Smart tender presentations

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One of the themes for my presidency of the Registered Master Builders Federation concerns helping members with common problems. A good number of my Building Today articles will cover construction-related subjects where I can share some of my experience after 30-plus years in the building industry. 

Tendering, like any other form of communication, depends as much on presentation as it does on the clarity and relevance of the message. The visual impression becomes part of the message. Poor page and untidy layout imply poor workmanship and poor supervision. 

Make sure that your tender is clear-cut and concise, as your client is more than likely to have little time to read it. It is important to ensure you cover off all aspects of the tender which you and/or your subcontractors have found unclear during the tender period and which could lead to dispute at a later date. 

Important items to consider Note the particular contract conditions your tender is based on (eg, Registered Master Builders Federation Residential Building Contract RBC1-2005). Although it is unwise to enter a building contract without a Conditions of Contract, if you don’t have one then make sure you are clear as to what your terms of payment are and whether the Construction Contract Act will apply to your claims and the client’s subsequent payments. 

Unfortunately, “tags” are a necessary part of building tenders, so ensure tags are all listed together in a logical sequence, and are clearly articulated to ensure there is no confusion as to what is included or excluded. 

This can effectively be done by listing the inclusions under one subheading and the exclusions under another subheading. Ensure that you list all the documents, with revision numbers (where applicable), you have based your tender on. “Provisional” and “Prime Cost Sums” must be clearly noted and, dependent on the Conditions of Contract, whether or not they include a margin and/or GST. 

You must be clear as to whether your offer is a tender, estimate or other (eg, charge up) and if it is subject to an increase in costs or not. 

It is also good practice to list the following, which will apply to variation costing: 

• Labour rate/s (clarify if this applies for work on site and/or travel time, and if it includes GST), 

• Items of plant and equipment (not included in the labour rate) which will be charged, with a list of rates or reference to local hire rates, 

• Vehicle charges if applicable, 

• Percentage for profi t margin, and 

• Percentage for the cost of processing each variation. Be clear as to when you will start the contract and the contract’s duration. 

If you are tendering on other work which is dependent on whether you get this contract or not, note a validity period of X weeks in your letter. Setting out your tender There are a number of things you can do to make an eye-catching and distinctive tender. 

As a rule, tenders should be submitted in A4 size — you should only use A3 for programmes and plans. If you wish to put a photo on the cover then use one of a similar type of construction to the one you are tendering on and, preferably, use a project you have undertaken yourself. 

If you can’t insert photos or diagrams digitally into your tender then mount them on A4 sheets of paper or card. For ease of use, number each page and insert your company’s name or logo. Leave a three centimetre margin on both sides of your tender to allow for binding and notes.

Make sure your headings and subheadings are legible and don’t make them too small, light, heavy or large. If you use upper case headings then use these sparingly and use the same font size throughout the document. Each page should have only one main headline. 

Don’t try to emphasise every minor headline. At the foot of the page, sentences and paragraphs should not break, or you risk losing the reader’s train of thought. Avoid leaving large sections of blank space as this wastes money, time and paper. 

Space the typing so as to fill all pages at least to the half way mark. If you are not a competent letter writer find someone with good English to sub-edit all the draft text. Readability improves with using simple words. Indent lines sparingly for special effect, not at the start of each paragraph. 

Check that headings contain benefits or key factors. Use capital letters correctly. Check that all the abbreviations comply with the appropriate standard. Make it easy to cross-reference from the front section of a big tender to the appendix section. 

If you are including your subcontractor’s quotation details for the client/consultant to decide which option they require, consider attaching a numbered tag to each of these for them to refer to. The letter should have a good headline (generally the project you are tendering on), and make a promise with confidence. 

Your tender should imply that you have done your homework and not pulled a standard offer from the shelf. Many companies lift pre-written sections of text from templates in their word processors. Make sure that the template is edited by a professional communicator for each separate tender letter. 

Define your main offer and any alternatives, and be clear as to whether GST is included in the tender sum or not. Give one or more key benefits of your offer and say where to find an explanation of each in the main text. Sell yourself as a registered master builder providing your client a Master Build Guarantee. 

Finally, provide a list of previous clients/consultants you have worked for who can be contacted to validate why your tender should be accepted. 

• This article was derived in part from: Evison, T. (1995) Improving your tenders. New Zealand Government and Local Body Tender, pp. 2. Tom Evison is the managing director of Tecads and has written a series of articles on Winning more Profitable Tenders in the Tenders Gazette. His company Tecads offers one-on-one and group training to registered master builders to improve their bid success.

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