“The Same, but Different” – Managing Bids for Osborne

“I have been a Bid manager of one sort on another for some while now and ‘the same, but different’ is a good description of what that sort of role can be like.
I have been working with Osborne’s infrastructure pre-delivery team since the beginning of July this year. I am now a freelance bid specialist and formerly and Bid Manager for Balfour Beatty major projects and more recently Head of Strategic Bidding at Colas. Since going freelance a bit less than a year ago I have worked with large and small firms in the construction industry and learnt something from all of them.

So what is the same, but different winning work at Osborne in my experience?

The same stuff: bid timetables and deadlines are tight and we’re behind before we’ve started, client paperwork can be a bit hit and miss (sometime mostly miss) and everything arrives all at the same moment.

Everyone is busy and most people have day jobs in addition to preparing tenders. Bid Writers are like hen’s teeth, but not as rare as good estimators and planners. The bid manager’s job is always the same – try to make sense out of the pile of documents, work out what it is we actually need to do and then make sure that’s what happens. Also, provide tea, biscuits, occasionally a shoulder to cry on and advice on what to wear to a tender interview (recent lesson learnt; when you suggest to the interview team that they don’t all wear charcoal grey suits, don’t assume they will not all then turn up in navy blue). Governance can feel more like an admin chore than an important part of the process, especially when helpful forms ask you for a yes / no answer to the question ‘has this form been completed, signed and uploaded?’ That’s one of my favourites.

So what’s different? Osborne is a good place to work. Well I would say that, wouldn’t I? But really… what strikes me is the genuine desire to be and do better – and a willingness to listen and take on board suggestions from others. This is quite a different environment from some I have worked it and, in my opinion, marks Osborne out from many. I’m just here to help manage a few bids during an exceptionally busy period but everyone I have worked with, plus a few people I have met along the way, have all been keen to ask what I think, listen to my contribution, make their own suggestions and together try to make improvements and apply what we are learning. That’s both refreshing and encouraging for the future of the firm. It’s a tough world out there and the competition is fierce. More and more what will differentiate the winners from the others will be behaviour and if Osborne can channel the culture of openness and enthusiasm to learn into real improvement, it will separate them from the pack. Of course, the flip side is that if they don’t they’ll end up with an environment of frustration followed by apathy. So a big challenge ahead, but with plenty of rewards and a good basis to work from.

I’ve also noticed real team working – people helping each other out and caring about each other’s success and welfare. It’s no secret that the bid teams struggle for resources. More big challenges here for the business; juggling the risks of investing in more people to prepare for and deliver future projects that haven’t yet been secured.

I’m working with some interesting and nice people and learning more than I ever needed to know about rail projects (ask me anything you like now about gate line improvements and alternative brick stock delivery times). I hope I am making a contribution not just to getting bids in, but doing it better too.”

Allison Bowers is a Bid Manager at Osborne.