Originally published in the WBE Canada Magazine; Issue 6. Read our full magazine HERE.
By: Maryse Benhoff
President, BG Communications International Inc.
When asked to contribute to this edition of the WBE Canada Magazine about the success that my company has experienced in recent years as a public sector supplier, the first thing that came to mind was the unfortunate preconceived notions that prevent so many businesses from marketing themselves to this sector. Their hesitation stems from the mistaken belief that only large companies can become government suppliers. The government is no doubt one of the largest procurers of goods and services in our society, and this can be intimidating. The processes that government procurement offices follow for carrying out searches and communicating with people and creating business relationships with goods and services suppliers are demanding, not only in terms of steps that have to be completed and requirements that have to be met, but also in terms of the amount of time that it takes. That being said, these processes are accessible and transparent, and they aim, among other things, to ensure that any well structured and well-governed company generating value through their products or services can potentially become a government supplier, whatever its size.
During our more than 25 years of experience in the language sector, we have participated in various government procurement calls for tenders in which our organizational structure and processes have been foundational to our successful bids. Thanks to our sales team specialized in government procurement, we have managed to participate in several call-for-tender processes simultaneously. As a result, our company now boasts a portfolio of organizations and institutions with which we have maintained stable business relationships for many years.
We have learned a lot along the way, and I would like to share a few tips that we have applied to maintain our presence in the public sector and to continuously meet its needs.
Know your company well: By determining whether your company meets all the requirements established for a given tender, you can rule out certain tenders for which your company is not well suited, and focus solely on those that are a good match, and successfully follow through with the process. It is also important to know your production and response capacity so that you do not promise more than you can deliver.
Have up-to-date documentation: By having up-to-date information on your company including key employees, policies, procedures, and any additional information you may have that substantiates your company’s experience and journey readily available, you will save valuable time when you participate in a tendering process.
Become familiar with the platforms for posting tenders: Some of the most important aspects in the tendering process are knowing and successfully navigating the information, disclosure and registration platforms and websites that the government has put in place so that tenderers can participate in the procurement process. The first step is to register. Also, before submitting your tender to a given organization, make sure that your company is enrolled in its diversity program if one exists.
Optimize your chances of success by dedicating human resources to following up on tenders: To succeed in the public sector, you will need to work steadily and consistently. Your team needs to devote part of each day following up on the tenders you bid on and seeking out new opportunities. Having a team that is organized, methodical and able to follow rigorous procedures will be key to ensuring successful bids.
Familiarize yourself with tender processes and procedures: An impeccably presented proposal will make you stand out from other tenderers. It is therefore important to know how to submit a proposal and to understand that every proposal is different and needs to be structured according to specific requirements. Knowing the steps of the tendering process, its requirements, and the types of contracts it can produce will enable you to understand the terms of reference that apply to your proposal and that will determine how it should be put together. Mastering the vocabulary used in these processes will further help you to quickly prepare a tender response. Using the same structure and terminology in your proposal than in the documentation provided by the project authority will also make your bid easier to evaluate and help you ensure that your bid is not lacking any mandatory information.
Learn to ask questions: During the call-for-tender process, you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Do so! By asking specific, well researched, and relevant questions to the project authority, you will avoid making mistakes and ensure that you submit a quality proposal. Make note of the deadlines for submitting questions and follow up on the project authority’s answers, even to questions submitted by other bidders, as they might have an impact on your proposal.
Ensure continuous monitoring: Government procedures set specific deadlines for submitting questions and proposals. These deadlines are subject to periodic change. Keeping track of any changes to timetables and monitoring any amendments that may be published will help you make sure that you don’t miss an important deadline or overlook a change in requirements.
Request a debriefing: When the process allows for it and provided you have adequate communication channels for receiving such feedback, ask the project authority what its basis was for accepting or rejecting your proposal. You will then be able to identify your weaknesses and improve your next proposal. Similarly, knowing your strengths will enable you to leverage them and to keep building on them in the future.
Be prepared to deliver: Obtaining the contract is only one part of the tendering process. The subsequent delivery of the contracted product or service is the next step. The government has strict requirements regarding delivery conditions and timelines that all suppliers must respect, without exception. Having a consistent and achievable production schedule will be an important tool for meeting these requirements and building an excellent reputation in the sector.
In closing: Succeeding in the public sector requires being consistent, organized, and thorough, and having an in-depth knowledge of your company and industry. Achieving success should be part of your marketing strategy, but above all, your team will need to be trained and focused on working towards the same goal.
Maryse Benhoff is President of BG Communications International Inc., a leading translation services provider headquartered in Montréal, Canada. Maryse represents the Canadian WBE community as a member of WBE Canada’s Board Director and is a Chair of the Supplier Advisory Committee (SAC). She is recognized for being a pioneer in translation standardization and for championing the advancement of women in business. She currently serves as International Chair of ISO’s TC37/SC5 which develops standards for Translation and Interpreting worldwide as well as International Committee Manager of ISO’s TC37/SC2 and. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Language Industry Association (CLIA). Since 2015, Maryse also sits on the Translation Programming Committee at McGill University with a view to help shape curricula and course content to align with market demands.