Writing a Bid Proposal that Includes a Subcontractor
If you have discovered an interesting project that is out for bid, but your company is not qualified to carry out much of it, except one particular requirement in which you are highly skilled, you would do well to offer yourself to another company as a subcontractor for that project. But if the project is one you are well qualified for as a whole, and there are only one or two specialized parts that you don't do well, you can really power up your proposal by subcontracting those parts out.
The subcontractor you choose can be a friend who has the skills you need, a local professor who moonlights, a specialist in business for themselves, or another small company like yours, but with different skills. It could also be a bigger company headquartered out of state that is looking to make contacts locally.
When writing a proposal for a project that includes a subcontractor, you will have to get agreement from them to work with you first, and decide what exactly they will do as compared with what you will do. Then you will need to gather the same information from them that you are required to provide for yourself as prime contractor, but on a smaller scale.
From each subcontractor you recruit you will need the following:
- A description of the specialist or company and their skills.
- Examples of and contact information for successful work they have done.
- A resume for those who will be playing a primary part on the project.
- How much they will charge to do their part.
- Proof of any license or insurance requirements.
In the proposal you will need to describe the role you intend the subcontractor to play, and how you will coordinate their role or roles with yours. You will want to establish yourself as the main point of contact with the prospective client, even as the proposal asks for contact information for each of you. You will want to reassure your prospective client that you will take full responsibility for the work of the subcontractor and any liability they may incur related to the contract.
Most proposals require some kind of estimated timeline, so you will have to show the sub's work there, too, with relation to your own. When does the sub step into the project and when will their role be over? You are aiming for them to be a seamless part of your operation, and you will earn points with the prospective client when you show that seamlessness in your proposal. Illustrate it with charts and graphs.
Also take note of any especially qualifying factors the subcontractor brings. In the RFP agencies will usually spell out the rationale they use for giving "points" to bidders, and subcontractors can sometimes get you more points. Having an office in the agency's location is one way. Having special licenses, or a special management status is another (minority, woman, or veteran-owned business, for example).
A Typical Subcontracting Situation
The company I work for had a contract with a city a couple of years ago that called for provision of water and electrical audits. We did water audits and wanted to do electrical audits, but didn't yet have the skills. When we wrote a proposal for the contract, we utilized a friend of one of the owners as a subcontractor, who did electrical work to supplement his regular job. He had enough experience with side jobs to qualify for the project, which called for regular water audits and occasional electrical ones, and we had good experience conducting water audits. Because electrical audits were new to us, we bid the contract a little low. With the combination of all of those qualifying factors, we got the job.
As time went on, our subcontractor faded away, but the city was giving us mostly water audits anyway. Eventually we did get a couple of requests for two small water/electrical audits. By then we had connected with another electrical company, who wanted us as a subcontractor on a proposal they were going after, so we asked them to conduct the electrical portion of our audits. This worked well.
Meanwhile, their proposal was awarded to someone else, so we never did work with them any more than that. They subsequently sold their company to a bigger one, and are now providing electrical audits as a subdivision of that company. And this year we are preparing ourselves to add electrical audits as one of our own services.
When you take on a subcontractor, you have the chance to win a contract you otherwise might not have. In addition to that, you can learn new skills from the subcontractor. Depending on why they are subcontracting with you, you could even pay them to train your people to take over that skill. With their services and/or your new skills, you can expand your reputation, acquire potential business in a new market, and have them look out for you in their network, even as you look out for them in yours.
I envision a world where this will be the norm. Where all businesses will be small, each with their own specialty and management, each teamed up with many other businesses who support and enhance theirs. I envision whole networks of small businesses interacting, providing the majority of the business services and goods in this country. I imagine even the current conglomerates broken up into small, separately owned businesses.
This is what will make our country and economy thrive. Our government was originally set up for this kind of economy and when it has worked this way, there has been plenty of work for everyone and our governments have had plenty of money. This is what we need to come back to, so never be afraid to subcontract. This kind of teamwork is what our country and economy was built on.
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- About SBA | SBA.gov
The federal government's Small Business Association was set up in 1976 to help small businesses become better established and successful. Although its procedures can seem unwieldy, it has helped millions of small businesses thrive.
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