Five tips to make procurement accessible to SMEs

3 March 2014 | Clare Tetlow

Clare Tetlow, Re:alliesThe most common barrier between sole traders or small businesses, and a procurement service which yields them work, is time.

Many small firms simply don’t have enough hours in the day to complete questionnaires while simultaneously developing their business and working on tenders.

Too often, small businesses are being unjustly penalised and miss out on work in their local area because they don’t have the luxury of a specialist bid writing team or, in some cases, any administrative capacity at all.

Of course, rigorous procurement processes are essential in protecting all members of the industry – particularly as we see green shoots of recovery from the recession.

So what is the solution for buyers looking to engage SMEs?

These five tips will help any buyer head in the right direction:

  1. Get under the skin of the issues facing SMEs and demonstrate your understanding to garner their confidence and make yourself as approachable as possible
  2. Directly engage through occasions such as ‘meet the buyer’ events and begin an open dialogue with small firms in your region
  3. Find ways of enabling small businesses to compete on a level playing field with their larger counterparts, by separating the supply of materials and labour
  4. Deliver a service which is as simple and transparent as possible to avoid spending unnecessary resources on deciphering convoluted questions and evaluating criteria
  5. Don’t become complacent. The market is always changing so the tender process provided for small organisations and sole traders must be flexible while remaining robust

An understanding of small businesses needs, direct engagement with SMEs, and simple tender processes are the three key ingredients for success in engaging with a broader range of supplier. The outcome of the procurement process should always be to secure a competent supply base - not a list of suppliers skilled in completing overly complicated paperwork.

Clare Tetlow is senior procurement manager at Re:allies

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