Should I consider selling into the public sector?
The public sector is the biggest sector in this country and provides a range of services including health, education, transport and infrastructure. The range of products and services it buys is immense. Under current UK government guidelines, the public sector is being encouraged to purchase more from small to medium sized businesses.
Are you selling a product or service that they require? If so, then consider looking at selling to them.
Things to do first
Look at what your products and or services are and decide who within the public sector could use them. Decide if you would like to supply them and can deliver what they want.
Find out who buys and how they buy. There are lots of websites out there that give access to tender information that you can use. Some of these are free and only require your time, others are paid for services that will send you relevant tender information. In the first instance look at the free sites and get a feel for the market place. The Business Link website is an easy one to start with. If you are based in the East Midlands then check out http://www.sourceeastmidlands.co.uk Most regions will offer a similar service and certain sectors also have specific tender sites e.g. http://www.sid4health.nhs.uk
There are numerous resources available on the web and some of them offer the opportunity to register for free to receive updates.
Once you have decided that you would like to tender for public sector opportunities then you need to prepare your business. As part of the Pre-Qualification stage you may be asked a series of questions about your business, so make sure that you know the answers and have the information ready.
You will be asked basic company information and if you have any legal or professional issues. If there are any issues, answer honestly and supply additional information to explain the reasons and actions being taken to remedy the situation.
You may be asked about your Insurance details, have you got all the relevant insurances in place and can supply copies of your certificates.
How are your company finances, have you got three years accounts. If you are less than three years old then do not panic, some buyers will let you submit forecast data instead. You will also be asked to provide a bank reference.
- Case studies and References, this is where you can get the chance to showcase what you do. Think about who you can use that can demonstrate to the buyer that you are capable of supplying them. Try to match the references and case studies to the contract you are tendering for, think about value, length of contract, level of service etc.
- Health and Safety make sure you are meeting all of your current obligations and all relevant legislation. You have to have a written policy if you employ 5 or more people. Even if you don’t employ 5 people you can still have a Health and Safety policy.
- Quality Systems ISO 9001 is the international standard for a QMS. You can read more about this and the benefits to your business of gaining certification in the Operations section of this portal. Even if you don’t have a recognised quality standard you can still implement your own and use this as long as you can demonstrate how it works.
- Environmental Management, do you have an environmental management system. ISO 14001 is the international standard. If you don’t have this standard do you have a policy and procedures in place to ensure you meet your legal requirements? How do you minimise waste etc.?
- Equality, Ethics, Diversity. You may be asked about your policies, which ones you have, how they are implemented, reviewed and communicated to staff. Do you fully meet all current legislation?
- Business Continuity, do you have a plan, who is responsible and has it been tested?
- Security, how do you manage security, are your staff fully CRB checked, do they carry identity etc.
- Sub-Contracting, if you use sub-contractors, how are these managed and how do you ensure that they comply with all of your processes and procedures.
This list is a sample of the types of things you may be asked for, some organisations will ask for more some for less. But it is a good baseline.
This may seem like a lot to have to do, but once you have gathered the information together, then it is just a matter of reviewing and updating it as required. You probably already have most of the information – it may just need collating.