“Make sure you demonstrate your suitability with similar types of projects. If the project you’re bidding on is a hospital, list your past experience with hospitals.”
- Rob Boisvert, IECL
These days, the most common method of submitting a project bid is through a general contractor. Often, however, there is a pre-qualification process.
No matter what system you’re using to bid on a contract, there are some common winning strategies that help ensure your company gets the work.
Rob Boisvert, Branch Manager for Industrial Electrical Contractors Ltd. in Kingston, shared his experience with us.
“It will depend on what they ask for. Just make sure you answer clearly, provide details, and don’t forget the support documentation,” he says. “Most proposals during the prequalification phase are scored on each requested item.”
“In general, think about your bid proposal like a resume for your company. Often the same ‘best foot forward’ approach works best.”
While you won’t know how the other contractors are bidding, and the lowest price often wins, it’s also important to provide an accurate cost. You want to establish a track record of being on time and on budget, not surprise cost overruns.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to lower costs.
“Use your relationships,” advises Rob. “For example, if you have a history of paying early with a supplier, that can mean a price break if you’re easy to work with. Prices are sometime weighed against aggravation in this industry.”
One of the biggest costs is often labour, but manpower availability has to be checked too.
Rob explains. “As an ECAO contractor, we use union labour. It’s important to check to ensure there’s enough workers available. Also ensure that you’ve got the right ratio of name hires (requests for specific workers) to overall number of hires. This will depend on your history of hiring and layoffs, but overall it needs to work out to 50/50.”
“Review committees want to know that you’re good enough to do their project,” says Rob. “Make sure you demonstrate your suitability with similar types of projects. If the project you’re bidding on is a hospital, list your past experience with hospitals.”
Scope and budget are important too, however. “Include the year you did the project and the dollar value. Just because you’ve done a $1 million dollar utility project, it doesn’t make you a strong candidate for a $5 million dollar utility project,” explains Rob.
If you don’t have direct experience in a project of that scale, include other high-budget projects. If the other competitors don’t have experience exactly matching the budget and project type either, the winner could be you.
Municipalities and other agencies want to see a proven record of meeting deadlines and budget commitments. Include these successes in your project list. If deadlines and budgets slipped because of scope changes beyond your control, make a note of the circumstances.
The ECAO-IBEW recommends that you raise the issue of safety records to ensure the issue is on the table. Make sure you have a safety record you can brag about, and include that in your package.
Job site accidents are not only tragic, they can cause delays, extra costs, and even legal issues and public inquiries. If they are seized by the media, they can also cause political issues for public figures.
Proper apprenticeship ratios are another topic that the ECAO-IBEW advises you raise.
If you have registered apprentices, include the fact that you understand and abide by the laws around ratio requirements as prescribed by the Ontario College of Trades. As you know, it’s important that there is at least one journeyperson for every apprentice to ensure proper supervision.
Once you reach five journeypersons, the ratio changes slightly. You can use the calculator on this page to find out how many apprentices you may have (see “Ratio Calculator” section).
For each staff member, include their qualifications, and the names and types of projects they’ve worked on. These team members in leadership positions are important, so their success record builds confidence in your company.
More and more government departments are becoming aware of the huge underground economy in construction. Poorly trained, low cost workers can be a danger to themselves and others. Be sure that you hire only certified skilled trades.
“We run license checks when we hire,” says Rob, “and we confirm they’re current as needed.”
Last but not least, include contact information for references on projects that match closely with the one you’re bidding on.
If possible, include general contractors, direct client contacts, and municipal official contacts if you have them.
“In procurement processes, they only ask the top scoring candidates for a formal bid,” explains Rob.
To ensure your submission is considered, go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Provide unassailable proof that you’re a safe bet, and you should get one step closer to winning the contract.