Is Your Small Business RFP Ready?
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Is Your Small Business RFP Ready?

Want to start doing business with the BC Provincial Government? Here’s Where to Start

For many people the first question is where do I start? The simple answer is www.bcbid.ca. Not only is BC Bid a great way to look for BC Provincial Government opportunities, it is also utilized by municipalities and broader public sector organizations sourcing suppliers as well.

You’re on BC Bid, Now What?

When looking through BC Bid there are a few different ways you can search for opportunities. You can browse all open opportunities, you can refine your search depending on whether you supply goods, services or construction goods and services, you can search for keywords or you can narrow your search by organization – which allows you to separate BC Government solicitations from broader public sector organization solicitations.

Understanding and Responding to Different Types of Opportunities 

For the BC Provincial Government there are different types of solicitation documents used to invite submissions from vendors/suppliers in a competitive process. Some common forms utilized include ITT (Invitation to Tender), ITQ (Invitation to Quote), RFP (Request for Proposal) and SRFP (Short Form Request for Proposal). How you prepare your submission will vary greatly depending on the type of solicitation issued and what the government is looking for.

Invitation to Tender (ITT)

  • Used for construction related goods and services. 
  • Will describe the work that needs to be done and would request specific pricing. 
  • Must meet all of the requirements and specifications described. 
  • Contract will be awarded to the lowest-priced qualified bidder who meets the terms and conditions of the solicitation documents. 

Invitation to Quote (ITQ)

  • Used to acquire goods where price is the only consideration (on some occasions an ITQ could be used to acquire non-complex services).
  • Proposal must meet all of the requirements described including quantity, quality, conformance to specifications and delivery date(s). 
  • Contract will be awarded to the lowest-priced, qualified bidder, who meets the terms and conditions of the solicitation documents. 

Request for Proposal (RFP)

  • Typically used to acquire services when the purchase decision is not solely based on price. 
  • Request describes the project and its requirements and information on how your proposal should be structured and evaluated. 
  • A set of criteria will be outlined in the solicitation documents which could include qualifications, experience, solution, approach and price. 
  • Criteria will be weighted, with some criteria requiring a minimum score. Scores are awarded on how you address the individual criteria. Failure to meet that minimum score could mean your proposal will not be considered. 
  • The proposal that achieves the highest overall score would be awarded the contract.

Short Form Request for Proposal (SRFP)

  • Typically used to acquire services when the purchase decision is not solely based on price and when the contract is valued at less than $250,000. 
  • A set of criteria will be outlined in the solicitation documents which could include qualifications, experience, solution, approach and price. 
  • Criteria will be weighted, with some criteria requiring a minimum score. Scores are awarded on how you address the individual criteria. Failure to meet that minimum score could mean your proposal will not be considered. 
  • The proposal that achieves the highest overall score would be awarded the contract.
  • Built in terms and conditions exist that are standard for all SRFP’s.  
  • Maximum two-page document outlines the opportunity and the creation of your proposal is done through a fillable pdf. 

How to Respond to an RFP

Reading through an RFP can be overwhelming, as they can be quite lengthy, but there’s no need to give up before you’ve even started. RFPs need to describe in a sufficient amount of detail the opportunity that you might respond to. They also need to give you enough information about how the opportunity will be evaluated so that you can make an educated decision about whether or not to bid.  It’s important to try and understand the different components of an RFP– this can make it easier on you when reading through it.

RFP’s can include some of the following standard information:

  • Information about the ministry and the background of the project or requirement;
  • Location of the ministry or client site(s);
  • Scope of the project and any restrictions on the scope of the work;
  • Key deliverables or outcomes;
  • The ministry’s expectations, including your experience and qualifications;
  • Risk and critical success factors;
  • Performance standards, including benchmarks;
  • Governing legislation;
  • Reporting requirements; and 
  • Information that your competitors may have previously had access to (to ensure fair practice).

Typically the first few pages of the RFP will outline the terms and conditions as well as definitions and administrative requirements. Once you’ve read through those and understand them, read through the project summary to get a better understanding of what it is they’re looking for and the potential complexity of the opportunity. From there you’ll be better equipped to make a decision on whether to prepare a proposal in response to it, keeping in mind the submission deadline – be sure you can prepare an effective proposal before the stated closing time, because a late submission legally can’t be reviewed.

Too Small for a Contract? Team Up with a Competitor

If you see an opportunity that you’re interested in but you can’t fulfil on your own, think about teaming up with a colleague or another business. You don’t need to create a separate business to fulfill the needs of the contract, simply identify all parties that will be completing the work together in your proposal. If you have varying areas of experience and expertise to contribute to the contract, explain that in your proposal. 

It’s in the Details. The More Information the Better

Don’t forget, when it comes to evaluating your proposal the ministry or agency can only base their decision on the information you’ve included. That means that even if you have a lot of experience and a great reputation, if you don’t include that information they can’t base their decision on it. So be as detailed as possible, if they ask for three examples of similar projects and you have six, include them all, it can only improve your score. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try, Try Again

There’s no reason why you can’t be successful on your first submission, in fact many businesses are. But if you’re not awarded the contract, always request a debriefing from the ministry or agency. This will give you the opportunity to see how your proposal stacked up to the criteria, and help you understand what aspects of your proposal were good and where you could use improvement. This helpful feedback can improve your chances of being successful the next time around. 

 

About Nicola Gardner

Nicola Gardner is the Outreach Coordinator at Small Business BC.  With over two years’ experience working on the front-line at a Business Advisor at Small Business BC, she now uses her experience with local entrepreneurs to help raise awareness of potential business opportunities with the Government of BC.