The public sector includes bodies ranging from central government departments and the NHS to local authorities and the armed forces. Together these spent over £440bn (2011/12) directly on orders with small and medium-sized businesses (10% of Government expenditure that year). The Government has committed to increasing this to 25% of all Government spending. Here's how you can improve your chances of getting a piece of the action:
- Find out about contracts. If you have a specific sector in mind, contact the appropriate public body to see what contracts are available. These are also sometimes advertised in the national, local or trade press, so get into the habit of checking.
- Use an outside agency. Consider using commercial organisations that charge a small fee to search for contracts on your behalf. For more information visit the Business Information Publications website.
- Scan internet databases for contract opportunities. Search the EU Contracts and Tenders database on the EU website or Tenders Electronic Daily.
- Ask your local council. Check local authority websites, these can be a good source of orders. Many of these organisations have booklets that explain how you can become a supplier.
- Don't be put off by the paperwork. Tendering is not always time-consuming and complex. Sometimes it might just mean providing a quote.
- Blow your own trumpet. Demonstrate clearly that you can fulfil the contract in your tender application. Contracts are awarded on the basis of value for money - which means getting the right balance between price and quality.
- Follow the rules. Provide all the information required by the tender and stick to deadlines. You need to have "white folder" policies in place, which means being able to show you have a good record on such things as equal opportunities and health and safety.
- Seek advice. The department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a free guide Tendering for Public Contracts. You could also consult your trade body, or seek support from an specialist agency.
- Be realistic. Don't tender for contracts your business is unable to fulfil.
- Ask for feedback. Ensure you ask for feedback if you're unsuccessful with a tender. Public-sector bodies are obliged to provide you with this within 15 days of your request.
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