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Business Tenders

Updated on November 16, 2012

The Tender Trap

Large, lucrative (especially government) tenders can seem the holy grail of business. Get one and you're set.

Bidding for tenders, however, is tricky. In addition to the myriad draconian requirements of the fat tender document itself, there are unwritten laws of an even harsher hue.

Below are the invisible tender rules I've discovered the hard way. I welcome your additions, that we may warn budding bidders.


Bids require input from diverse sources.

Colleagues who hate each other, can't string a sentence and are too busy must unite.

Current clients and projects, abandoned for this purpose, suffer accordingly.


To demonstrate their importance, one or more team members must refuse repeated entreaties to deliver the content they promised weeks earlier.

This will derail the process and upset everyone.


As the deadline nears, more staff must work late or overnight.

Free pizzas and promises of time off ‘when it’s all over’ will fail to curb flagging morale and rising resentment.


When all contributions are finally in, the bid will look like it was written by 14 of Sally Field’s personalities in Sibyl.

Though it’s obvious the bid must be edited to give it one voice, there won’t be time.

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Various versions of the bid file, created to simultaneously elicit disparate contributions, must be confused until no-one knows which is the ‘master’.

Once an entire day has been spent painstakingly cutting and pasting the definitive file, it must be accidentally deleted from a laptop (with no backup).

If no IT person is available, one must be flown in to perform a forensic recovery.


Regardless of how many months the bid has been on the radar, the document must be delivered at the very end of the final day.

This will preclude all postal and even courier services.

Instead, the most junior team member must personally carry the document on an expensive, last minute flight, take a cab to the bid office and drop it through the chute two minutes before the deadline.


One night’s euphoria at finishing the bid will precede 2-3 weeks’ anxious wait (during which it’ll be difficult to concentrate on anything else).

The agony of being beaten by a more organised and professional competitor will only be exceeded by shock at the total cost of the bid and pain at losing loyal clients sick of being neglected.

All these things have happened to me. Do they ring true for you, or have I been moving in the wrong circles?

Or have you even worse tales to tell?!

What do YOU think?

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