Helen Milligan, Commercial Manager with Gem Oils, explains: “We had submitted tenders in the past but struggled to win the business on a number of occasions. When we entered as a joint venture we had more success so we realised that we needed to improve our skills if we were going to succeed in the public sector market, which provides many opportunities for our business with a variety of amenities requiring lubricants.
“Our Chairman sent me an email from InterTradeIreland regarding their Go2Tender Advanced programme and we discussed how it might be timely and appropriate for me to complete the course to enhance our internal tendering skills. Things were changing in the public procurement market and they still are with new processes and systems being put in place. We believed this was the ideal time to revise how we put together our submissions and tailor information to compete in this market.
“I booked to go to Newry for the workshop element of the course which was unfortunately postponed. When Go2Tender contacted me to let me know that there would be a place on the next masterclass, I mentioned that the timing would have been perfect for the postponed workshop as there was a live tender that I had hoped to go through.
“As soon as they heard this, they offered me the mentoring element of the course first to assist with the tender which suited perfectly. I really felt that they were willing to go out of their way to help and be there for us as this was back-to-front compared to how things are usually done.
“Our Go2Tender consultant came in to help us with a cross-border submission to supply lubricants for Translink’s bus & rail network across Northern Ireland. As the incumbent supplier we needed to work hard to retain this valued account.”
InterTradeIreland’s Go2Tender programme gives SMEs the confidence, knowledge and practical skills to tender successfully for public sector contracts, with an emphasis on cross-border opportunities.
Helen continued: “For the mentoring element of Go2Tender our consultant came into the premises and initially took me through previous tender submissions. We looked at whether I had actually fully answered the questions. This helped me to change my mind-set as to how the questions should be approached.
“Our mentor asked straightforward questions with the benefit of being an outsider to our business, helping us to address how we might explain to someone who doesn’t know our business just what we do and how to convey this in the tender. This was extremely important for us as whoever is judging the tender may not be an expert in lubricants and their application and we needed to communicate our messages clearly.
“I also quickly learned that as a company we needed to ‘blow our own trumpet’ more. Things that we do as second nature such as our high levels of customer service were not always communicated adequately through tenders. They are part of what we do every day but we need to actually say this on paper rather than assume that the end-reader will know. Little tips and simple changes like this can make all of the difference to fully answering the questions and ensuring that all the criteria are met and boxes checked.
“When I compared the final Translink tender, which we submitted after the Go2Tender mentoring, against other submissions, it was like comparing night and day! The assistance and support that we received really helped Gem Oils over the line to win this contract.
“This business accounts for approximately 12% of our turnover so it is a significant win for us. It is a three year contract with the possibility of extension for a further two years and we are delighted to secure the business. We are tendering for similar business and have a lot more confidence in our submissions. Even if we don’t win we are raising our profile in front of key decision-makers and would be more hopeful to achieve positive results in future tendering processes as the systems continue to evolve in Ireland.”
Helen attended two Go2Tender workshops in Newry and Dublin post-mentoring and found the tips and techniques provided a useful back-up and reinforcement of her one-to-one training.
She added: “The workshops were very helpful and following my participation on the Advanced programme, I am now going to complete the Go2Tender Basic programme! I believe that it will further solidify the fundamentals of tendering for me.
“I would thoroughly recommend the Go2Tender workshops and mentoring to other SMEs across Ireland. The cross-border procurement market is such an unknown quantity for some companies and the course really helps to demystify this as well as offering companies the key skills required to address the complexities of the tendering process.
“My whole approach to submissions has changed completely and we have now built new processes into our internal operations. We evaluate the requirements of each tender individually and break down exactly what it is asking asked for and ensure we can meet each of the criteria. Most importantly - we communicate this clearly!
“I was truly encouraged to find out that so much support was out there for SMEs and participating on Go2Tender has up-skilled me and helped the company to secure significant new business.”
Information on InterTradeIreland Tender Supports
Please encourage companies in your constituency to consider our Go-2-Tender workshops. We have workshops running across Northern Ireland in 2014. Details cound be found on our website. You will also find more information on our other tender supports on the website also. www.intertradeireland.com/public-procurement