Bid Solutions recently celebrated 20 years in business, and I thought I’d witnessed pretty much everything in the bid and proposal profession. We survived a major global recession, battled through COVID, and are currently dealing with the UK’s exit from the EU.
All that experience to draw upon, yet the explosion of activity within our sector that started in May 2021 has exceeded all our expectations. We knew there would be a ‘bounce’ post-COVID, maybe a flurry of activity for a quarter or two as businesses switched back on. What we didn’t expect was 12 continuous months of record activity, with no real end in sight.
This wave of activity has been both a blessing and a curse. At times it has felt like riding the Banzai Pipeline as the crest breaks just over your shoulder. I see companies within our profession talk of record revenues and profits, but I also listen to people daily who haven’t taken a break for over 12 months. The mental wellbeing of many was tested to the limits with the pandemic. With no respite, this tidal wave of opportunity has pushed people even further out of their comfort zones.
The wave has delivered unprecedented opportunities to candidates looking to progress their careers, seeking better working conditions, or simply securing a pay rise. Never have I seen candidates with so much power in the job market. I genuinely believe this is a good thing. Not only does it bring balance to a process that has historically been heavily in favour of those hiring, it also forces companies to rethink their talent acquisition strategies. Those that have adapted fast are hiring the best talent in the market – they have streamlined interview processes, they have developed hybrid employment contracts, and they are putting the candidates’ needs at the heart of the discussion.
My best advice to candidates is to remember that with this new power comes responsibility. Don’t be afraid to negotiate – either with your existing employer or with an offer you receive – but have a clear, balanced, and defined rationale for doing so. Whilst salaries have increased over the last 12 months, not all industries and regions have been on the same trajectory. Baseless salary demands tend to stick out like a sore thumb and can quickly lead to the retraction of an offer.
The wave has also led to a significant increase in the number of bid and proposal businesses serving our niche market – more freelancers, new software businesses, expanding consultancies. When we set out in business you could count the number of bid and proposal specialists on one hand. There are now over 1,000 unique businesses in the UK supplying services to our profession. Globally, I imagine you could multiply that by five.
So, is the current wave of prosperity we’re riding a blip or fundamentally here to stay? There was debate amongst our experts about this question; the consensus of the 14 fantastic articles that make up this issue of BQ is an optimistic one. I really hope you can make the most of the opportunities out there and enjoy the ride.
In this issue
Australia is an island nation, blessed with thousands of kilometres of coastline containing some of the best surf in the world. So it’s no surprise that people from the Land Down Under know a thing or two about surfing. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of this.
In a busy market, bids come in thick and fast like waves to the shore. Choosing the right bid (or the right wave) takes patience and knowhow. You have to check the conditions (market or weather). You have to be prepared at all times (bid team ready or board waxed). To succeed, you need to make an impact. The words in your bid need to make you stand out, like the surfer with the brightest wetsuit on the beach.
Back in my days as a professional surfer in Australia, I always used to say: “It’s not what you do on the crest of the wave: it’s how you get ready to fall off.”*
In the 22+ years that I have been involved in bids never before have I seen so much activity as there is now. Bid professionals are super busy. Colleagues are starting consultancies. Owners of microbusinesses have recruited staff for the first time.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave recently, you can’t fail to have noticed we appear to be drowning in tenders right now. Tenders to the left of us, tenders to the right. Drowning in potential. Choking on hope. Where have they come from? More importantly, where are they going? And why?
As my bidding colleagues and counterparts become busier and the bidding industry heats up across geographies, I find myself in the fortunate position of being in a career that seems to constantly be in greater demand.
When asked by Martin to share my thoughts on the current huge growth in the bidding industry, I responded by saying it didn’t surprise me.
It feels like I have been ‘riding the wave’ for ten years if I think about it. I walked out of paid employment in 2012, straight into my first contract, and I haven’t really stopped since. The wave became too gnarly in 2020, which was why I felt compelled to add one bid writer to Pipster.
‘Riding the wave’ in public sector bidding is an interesting topic within its own right. The last two years have seen a dramatic shift in our approach to bidding and interaction with buying authorities.
I have not enjoyed the pandemic. Like most people, we adapted to the circumstances we were faced with and tried to carry on.
Consultancies in the business of writing responses to bid questions with clients – as employees, partners or work-alone freelancers – must balance new workload with capacity. The balancing act presents a greater challenge in a burgeoning bid market, further amplified when clients request: “Please take on all the writing for us.”
Waves are powerful. They can lift you high, but the descent can be gentle or treacherous. So, surf with care…
You scroll through LinkedIn and see another promotion. You watch Instagram stories of people living incredible, happy lives. You listen on a Teams call as one of your fellow colleagues gets fantastic feedback on their bid. You read an article about the perfect work-life balance.
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
The three witches from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth chant this delightful little jingle as they add ingredients to their cauldron to make a spell. Toe of frog (it is not specified if it is from the left or right foot), fillet of snake, eye of newt and other yummy ingredients all go into this brew.