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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 23 November, 2014

Top tips on winning public contracts if you are an SME

The public sector has huge opportunities for small or medium Irish businesses – if you’re ready for the challenge.

Win that contract first - then you can fistbump to your heart's content...
Win that contract first - then you can fistbump to your heart's content...
Image: fistbump

THE PUBLIC SECTOR is, despite its name, a huge source of opportunity for private companies. The current value of the public sector contract market is around €12 billion – and understanding how to tender for a contract is vital for the growth of many SMEs.

Why do I need to know this now?

In 2014, the Government centralised how public sector service contracts would be tendered. The process has been run for some time through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). The office has previously published its intention to “promote SME participation in Public Contracts” and address challenges SMEs have had to procuring valuable public sector contracts.

As this report from the OGP notes: “Although SMEs account for 99% of total companies, they deliver less than one third of these business opportunities (public sector deals)”.

What have been the challenges for SMEs in procuring contracts?

  • Enhanced competition in the marketplace
  • Inability to compete for the larger projects
  • Operational, tech or financial challenges 

The disappointing thing in all this is that there is an expressed wish by the OGP to work with SMEs:

SMES

From the Best Practice Guide for SMEs looking to win public contracts

How can I put my SME in a better position?

Here is some valuable advice from InterTradeIreland -

  • Register on eTenders: You should register straight away on the revamped etenders.gov.ie, “remembering that this is a virtual storefront to public sector buyers”. Keep your information up to date.
  • While you are at it, register on eSourcing NI for Northern Ireland public sector opportunities.
  • Consider partnering with other SMEs to bid for larger tenders – you might not be able to compete for a large contract on your own, but if you can aggregate your company’s capabilities with another with complementary expertise/operational scope, you present a more complete picture.
  • Know the new categories of procurement. Public sector contracts are now categorised into types of spend (according to InterTradeIreland that might be, for example, professional services, marketing, print and stationery etc.).

Worth knowing:

In 2013, there were 7,500 invitations to tender released by the Irish public sector with 40,000 submissions received.

The Best Practice Guide by procurement.ie is a must-read. InterTradeIreland, a cross-border organisation that helps support SMEs to grow trade across the island, has a series of free seminars in the coming months that aim to help SMEs organise themselves into consortia to bid for contracts.

The first of these seminars is tomorrow at CityWest Hotel in Dublin. Have a look here to find out more about all their upcoming advice events.

And from the comments section:

How to: Make a living in a ‘dying’ industry>

Read all our top advice and news for SMEs here>

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