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bidding

Framework Agreements: Getting SMEs involved in public procurement

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Framework Agreements: Getting SMEs involved in public procurement

The annual conbined turnover of UK Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) was over £1.8 trillion in 2016. Governments in recent years have committed more and more funding to them, since it is clear they are key to economic growth.

Following on from a previous blog (‘A Bidding Guide for Small Businesses’, 10/04/17), we want to discuss how else SMEs can get involved in public procurement. Framework agreements represent around 45% of procurements in the UK, and they are increasingly valuable for SMEs.

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A Bidding Guide for Small Businesses

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A Bidding Guide for Small Businesses

However small a business, there are always opportunities to enter the public sector procurement market. As a fellow Small and Medium Enterprise (SME), HealthBid loves working with the small and mighty businesses out there, and can help make sense of the processes that may appear daunting and unreachable at first.

This guide will hopefully show how big an impact SMEs can have by getting involved in the procurement process, and will highlight how we can further help you.

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Grappling with Graphics

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Grappling with Graphics

There are no surprises to be had when I say that bidding is mainly writing. With this naturally comes the organisational aspects such as planning and time management, but, in order to churn out the 50000 words say to complete a compliant bid, content is key.

However, content is not necessary limited to letters and punctuation. The idiom "a picture is worth a thousand words" comes to mind. In bidding, you have to show the Commissioner your vision, and what more practical way to achieve this than through images?

Photos can be used, presenting a certain location or initiative already established within the community. This can aid in supporting an explanation, or providing the Commissioner with visuals to further fortify the foundations of your bid. It also simply breaks up the text for those who are reading your work, making it easier to digest.

Graphics are also great for illustrating structures, models, and pathways. For example, most bids ask for a staffing structure to demonstrate how you plan to run the service, clearly showing the lines of governance. Describing that would leave the interpretation of the structure itself up to the reader, a potentially risky strategy when explaining a complex service. This is where graphics spring in to leave no question as to the proposed plan.

Another key factor is what everything means for the patient, the service user, the client. How it modifies their care pathway. How it changes their life. This pathway is the keystone of your answer, how you can innovate and revolutionise healthcare in that area with your proposal. It's all very well describing the service through the delivery model, but not enabling the Commissioner to visualise the impact within the community does it no justice. This is where patient pathway diagrams are useful, guiding the reader through the positive changes for the service user.

You don't need to be an expert in graphic design to create these diagrams (although you can create some pretty snazzy ones if you are), as programmes such as Microsoft PowerPoint enable you to easily create a basic flowchart. However, getting to grips with products like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign allow for the creation of simple and striking diagrams to effectively support your writing.

Do you want some help with your graphics? Or maybe just need some support explaining your delivery model? No matter what your bidding need, HealthBid are here to help. Drop Tom Sheppard a line at tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk to find out more.

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Deadlines: never miss one again

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Deadlines: never miss one again

We’ve all been there – half an hour before the deadline, and still hurrying to get the last pieces of the puzzle together. Your heart is pounding, hands are sweating, and you’re completely rushed off your feet.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Since HealthBid are experts at meeting strict deadlines, we have come up with a few handy tips to help you on your way to meeting all your future targets.

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Word Counts: Make your Words Count

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Word Counts: Make your Words Count

Capture planning, designing the solution, story-boarding answers… Here at HealthBid, we recognise these as the key parts of the process that is bidding. However, when composing the bid itself, the basic rules of writing come back into play: structure, content, & word counts. Structure and content are on the whole prepared for through the previous stages, yet word counts are set by the commissioning body and have to be adhered to. Unless, of course, there is no word count... Either way, capped or uncapped, it is a useful part of the question to take into account.

 

Capped

When there is a word count, this is a good indication of how much content you should include. For example, 500 words indicates only the bare bones of your ideas should be cohesively included, whereas 4000 words really gives you room for examples, thorough explanations and justifications.

Despite what can feel like frustrating restrictions at the time, word counts can improve your answer. They prevent you from waffling, forcing you to be concise and really reflect on what you are writing. They are therefore not just there to consume yet more time through cutting words at the end of the project.

