A tender story on babies and bids

By Nicole Coleman, CF APMP.

In late 2019, I added a ‘Mum’ feather to my cap. It sits next to a few others, including Senior Bid Consultant. Recently I took a moment to reflect on how I balance bids and a babe. Truth be told, I’ve made some very common bidding mistakes with my baby and it’s now time to fess up. So here we go…


Good things happen to those who plan

As an experienced bid consultant, I’m a naturally methodical person. When it came to having a baby, I was all things organised – right up to his due date (spoiler … I’m very familiar with due dates of a different kind). However, I didn’t know what life would be like after he joined us, so I thought I’d wait and see. I hoped being less planned and organised would result in a more relaxed mum and baby. Sadly, my unplanned approach didn’t work so well for either of us.

Although we can’t plan it to a T, we all know that babies need certain things, such as to eat and sleep. The same applies to bidding. Most bid responses require some common elements and these can be planned for in advance, even without the full context of the bid. For example, details about capability, relevant experience and key personnel are typically requested and usually form part of the evaluation criteria. By shaping these up before the bid is even released, you can use the available open period to validate and refine your approach to these sections, buying yourself more time to focus on the other more complex and bespoke requirements of the bid. By planning ahead you’ll be in a much better position when your bundle arrives.


It’s always about your audience, not you

My husband makes the morning coffee in our house. Before frothing the milk he purposefully shoots a jet of steam high up into the air to impress our cackling son. One day while watching on, I thought it was a good time to teach our boy that steam is just water in a different form. I’m a scientist at heart and as I launched into an impromptu science lesson, I realised that my pupil was sitting in a highchair, trying to smash banana into his mouth, all the while giggling at his dad.

Forgetting the perspective of your audience is such an easy trap to fall into, and you’d be surprised how prevalent it is. It’s crucial to know your audience and to keep them firmly in mind when you’re developing your response. Your knowledge (and eagerness to share it) doesn’t necessarily impress or translate into top marks. Your response must always be tailored and relevant to your customer’s needs. But more importantly, it must first be asked for. We’re all time-poor, and that goes for evaluators too. Make their lives easier by answering completely the question they have asked, without adding unsolicited information.


In case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first

As any parent would attest, raising a child is as challenging as it is rewarding. In the early days, I was all sorts of tired, hungry, bleary eyed, and craving a break. Some nights, I was too scared to go to bed for fear of having to get up again. So I didn’t. Not my brightest or most sustainable idea, but as I exited that fog it made me realise how important the basics really are.

Bids are like babies. They will take all the time you have. But giving all your time to bids means making sacrifices in other important parts of your life  – like sleep, proper meals, and downtime. And that’s before even mentioning the impact on family and friends. I’m so grateful my colleagues have an intimate understanding of the bidding profession and place such an importance on developing habits around bidding sustainability. If I’ve learnt anything from becoming a mum, it’s that my capacity and capability are adversely impacted if I don’t look after myself. There’s such a clear and simple logic in the instruction to first fit your oxygen mask before helping others when flying. The same goes in life. You can’t help anyone else if you’re running on empty.

In my younger bidding days, I used to push hard and pull all-nighters, taking comfort in the fact that the bid will end, only to find another just around the corner. So take a breath and give your all, but not at the cost of the basics you need to function. The fully functioning version of yourself is just as important (if not more) than the bid you’re working on.


Find the wonder, again

My son frequently reminds me that there truly is wonder all around us. You just have to take a moment to look. As a mum and busy professional there are many balls to juggle, so much so that a lot of the small things can seem a bit ho-hum. For example, I’d stopped noticing things as simple as the stars and moon in the night sky. But the way my little boy looks at the night sky is something very special. When the evening arrives, he’ll eagerly search for the moon, and when he finds it, he curls over in delight, stomps his feet, and shrieks at the sight, his face beaming. Sometimes I wonder who is teaching whom.

Because of the pace of our profession, bid writers can risk feeling like they’re running on a tendering treadmill. Dullness can set in and with it a diminished ability to find the winning edge so vital in such a competitive arena. But taking a moment to reflect on the importance of what you’re doing, why you do it, and how it makes others feel can help you rediscover the wonder of it all.

Time and again I’m blown away by the diverse work our clients do, their passion for it and their desire to raise the bar in their chosen industry.

Through his pure delight at the night sky, my son has retaught me to see every bid as an opportunity to express my passion, and the passion of our clients. By doing this, I can create a positive, genuine and lasting impact for others. And hopefully like my now toddler, future evaluators won’t be able contain their excitement for my clients’ bids either.


Nicole Coleman is a part-time senior bid consultant based in BidWrite’s Brisbane office. She has particular expertise in helping construction clients develop compelling bids for complex infrastructure and transport projects. For more on Nicole and other BidWrite staff, go here.

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