Public Sector Procurement: Guidance and Support for Small Businesses

Public Sector Procurement: Guidance and Support for Small Businesses

Discover ways that small businesses can profit from public procurement

The UK’s public sector offers many commercial opportunities for businesses. Research reveals that gross spending on public sector procurement totalled £357 billion between 2020 and 2021 in the UK. This was a 17% increase on the 2019/20 financial year.

These figures can seem intimidating, particularly to small businesses which have never bid for government contracts before. To help support small business, The London Business Hub has recently launched the Procurement Hub providing tips, tricks and advice to navigate public procurement.

Debunk prevailing myths

Public spending continues to soar, yet 75% of small businesses have never applied for public sector contracts. Ultimately, you have to be in it to win it, and the first step is to forget some of the myths which place some businesses out of the race before they even make the starting line.

For example, many view procurement as confusing and an obscure process – something that is not worth spending time on. Another prevailing myth is that respective public bodies will always have their preferred bidder lined up.

In reality, recent government policy has stipulated the target of spending every £1 in £3 with SMEs by 2022. With these targets in place, there is more opportunity than ever for SMEs to secure contracts. Debunk these popular procurement myths to give yourself the best platform for success.

Build a committed team

The procurement process can be lengthy from the planning stage to final sign off on a bid. SMEs participating in public procurement for the first time can find it time-consuming to prepare and bid for public sector contracts.

It’s crucial to build a committed team focused entirely on public sector contract bids. From administrator to project manager, it is important to assign specific roles for each stage of the process.

Once you have your team in place, outline your objectives for the business. The project manager must take responsibility for establishing clear and quantifiable goals. This should then determine whether or not you decide to bid for a contract in the first place.

Utilise business resources

Even with a committed team, the lack of exposure to public procurement means many SMEs are not sure where to go for support. The government has recently published a SME Selling to Government guide providing SMEs with essential information on public sector procurement. Whether you’re seeking top tips for tendering or answers on threshold contracts, this is the one-stop guide for SMEs interested in bidding for government contracts.

In tandem with London Business Hub, the Anchor Institution network has made reserved a series of contracts for smaller business. A number of London’s most influential organisations have formed the London Anchor Institutions’ Network to support business growth and economic recovery in the capital. As part of the Anchor Institutions’ programme of work, public bodies including the GLA, TfL, and Met Police have reserved contracts specifically for London-based businesses and organisations. These networks are crucial to gain insight into areas such as procurement budgets, recruitment resources and estate management .

Understand the language

Often when you visit a page or resource on procurement, there is lots of jargon flying around which can make it feel like a foreign language. Building a glossary of key terms is a simple way to understand procurement. If you’re keen to understand the minutiae of a tender or a waiver, building out this glossary can form a beginner’s guide to procurement.

However, understanding the terminology is just half the battle, many entrepreneurs go into a pitch determined to include as many complex words as possible. If you are using technical language, evaluators will need to understand the context behind it. Keep in mind that a tender doesn’t need to be a technical report, so keep your bid as accessible as possible.

Introducing the Procurement Hub

For those now ready to begin bidding on public contracts, there is no better time to visit the London Business Hub website. In partnership with the Anchor Institution Network, the London Business Hub has launched a brand-new programme to support small and diverse businesses in London tender for public sector contracts.

Through one-to-one support, business owners will be granted information on new contracts that have been reserved for SMEs and Voluntary, Community, Social Enterprises (VCSEs), along with handy resources on how best to win public procurement contracts and details of support available to all London-based employers.

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