural Development, Economic Development, Environment, Festive Season Activities, Heritage and History and Sport, Recreation and Healthy Living.
We applied for funding towards our Web Wednesday events, which are our professional development and networking events which we have been running since 2008 for little to no profit – more of a community service because we believe in providing quality education and connecting people in the industry and students to jobs.
Given we let students come for free, and continue to keep the entry to these events at an extremely affordable $35 per ticket, it was excellent to get recognized for all our hard work to this point in time (end 2010) with a helping hand in the form of a Major Grant under the economic development category of our local Sunshine Coast Council.
Take away #3: Councils generally won’t fund new projects. They’re more likely to be successful if you have a proven track record i.e. you have already launched/developed/been delivering the program/project in question and have achieved good success with it. This proves you are committed and have the smarts and where-with-all to continue to successfully deliver the initiative, should you be successful.
Being re-contractedNow this is something if you want to get into tenders and grants you really have to know – just because you’ve won a tender one time, does not in any way mean you will continue to be re-contracted.
Government organisations have an obligation to be equitable at all times, so even if you have built up the best rapport in the world, if projects are worth over a certain amount (generally around $10,000) you’ll have to re-tender for them.
However if you successfully re-tender, this is when things start getting really sweet. You have a much better feel for what project costs are likely to be and are therefore in a position to quote more accurately. Having run the project before you are also much better positioned to anticipate any issues and deliver an even higher quality service.
Take away #4: Just because you’ve won a tender one time, does not in any way mean you will continue to be re-contracted. Don’t get too used to the regular money – ensure you have diverse income streams that will provide good cash flow in between tenders.
The latest winOur latest win is securing the Skills Queensland funded, Broadband Today presented Get Up To Speed program, which is for all Queensland businesses to raise their skills and knowledge surrounding current and emerging digital technologies and digital skills. This 12 week program features a live event, webinars, elessons, an extensive resource portal, access to mentors & more.
I believe key to this win is that we not only listened to what they requested in the tender submission, but we also tried to add value at every stage and under every criteria too. In short they asked for something, but we promised even more and in some cases we even provided alternative ways of doing things if what they were suggesting didn’t seem right to us.
It can sometimes be hard to do this but just know that behind the scenes of tender requests are often busy people who are trying to appease multiple stakeholders, and to understand the need by the organization offering the funding and/or the demand in the marketplace and to bring all this together in a document, but who may not necessarily know the subject matter in question. If you can respond with a submission that clearly suggests that you know your stuff and can play a confident and capable lead role in managing the project, you’ll help alleviate the tendering organisations anxieties about what are sometimes significantly sized projects and up your chances of winning the project.
Take away #5: Don’t be afraid to include some opinion in your submission. If you don’t think a project can or should be run in a certain way, tell them, but provide alternative solutions. The very fact you demonstrate this initiative could make you all the more desirable as a tendering candidate.
More FAQs related to applying for tenders and grants
What’s involved in applying for Government tenders?I won’t lie to you, applying for tenders is generally a mammoth effort. The shortest application I’ve made was probably 15 pages and a typical application is probably around 80 A4 pages.
Some tender submissions will require you to pull together some basic items you are more than likely to have on hand in business i.e. ABNs, trading names etc; while others are far more strenuous requiring you to have extensive insurances in place and to insure for extremely high amounts, which can hit the wallet hard when you’re getting these things in place in the HOPE of winning the tender.
Some will require very in-depth answers to key questions which are well researched, well written and well structured. This is certainly not just a case of finding a student who has a way with their words! It’s quite a highly refined skill and one I would recommend you definitely seek some demonstrated
I’ve seen sites promoting the fact that you can pay them and they’ll find you tenders to enter. Are they any good?I can’t say I’ve ever used any, so I’m sorry I can’t vouch for any. I do mine the long, hard, slow way – myself!
Any secrets to creating a top class tender submission or grant application?Our tender submissions and grant applications (and business award submissions for that matter) are generally highly visual and professional designed documents. Besides investing masses of time in writing them, we also invest masses of time in designing them. We do this because we feel sorry for the poor sods who have to wade through reams of paper in their evaluation of each and every tender submission they receive (and they generally receive quite a few), so we try and make their job a little easier!
So what about if I have a great idea I want the Government to fund, they do that don’t they?A lot of people think it’s a case of just coming up with a good idea, approaching the right person in a Government department and saying ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a great idea and you should give me a wad of cash so I can implement it.’ I can tell you right now from working in Government in various capacities over my career, things just don’t work like that.
In contrast, Governments usually discuss and then commit to an entire year’s budget between April
and end June each year. Within this budget there will be consideration given to the types of initiatives they will spend this budget on to achieve the desired outcomes and there will also generally be associated time frames.
When a Government agency decides they are ready to go with a project, they will ‘put it out to tender’ on one of several websites, a list of which can be found below. You can set up to receive alerts from relevant Government agencys and on relevant topics that you regard yourself as a specialist in to narrow down the many opportunities. If you don’t, it can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
How can I find out about tenders/grants/and generally accessing Government money?Here is a helpful list of tender and grant websites you could check out to find out what your company good go for which I’m more than happy to share:
• Sunshine Coast Council
• Qld Govt tenders
• Local Government tenders
• National Government tenders
• Find government grants and assistance for individuals, businesses and communities
Happy tender and grant submission writing, and if you need some help with your submission give us a holler. Yes, we do offer these services!