At Winning Tenders, we take great pride in providing expert advice and services to those who are seeking professional bid writing and tender support and guidance.
Our team love what they do so we decided to delve into their individual worlds in our new series of team interviews, offering practical advice, tips, and insight as well as a flavour for who they are outside of their professional lives.
This month, we’ve interviewed Nicola Gordon-Thaxter, Bid Manager, yoga enthusiast, and creative writer.
• How did you land on bid writing/management as a career path?
Like many, by accident! I read for a degree in English Literature and completed a certificate in public relations. I then went to work in public relations, then advertising, and then public affairs. So, my skill was persuasive writing. I was then approached by a head-hunter about a bid manager role. At the time I had never heard of a bid manager, but this company wanted someone who could write properly as they had been getting their guys on the factory floor to write bids and they had not been written as well as they could have been. I thought it sounded interesting and so I said yes and that’s where it all started, about fifteen years ago.
• What industries do you specialise in writing for?
Mainly domiciliary care, supported living, and NHS bids for GPs, dentists, nursing, mental health, and learning disability provision. I respond to a lot of DPS (dynamic purchasing system) bids which are basically frameworks the public sector set up for providers to join. Once they are on, they then have to undertake mini competitions to get work. I help clients get onto DPSs and to complete mini comps too. NHS and social care work tend to be done via DPSs now as it helps the buyer to have ready access to qualified suppliers at the drop of a hat without having to undergo costly bid processes every three years.
I have also written bids for law firms, lighting companies, print management firms, call centre providers, static guarding companies and language translators.
• What’s your favourite part of the job and why?
My favourite part of the job is having a response or a solution come together to meet the expressed – or even better – hidden need of a client. When that light bulb goes off it is very gratifying. I also like winning business!
• Do you have any advice for those looking to become bid writers/managers?
Learn to like reading and get very comfortable with paying very close attention to detail, especially if you are going to do a lot of public sector bids. Particularly NHS bids. There is a lot to read, a lot to cross-reference so you don’t miss vital requirements and it’s not always the most exciting read. So, you have to be able to read a lot and stay engaged in spite of the soporific effect of some of the material the public sector puts out.
• How would you identify an organisation’s USP?
Several ways. Firstly, I will ask them what they think it is. If they have done mystery shopping or have had surveys done, I will look at the results to see what their customers think. I will also take a look at their press coverage or industry coverage to see what people, competitors, regulators, and customers say about them. If they are a social care provider, I will look at their last CQC report to gain some insight. It also helps to have some insight into the organisation’s competitors to identify what makes them unique.
• How do you wind down after a hard day’s work?
By meditating, doing yoga, and watching superhero style telly like The Flash, Arrow (it’s finished now, sniff ☹) and thrillers like Killing Eve. I also love reading humorous books.
• Do you have any hobbies, or what do you like doing in your spare time?
I like to write fiction and industry news. I’ve published an article called ‘Bid Writing isn’t as Scary as You Think’ on bid writing for a friend’s website which can be found here and have self-published a short story called Chocolate South: A quest for a birthday present after Brexit which is on Amazon.
• What’s your top tip for creating work/life harmony?
Experiment, and find out what makes you happy. Then make sure you prioritise doing that something at regularly scheduled intervals to keep you happy. Also, I recommend using a task list or diary app – anything that can keep you on track so that you don’t just keep working. You need to schedule time for breaks and fun and for sometimes, just doing absolutely nothing.
• What’s your top tip for those looking to tender?
Read the requirements and be honest about your capability. You can’t have a go or ‘blag’ your way through a bid process!
So many clients end up paying for prep work on a bid they had no hope of winning because they could not meet a simple pass/fail requirement. Look at those first to save money and understand that time is money.
• Is there anything you’d like to add?
If you are tendering, it is better to hire a professional bid writer or bid manager to do it for you rather than to try and muddle through it yourself. It will be money well spent. People like me are trained (I am certified by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) and experienced to write and manage bids and can ensure you win or retain valuable business while you are freed up to do what you do best, which is whatever your business does. So, leave it to the professionals and relax.