Supporting SMEs

ESPO welcomes tenders from small and medium sized enterprises. Did you know that in the 2022 calendar year, 74% of suppliers awarded positions on ESPO frameworks were classified as an SME? 

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial to the success of our local economies and for any organisations looking to work with a variety of suppliers, SMEs can bring unique benefits to the supply chain including:

  • Local knowledge

  • Innovative products and services

  • Supply chain diversity

  • Making corporate social responsibility (CSR) happen

All the leading professional buying organisations value the contribution smaller companies make to their organisations and here at ESPO we actively encourages SMEs to bid for a place on our frameworks. This provides a sustainable route to market for them in a volatile economy, and adds a greater degree of diversity to our supply chains.

Joining an ESPO framework isn’t as hard as you think

It’s not uncommon for SMEs to be somewhat overwhelmed by the tender process, considering it to be onerous, time-consuming and overly complicated, and all too often steeped in red tape. Unfortunately, some SMEs are still under the misapprehension that ‘only large firms win tenders’ and there’s little point in them even going through the tender process if they are unlikely to win.

However, this isn’t always the case and we actively work with smaller firms to show them the commercial benefits as well as encouraging them to engage with and get a listing on our frameworks. In order to encourage our mutually-beneficial relationships with the SME community, here are some of the ways we help ease the tendering process so that gaining a place on one our many frameworks becomes as straightforward as possible:

1. Less is more

Wherever possible, we break down the tender into smaller lots, e.g. based on supply to a specific geographic area or product type. This often helps SMEs realise that the scope of the contract is manageable, they can successfully deliver on it and therefore stand a chance of winning.

2. Insurance is not a deal-breaker

One immediate concern for many SMEs when they start talking to us is how much their insurance premiums will go up if they are awarded on to one of our frameworks. Many smaller firms tend to have an ‘off the shelf’ policy which for many purposes is adequate for most business. We try to set requirements proportionate to the risk and the business, but it will sometimes be higher than the ‘standard’ levels. However, once accepted onto a framework, it can be as simple as a one-off top up to their existing cover and it’s sufficient to confirm willingness to increase cover, if required, to meet framework requirements – so that the increased cover only needs to be taken at the point when a supplier is awarded a place on a framework or awarded a contract.

3. Demystifying the process

We understand that SMEs lack the internal resources or time to commit to assembling and submitting lengthy tender responses, so we have simplified this process as much as possible. We don’t use jargon or complicated terms and we keep it simple. We welcome any supplier questions along the way to help with the tender submission process.

4. eTendering

With smaller firms often having little management resource and time to dedicate to completing lengthy tender documents, they can use the PBO’s eTendering software to make the process simpler and less time-consuming in the future. Once the supplier has registered, it speeds up the process considerably for the next time; and suppliers can register their interest in certain categories so that they are notified about opportunities as and when they arise so that they don’t have to spend time seeking them out.

5. Financial assurances

We appreciate that SMEs may not be able to provide the level of financial detail or audited accounts that are often required before starting a contract, so we work with SMEs to manage risk and assess their financial credentials.

6. Attend one of our bidders’ days

We regularly host bidder days for specific frameworks as an opportunity for the SME community to meet us and understand what opportunities are available to them. Discussing opportunities face-to-face can help SMEs understand what’s required as part of the tender process and ultimately give them the confidence to tender. Opportunities for innovative small firms lie in products and services as diverse as home care services and specialist catering. We organise bidder days in different regions of the country too to help suppliers in the area win new business locally.

In summary

Our unique insights into the needs of the SME supplier community helps us to continually improve our processes and ensure that our tenders are accessible and present sustainable business opportunities for smaller companies. Any smaller firms that feel overwhelmed or worried about submitting a tender should speak to us directly to find a solution. There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose.

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