‘Most failures can teach us something meaningful about ourselves if we choose to listen’ is a quote by best-selling author of ‘How to Fail’ and ‘Failosophy’ Elizabeth Day. In her most recent book Failosophy, she distills the seven principles of failure and one of these is about being open about our vulnerabilities as the source of true strength.
Whilst the books are geared towards personal journeys, for small and micro companies the personal and business is intertwined. Getting feedback is paramount to understanding the vulnerabilities you and your business are exposed to when tendering. Whilst we are well aware that not all procurement practices are consistent and some will have legal exemptions, but those that have done this well have provided critical information to help businesses reshape and learn. More importantly, honest feedback and constructive criticism can be the difference between whether or not a company will ever bid again. We are not saying its for everyone but don’t give up at the first or second rejection if you know you have value to offer.
Sometimes feedback is provided for the winning bidder alongside why you failed. This is gold information as it gives you more insight into the competition and often puts a spotlight on a weakness that might not be obvious to you. One example of this is where we were recently reviewing a response for a client’s live tender and felt strongly that one of the answers was not concise enough. This client didn’t agree but after reviewing previous tender feedback, it validated the weakness. To our client this seemed unimportant but forensically checking the feedback and revisiting a similar question gave us the chance to put this right.
There is some hope that the process for feedback will be more transparent as outlined in the 2021 Green Paper: Transforming public procurement. Naturally, there are complexities around sensitive commercial and intellectual property as well as exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that might apply. However, under the new procurement transformation suppliers should be able to bid with a better understanding of the transparency requirements.
Taking this all into account – in a nutshell – don’t give up at the first or second rejection. Push for feedback. Everyone fails, the trick is to dust off, learn, improve and move forward.