Aim, Ready, Fire! Taking advantage of government stimulus measures

Government stimulus measures currently being rolled out across Australia and New Zealand display a welcome and concerted effort to support SMEs and local industry.

In this article, we look at how individual SMEs can capitalise on this upcoming surge of activity and successfully compete to ensure they get their share of this work and be better positioned for future work as a result.

Government stimulus across Australia and New Zealand

With the economic impacts of the health crisis being keenly felt across Australia and New Zealand, governments in both countries are implementing stimulus measures designed to help recovery. These measures reflect the symbiotic nature of the buyer-seller relationship, falling into two broad categories: (1) changed procurement processes and (2) the fast-tracking of ‘shovel-ready’ projects.

Within these process and project measures is a clear theme of support for SMEs and local industry, with some notable examples including:

  • Australia-wide: A one-year, $500,000,000 Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, providing councils across Australia with funding to support community-led recovery, with stimulus channeled into local businesses, jobs and procurement initiatives
  • Western Australia: Along with other measures, the WA Government has increased the threshold for local business government agency purchases from $50,000 to $250,000. In cases where a local business is involved, the threshold has doubled to $500,000
  • New South Wales: Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell advises in her Covid-19 Recovery Plan, that government contracts up to the value of $10m should be offered to SME panel members before being advertised to the wider market. Panel membership would have a streamlined appointment process and be restricted to firms with a sub $10m turnover
  • New Zealand: The Central Government has just announced the first 12 projects of a $3 billion investment package spanning housing and urban development, community and social development, transport and the environment. Of note is that many of these projects are squarely aimed at supporting regional development and, in many cases, SMEs.

So how can I take advantage of all this ‘help’?

While it’s heartening to see the green shoots of tangible SME support, many of these measures are temporary in nature.  And because these measures are policy-driven, their success will be gauged and reported ‘in aggregate’. It won’t matter to governments which specific organisation won that contract, or employed that extra person – just that the stimulus measures lead to a good outcome.

But it matters to you. How can you, rather than your competitor, be the beneficiary of this temporary support? And what are you doing to ensure growth and profitability can be sustained ‘post-stimulus’?

Clearly, the first strategy must be to strike while the iron is hot. However, that strategy will be adopted by everyone. If there is ‘free money’ to be had, everyone is going to have a shot at it. So how will you be the winner when you’ll very likely be facing a lot more competition than usual?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been calling a range of SME clients to check how they are faring and to gain, and share, some insights into what they are focusing on in order to be more successful with their tendering activities.

Here’s are a few patterns we’re seeing, sequenced into what we believe to be (perhaps somewhat illogically) their most effective order.

1. Aim – for better opportunity targeting and ‘capture’ through relationship building

Through enforced and extended working from home arrangements, many have benefitted from a less distracting environment to ‘get some distance’ from their day-to-day activities. This seems to be causing many SME owners to conclude that they need to take a more strategic and proactive approach to their tendering activities, rather than continuing with the ‘see and respond’ approach. This is really important. Just because economic stimulus measures create opportunity, it might not be the right opportunity, despite how tempting it may be.

SME owners and managers keep many plates spinning at once. In all the busy-ness, keeping in contact with ‘the market’ can often fall by the wayside. Business owners we’ve spoken to know how important it is to be regularly connecting with existing clients and prospects. In our line of work this process is called ‘capture’. It’s an important work-winning discipline in its own right because when done well, it captures information that will help make your tender more client centric and believable.

As well as building important relationships, the capture process helps generate a clearer and more nuanced understanding of customers’ needs. In the short term, it also provides an opportunity to explore the extent to which economic stimulus measures may be influencing their activity.

So, knowing that recent government stimulus measures will be influencing the way procurement decisions are made, why not use this information to open up dialogue with clients and prospects to discuss ways you may be able to assist

2. Ready – for better tendering efficiency AND effectiveness

Tendering is deadline driven. You only have a finite period of time to prepare your most compelling submission. And if you waste time, poorer quality is the inevitable result. You need to be spending your time on high-value tendering activities like tailoring your approach to better meet client needs, getting the price right and really selling your benefits; not chasing around trying to locate and compile required information.

There is much you can do, well in advance, to prepare for the tenders you know are coming. Those we’ve spoken to have identified getting their reusable tender content libraries ship-shape as their highest priority ‘get ready’ activity. Honestly assessing the state of your tender ‘boilerplate’ content, knowing that high performing competitors already have theirs in place, will help you prioritise improvements you can make now.

From our perspective, a stimulus induced economic uptick should act as a tremendous motivator to get your bidding house in order. With more competitors likely, the need to stand out is greater than ever. And developing an excellent bid library now will leverage into the future, benefiting post stimulus work winning as well.

3. Fire – for better tender outputs

As the above shows, there’s a lot more to successful tendering than producing the tender submission document itself. However, that’s often where most people get frustrated, mainly because the finished product doesn’t equate to what they had in mind when starting. Comments like “we just need to get better at writing” and “we can’t seem to explain what we mean” reflect this frustration.

As professional tender writers, we understand this. But persuasive writing is not a skill learnt overnight. Take the time to invest in some training. Or consider getting some help. And make sure you always seek specialist feedback (good and bad) on previous submissions to help guide your improvement activity.

Most of all, recognise that in some cases, short to medium term economic stimulus ‘sugar rushes’ might unfortunately reward the undeserved. But the longer-term beneficiaries, and where sustained benefit will ultimately be derived, is through seeing this economic shock and the resultant stimulus measures as your tendering wake up call.

For best tendering results, take aim, get ready, then fire

By adopting an Aim, Ready, Fire approach, you’ll go a long way towards making yourself more competitive, ultimately improving your win-rates and reducing the ongoing time and costs required to maintain this success.

For SMEs seeking to capitalise during the welcome but temporary support period, there really is no time like the present.

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