However, the amount of content you have for each question will differ. There is little point padding out an answer just to reach the word count when you could have said the same information in half the number of words. This will retract from the key points within the response and just serve to dilute your answer. It is important to be confident with your writing; if you believe you have covered all the important points and communicated them well, yet are under the word limit, leave it be.

With a capped word count, also make sure to thoroughly read the tender documentation. Where you include diagrams, appendices, etc., be aware that, in some cases, these may count towards the word count.

 

Uncapped

Bid responses can also have no word count. This may initially seem like the ideal situation, with the possibility to write whatever you want without any consideration for its length. It certainly is a lot easier when you first put pen to paper, as there is less pressure to adhere to a limit. However, as mentioned above, word counts can help your answer. The danger is that, with an unlimited amount of words, the key points are hidden within a large amount of other information which, if we’re honest, isn’t entirely relevant and consequently doesn’t need to be there.

In this situation, it is often helpful to set your own limit. Having read the question and knowing your content, the information required is usually clear, thus the necessary length of the response reflects this. It also makes sense if there are multiple bid writers working on the same submission, as it avoids large discrepancies between the lengths of answers, making the bid more cohesive when read as a whole.

 

If you need support with any part of the bidding process, from simply cutting down your answers to fit the word count to writing it your responses for you, get in touch with our Managing Director, Tom Sheppard, at tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk.

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Refine your design

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Refine your design

As you may presume, the main focus of bid writing is, indeed, writing. Yet it is important in the early stages of your planning process to fully think through what you’re offering, i.e. what you will be writing about. The service specification will provide the basis for what you’re writing, but the way that your organisation interprets it and provides its solution is another way to secure a win.

 

The solution design really comes from that early planning stage we always speak of – you can gather information about the commissioning team, the incumbent, the approaches of competitors, and any other relevant information. Bidding events are another great way to gauge the situation, often giving you a chance not only to clarify the spec but to get a feel for what the commissioners want.

 

So, with all that in mind, solution design should reflect what you’re capable of, what your organisation believes in, and what is being asked for. Ensuring you come up with a solution at a reasonable price (not always the cheapest, just so long as it represents good value for money), which offers something that not only responds to the service spec but also has room for progress and innovation, gives you the all-round package. Once you have your solution design, the writing can begin to take its final shape.

 

Here at HealthBid, we don’t just write bids. We also use our expertise and strategic viewpoint to support the creation of your solution design. If you want help with creating your plan, or maybe just a bit of support with putting it on paper for the final bid, we can offer our blended approach of writing, reviewing and expert strategic advice, or whichever combination suits you best. Give our team a call on 07341 338 200 if you want to find out more.

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Manage to win

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Manage to win

To be successful when bidding, there’s a simple way to approach it: to manage to win, manage the process. There are obviously other factors which contribute to the success, such as sector knowledge, meticulous scoping and effective writing. Yet without thorough management, your bid risks lacking focus and losing direction, ultimately meaning it won’t be at its best on submission day. Which is obviously too late.

 

We have said this many a time here at HealthBid (& we will continue to do so!): preparation is key to unlocking the door to success. It’s never too early to start on a tender, especially ones which run over a relatively extensive period of time. With the best will in the world, someone can’t keep when every document and every answer is due, as well as who needs to do what, all in their head. And, quite frankly, what’s the point? It won’t help others to see the progress of the team, and it’s so much easier to write it down.

 

If you do this, you’re already on the right track. However, your own notes and squiggles can often be difficult to interpret by someone else, which is usually fine if they’re just for you. With a bid, it’s the teamwork which can make or break the process. For this reason, you need a communal document which everyone can access, consult and update; you then know what’s happening and when, and whether it has been achieved – perfect for keeping an eye on progress, and managing the outcomes.

 

With the emphasis on teamwork, HealthBid are not just your average bid consultancy. We can of course follow the usual approach, providing you with one of our associates, but we can also offer our a more multi-skilled approach with our in-house bid engine. It keeps it simple and effective: with only one day rate to pay as standard, you get the best combination of bid writing, bid management, and specialist insight of a whole team, with all the varying skills in there. To revolutionise the way you bid or simply just to find out more about our blended approach, contact our Business Development Manager, Joe, at joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk

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Excel with Experience

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Excel with Experience

In certain situations, experience and the knowledge it provides is vital. For example, if you aren’t feeling 100% and you want to get a reliable second opinion, you’d trust the advice of your GP over that of your friend, as your GP has more knowledge and experience in that area. Likewise, if you have a specific issue when you go to your GP, such as an eye problem, you are sometimes referred to a specialist, an ophthalmologist in this case.

