Government Tenders - are they worth all the effort?

Government tenders can be hard work.  Lots of hard work, and that takes lots of time.  Most businesses I work with to write tender responses are really really great at what they do but when it comes time to submit a bid, suddenly it all becomes a bit too hard.  

Many businesses soldier on with a poorly written response in an effort to save on cost, only to find their bid isn't successful because it didn't meet all of the response criteria.  Let's face it, if you're going to produce a half-hearted tender response just so you can get something in, you can't expect to be seriously considered.

So the dilemma for many businesses often comes down to whether or not the reward is worth the effort and the cost - and regardless of whether you go it alone or hire a professional, you still need to put in some effort and of course pay the cost.

The Effort Required to Write a Great Tender Response

All tenders are different but there are usually common elements across all of them and these include:

Demonstrated Experience - it's not good enough to simply list some of the similar projects that you've worked on.  This is your opportunity to really showcase your business and how well you match the tender requirements.  If you're not going to put some effort into this, don't bother going any further.

OHS&E and Quality Management Systems - you can't just state that you comply with Health and Safety, Environmental and Quality requirements. Most tenders these days want to see a copy of your OHS&E and Quality Management Systems, and they'll want to know if it's ISO certified.  If you don't have this documentation, don't bother going any further until do.  Most tender writers should be able to write these documents for you.  When I write these, I always state in the tender response that the documents are not ISO certified but have been developed in accordance with ISO principles.  

If you hire a tender writer, you won't need to put as much effort in to your response but be warned - you'll still need to provide plenty of information to enable the bid to be developed.

The Cost of Writing a Great Tender Response

So you pretty much have 2 options - do it yourself or hire a professional.  If you do it yourself you won't have a lot of out of pocket expenses but you'll need to find a fair bit of time to get the job done.  Since tenders vary quite a bit, how much time depends on how savvy you are when it comes to writing, but for most tenders I work on I'd spend around 30 - 50 hours before I'm happy with the result.  If you're not a professional writer, you'll need to allow more time than this.  If you don't have the time, either don't respond, or find someone who can do it for you.

Speaking of which, a professional tender writer will probably cost you somewhere between $300  - $5000 to complete your tender response.  But this figure should include all of your supporting documentation such as your OHS&E and Quality Management Plans.  Expect this to be more if you also need individual processes documented to support the plans.

And there is a third option - that is to write your own response but hire a professional ISO consultant to help you through the OHS&E and Quality process.  If you're a small business, you can expect the ISO certification process to take 6 to 12 months.  Getting the documentation ready will set you back around $10,000 - $15,000 and then the annual certification process will cost you another $3500 - $4500 (note that these are rough guides only, it's obviously different for each business.

So is a Government Tender Worth the Effort?

In my book if you think you have the capability and capacity to meet the tender requirements then I'd say definitely yes.  Consider this (figures are from the 2014/15 financial year):

  • 69,236 Government contracts were awarded worth a staggering $59.5 billion
  • 67% of contracts were worth < $80,000 and 18% were worth between $80,000 to $249,000
  • 62% of contracts related to services and 38% to the supply of goods

If you want to be a part of this $59 billion opportunity but you're not sure where to start, give me a call on 0400 514579 or drop me an email to and let's chat.