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#1
frax

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Hiya,

 

I am curious - are any of you guys bidding/tendering on public procurement? I have to confess that I now absolutely nothing about how it works in the US (nor Canada).

 

I have never worked as a first-line contractor for any public work, but as a sub-contractor - it is difficult to compete when you are 1-person business with bigger companies.

 

The reason I am posting now is that I a bit torn - I was just invited (after an EOI round) to participate in the second RFP-round - this is for a UN-type organization. I have been very close to winning two projects of not insignificant size in fall, but both times I (think I) have lost partly due to my proposal not being good enough (due to me not giving 100%) and the other time due to petty technicalities that I missed to include in the proposal.

 

I have always had the feeling that the chances of winning are extrememly low and it is not worth it to spend too much time/energy on tenders...

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Side note:

  • In Sweden there have been times when I have not bid on a certain procurement, but I have requested all the documentation produced - in Sweden all the bids, and the full notes from the decision making body are public information that needs to be made available on request. I find that cool - in Scandinavia we have one of the highest degrees of transparency in the World. I find it pretty cool that one can investigate these, quite interesting to follow the competition
  • I actually haven't bid on any EU procurement, maybe I should follow that more closely - but it would have to be some very specific/niche call - with how the currency stands now, any competition on price would be hard to win against all the competent people from countries like Poland and the like.
  • I do follow UN procurement and the like, and I have found some interesting bits here and there, but again, it would have to be something very specific to catch my interest - this time one competes against the entire World... For a fascinating listing - read through all the listings in the UN Global Marketplace: anything from snack-bar at a UN office in South-Sudan, to constructing a prison in Afghanistan or a shooting range at the Vienna office... When registereing one has to indicate wheter one has produced any anti-personell mines in the business. No, I don't think so, but I am not sure.

 


Hugo Ahlenius
Nordpil - custom maps and GIS
http://nordpil.com/
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#2
Charles Syrett

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I haven't done any of this kind of bidding in more than 20 years. Back then, at least in Canada, there were several factors that became evident over time:

1. Sometimes the "winner" had already been selected beforehand (someone's brother-in-law, or whatever), and the bidding process was just a formality.

2. Often the choice came down to the lowest bidder, who, unfortunately, was usually someone very inexperienced in production mapping, but urgently wanted to win a contract. Several fledgling companies were bankrupted by taking on projects that they had woefully under-budgeted.

3. In some cases, the projects were monitored very closely (perhaps excessively) by contractor employees looking for a "feather in their cap". Having observed, first-hand, the standards these people used in-house as compared to how they monitored outside contractors, I can say that the gap was considerable.

Perhaps things work differently now - I certainly hope so!

 


Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com
 



#3
Dennis McClendon

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My experience is not extensive, but has been very mixed.  In general, I find that local government purchasing departments try to buy mapping like they do tires.  If they write any technical specs, they'll make no sense.  Yet there will be dozens of pages of Buy America and noncollusion affidavits, and explicit direction for how the boxes (of design services?) are to be delivered and labeled.  Some will have insurance requirements that are nonsensical for a design firm.  At the other end of the spectrum are the ones that just look at the lowest hourly rateā€”and have no limitations on how many hours go into projects.

 

Here in Chicago, there are additional issues because design services for the city are nearly always targeted to Minority Business Enterprises.  So one city department was told by purchasing it could not accept my $1200 bid; it had to take the one for $14,000.

 

On the whole, though, my experiences once I get a contract have been mostly positive.  Once I'm working directly with the person actually commissioning the work (rather than the purchasing department) the relationships are good and I find that I have an ally on the inside who will pull strings to extend the contract or otherwise find a way to keep working with me.


Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#4
Gretchen Peterson

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Since architecture is a field where competitive bidding is commonplace, I find it instructive to look at their rates for winning proposals, which obviously would vary by firm but seems to be around 40% + or -.

 

You want most business to be from repeat clients, perhaps as much as 80%. The other 20% might be fully or mostly made up of new clients based on existing (but not yet contractual) relationships and creative responses to advertised needs (e.g., you see a job ad that you would be perfect for and offer to do the work as a sub instead of as an employee--this can help the buying firm by not having to allocate so many resources to a new employee).

 

If you already know the work and the people involved and the project is for a fair amount and a cause that you believe in, it seems reasonable to allocate as much as 5% of the total potential project budget on acquisition of said project. So you might spend as much as 5k acquiring a 100k project, which would cover the copy-editing, sample map creation, classes taken to prep for a particular aspect that you didn't know about before, and/or travel, for example. If you have a 10% success rate on similar projects, you've spent $50,000 on 10 proposals and gained a net $50,000 worth of work. These numbers are depressing, but scaled up to a large firm they may allow it to eke out an existence. The point is that you should only reply to RFPs where you expect a 25% success rate or more as a small firm. You must know your subject and know the people in order to have that kind of confidence. Luckily, small firms are best poised to be able to do that.



#5
MapMedia

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I remember looking at this years ago, but, like you, decided small shops like mine were at an unfair advantage in the lengthy process and there were other clients to attend to. To my surprise, public agencies eventually contacted me via word of mouth, and things worked out that way. I did have to start carrying insurance and have some other bank/license items addressed on my side, but in the end is has been worth it. For one client, the whole paperwork part lasted 6 weeks - 6 weeks of occasional emails, paperwork, fielding questions, etc.  






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