 

Experience is therefore evidently an asset. Bidding is no exception. You may know your organisation inside out, but ensuring that the knowledge is communicated in the best way can be a challenge. Writing a good bid isn’t just about knowing your own company either; other companies who will be competing, the commissioning body and the incumbent all are key things to analyse, and being able to use this knowledge effectively to your advantage is a skill.

 

Additionally, if you don’t have a bid team within your company, someone will have to write the bid on top of their day-to-day workload. We know that you’ll already be working your socks off, and this could be a big ask. Instead of compromising the quality of the bid, you can use HealthBid. We can help you to write your bid, write it for you, or check it at the end. Not only are we experienced in bidding, but we also know the healthcare sector inside out. When a contract is worth a hefty amount over, say, 5-7 years, why not invest in extra help to ensure you maximise your winning potential? If you want some extra support, give us a ring on 07341 338 200.

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A Win-Win Situation

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A Win-Win Situation

As we have said many a time here at HealthBid, preparation is key. You always stand a much greater chance of success if you take the time to prepare and organise the bidding process. There are many stages to this, but no matter which you’re at: if you want to win, you have to know how. Enter the win strategy.

 

As part of the capture planning process during your preparation, you will perform both analyses of your company and your competitors. Out of this should blossom factors which can be highlighted to put you in a prime position to win, as well as instances where you can’t quite match up to others... Win strategies incorporate all of these: your strengths are obvious winning leads, yet identifying your weaknesses and mitigating them is also an important part of strategically developing your answers.

 

To ensure your bid really gets across your strengths, streamline your win strategy into win themes. Having concise bullets which perfectly encapsulate why you should win makes it easier to weave them through your answers. With these key ideas both overtly and subtly included in all of your responses, not only can you provide an answer to the main areas of the specification but you can also reinforce your strengths to make your bid stand out above the others.

 

Without these win themes, you have less focus on what you’re aiming to highlight. Win themes therefore not only help the writing process but also the Red Team (what is a Red Team? See our previous blog post here!). You can compare and contrast what your answers really say with the key ideas you wanted to initially get across, making any relevant changes to strengthen them before submitting the bid.

 

Want help with creating your win strategy? Picking out your win themes? How about checking your answers are in sync with them? For any help with the bidding process, get in touch with us on 07341 338 200, or send an email over to our Business Development Manager, Joe (joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk).

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The Strengths of Story Time

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The Strengths of Story Time

There is no doubt that writing is a powerful tool. When you’re young, bed-time stories are one of the highlights of your day. When you get just that bit older, despite the narratives changing slightly, stories still remain a great channel through which to engage people and express a point. This is why we believe they are a key factor to bear in mind when composing a bid.

Evidently, the aim here is slightly different to when you were a child; instead of falling into a blissful slumber, you want a story to bring your day-to-day accomplishments as a company to life, and strike a chord with the commissioner. Short of showing them in person how your company works, which of course you can do once the bid has been won, a story gives the most realistic impression of how what you do (and how you do it) would greatly help the situation in question.

Simply describing the way in which your services work and letting the commissioner deduce its benefits is a passive method which makes the reader disengage. Be creative: imagine up a character who is using your solution in their organisation, use it to show them how it has a positive influence on the lives of the patients, and therefore how it’s their best option. They can then visualise why they should choose your bid and services over others, setting you up nicely on the path to victory.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell your company’s story. Just like tailoring your bid to the tender and to the commissioner as discussed in the last post, make your company relatable through giving it that more personal edge and help the reader to understand its purpose. Finding out who created the solution and why will make your bid stronger, as the commissioner will further comprehend your reasons for tendering. If you fancy getting your stories straight and streamlining your bid, don’t hesitate to call us on 07341 338 200 or send an email to joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk!

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