To tender or not to tender… I say ‘not’ for a path to partnership

I have a clear stance on this; I won’t tender. I just won’t. I do, however, have a new suggestion. But first, let me give you the background…

I have, in the past, participated in national and international tenders – 40 page documents containing weeks of effort because we were (apparently) sought out and asked to respond. I’ve done all of this, only to find out that there were 18 companies responding, that the decision has been delayed, that the originating company have changed their requirements… What it all comes down to is a never-ending laundry list of examples of companies not respecting other people’s time and resources.

I’ve come to think that it is actually just plain offensive.

Now, I understand large organisations are fraught with bureaucracy. I understand too, that a tender is perceived as saving costs and providing a fair and consistent structure to move forward and award a contract. Except, I have to ask… are you even sure you know what you want?

Tenders don’t work . No one wins. Even the company that has won the work has worn the costs associated with applying. They have likely been squeezed on price and solution to the fastest, cheapest and most high quality solution. (So much for the idea that you can only make work happen on two of these tenets.)

In my opinion, it’s time to do away with tenders. But I do have a new suggestion. And that is, to choose your new business partner based on values.

A tender commoditises the relationship. It turns it into a transaction laden with lawyer’s fees, paperwork and commitments. But what are you really looking for? A partner (well, that’s what you should be looking for!) You’re looking for a partner you can count on, rely on, trust and build a mutually beneficial relationship with. I’ve always said the more paperwork required, the less trust you have. A true partner understands your business. They understand how you work but, more importantly, they understand the ‘why’ behind your work.

Forget tenders. Choose a partner based on their values. And I don’t just mean the words like integrity, respect or excellence that are stuck on the wall somewhere. I mean the values that a business or individual lives and breathes. You’ll know a value is real if any value that makes it onto a company wall has a story that goes with it. Everyone in the organisation should be able to give an example of how they have lived that value in the workplace.

If you can connect with those stories – those values – and the way that business chooses to do work, you have found a true partner. From here you have a long-term relationship based on trust and a fair exchange of value; a win/win scenario. Come to an agreement and then let the lawyers worry about the paperwork. Save each other time, money, effort and resources and agree on the way forward together. Build partnerships. Shake hands. Do good business.

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