Better RFP Responses & Management
Bid Preparedness

Bid Preparedness

I’ve written elsewhere in some anger about how a wealthy, educated country like Canada wasn’t ready for the oft-predicted global pandemic. Lacking preparedness, our governments floundered around, creating relief programs on the fly and putting economically (and humanly) disastrous measures in place to avoid overwhelming a healthcare system not designed or resourced to ramp-up to handle a surge. Good, eh?

This is not that rant.

I’ve written elsewhere more in sorrow than in anger about how  bidders are never ready to answer specific questions about their experience. We don’t have to predict the odds that we’ll be asked these questions: We know we will be. And yet almost every company I’ve seen flounders around until the last minute, trying to choose project examples, get accurate details, find good photos, collect kudos and stories about accomplishments, and create compelling graphics.

This is not that rant, either.

This rant is about how bidders are never ready to answer general questions about their experience: about how they are unprepared to recount their history clearly, consistently, and compellingly. We don’t have to predict the odds that we’ll want this content: We know we will. Even if the RFP doesn’t ask for it, our executives will want it for sure. And yet almost every company I’ve seen flounders around until the last minute when writers try to make pudding out of nothing and editors try to drive out inconsistencies that breed like cockroaches and that are about as appealing:

  • When were we incorporated?
  • Did we get that accreditation in 1992 or 1993? What does its acronymized title actually stand for? (Do *any* two people in the company understand it the same way?)
  • Did we receive that award in 2006 or 2007? What’s the proper name of the award and the association issuing it?
  • Are annual revenues $151 or $152 million?
  • How many line items do we manage in inventory?
  • How many square feet or metres of property do we manage? Could we get it all in one measurement system? Please?
  • How many suppliers do we have? How many are small- and medium-sized businesses?
  • How many employees do we have? What percentage are members of designated groups?
  • What’s the correct name of our training program? Our quality program? Our maintenance method? Our computer system?

And on and on and on.

Details not your thing? On a higher plane, how can we best show our experience in an easy-to-grasp and yet compelling way? In text? (Spoiler alert – Not likely.) A timeline? Another graphic? Well, graphics of any kind take time: Let’s get that done now. Or started, at least. And checked and re-checked and re-re-checked for accuracy by folks who know the experience/history, and for consistency by folks who *do* see the details.

Here’s a flash. The Spring of 2020 was a bad time to start thinking about pandemic preparedness, and the response period is a bad time to start thinking about proposal preparedness.

I note that no one in government has called me for my help lately. Or ever, really. If you’re in the same spot, maybe you’d like to focus some of your attention on how you can be better prepared for your next proposal.



  1. Jim Taylor

    It’s not as if there weren’t any warnings. Dr Fauci said that a pandemic was coming, three years ago. Yeah yeah, sure, just like the oceans are rising. And the glaciers are melting. When you’re operating a hospital system that’s stressed to its capacity under “normal” circumstances, what the hell would you expect when normal ceases to be normal?

    I wonder if we’d organize a fire department on the same principles. Every firefighter busy full time, when there are no (or few) fires to put out?


    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – My father used to say that you don’t buy a vehicle to handle camping gear or a bunch of visitors when the need is only once or twice a year. You don’t spec the purchase to the surge capacity, you spec it to the usual need and then rent extra capacity when you need it. I’d say this is similar: We need to find a way to ramp-up our medical capacity in an emergency. A medical reserve and plans for converting hotel rooms and work-camp-style housing to hospital beds would go a long way to responding, whatever the emergency.

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