Is Your Business Like a Puppy – Chasing Every Opportunity?


Is Your Business Like a Puppy – Chasing Every Opportunity?

Several of my previous Smallville posts and blog posts have helped Small Business owners through the thorny subject of finding and submitting tenders.  Tenders are a favoured means by which large buyers (such as big companies and government) select their suppliers of goods and services, so ignoring them as a potential source of customers is not a good marketing plan.

Hopefully, my previous posts have helped you to understand where to find tenders, and how to start preparing a response that won’t be consigned to the bin in the first round.

But having learned the basics about finding and writing tenders and proposals, does that mean that you should take your new-found knowledge and, like a puppy, chase every opportunity in sight?  The answer is a resounding no.

Finding the right opportunities and then preparing tenders and proposals can be a very expensive exercise.  Unless you subscribe to one of the commercial tender databases that will alert you to all possibilities in your realm of interest, somebody in your company will have to spend at least an hour every week scouring the internet looking for available tenders.  Then comes the expensive part – researching, writing, costing, editing and proof-reading your submission.

Of course, you could just copy and paste the last documents you prepared (and there are plenty of your big competitors who do exactly that), but are you really addressing your prospect’s individual problems and circumstances? To have consistent success with your proposals and tenders, you have to put in a bit of effort, and that costs money.

How much money should you be spending on your tenders and proposals?  There are many, many variables in this equation.  If you are in a preferred supplier position, you may be simply asked to “email through a price”.  In other situations, you may be asked to fill out innumerable documents and answer hundreds of questions.  However, an industry standard metric is that you should be spending between 0.5 – 2% of the profit available on the project the proposal is for.

So, you need to have some sort of a filter to choose the ones where you have the best chance of success, and that filter is a Go/No-Go decision checklist.  The Go/No-Go decision checklist asks you a series of questions that will help you to decide whether to commit resources to this particular opportunity or not.

Go/No-Go Checklists come in many forms, but all will lead you through the same general questions.

  • Are you the incumbent supplier?  If not, do you know who is?  Can you find out about the incumbent?
  • Are you the only company that has been approached for this opportunity?  If not, do you know who your competition is?
  • Did you know this opportunity was coming up, or is this the first you’ve heard of it?
  • Do you know this customer, and does this customer know you?
  • Have you worked for this customer before?  If so, do you have a good relationship with them?
  • Is the work within your skill set?  Is it a good match for your company’s strengths?
  • Does this opportunity align with your overall company strategy?
  • Do you have the resources available to complete the work – people, machinery etc?  If you don’t, can you get them easily?
  • Do you have the correct qualifications required?
  • Will you have to partner with another company to complete this work?  If so, have you approached them and come to an agreement?
  • Can you meet the delivery deadlines specified for the work?
  • Will you have to borrow money to complete the work?  If so, have you made arrangements with your bank?
  • Are there any risks associated with the contract?  (Make sure you consider reputational risks as well as business risks).
  • Have you (or your lawyer) reviewed the proposed contract for any unfair or unusual requirements?
  • Can you get the proposal written, with everyone’s input, in time to proof-read and check it before you press the Send button?
  • Is your team excited about delivering this project?

Of course this is not an exhaustive list by any means.  There may be other issues specific to your industry that should be considered.  But if you take this checklist, sit with your team, and work through the questions one by one, you will avoid being the over-energetic puppy, and only chase the contracts that you actually have a good chance at winning.

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  • Karl Wouters

    In my industry it seems everyday a company is releasing a new product or upgrade which presents new opportunities and as a small business it is very tempting to chase every opportunity for the promises it holds.
    I believe this to be a extremely relevant topic and sound advice to consider, especially for those small business who have not yet made solid foundations in a particular market..

  • Bronwyn

    Thank you for your comments Karl. Yes, it is very tempting to chase every possible piece of work when your business is just starting out and getting cash flow is critical. But chasing everything possible instead of being a bit strategic may actually drain your cash flow instead of helping it. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Bronwyn

    Thank you Karl. I know how tempting it is to go after every possible job when your business is just starting and cash flow is critical. However, chasing every opportunity may actually harm your cash flow rather than helping it.

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