Why You Keep Losing Public Bids

Nothing stings quite as much as failure. Particularly when you have spent time and hard-earned money on preparing to compete for a project. The “we’re sorry” letter or phone call can be crushing. It gets worse after it happens more than once.

We would like to humbly offer a few tips on how to avoid this humiliation. No need for lectures on professional presentation and proper paperwork are necessary. By now all of you know crumpled graph paper, stained spreadsheets, and absent legal documents are a recipe for disaster. Working with contracting officers, we frequently hear the following, “Anything amiss is reason to dismiss.” Enough said.

A bigger problem for many contractors is tracking where a bid struck home or brought in a new payroll. To that end, we suggest employing a bid tracker that builds an inventory of previous job estimates and a breakout of specific tasks. Establishing the database is time-consuming upfront, but pays big dividends within months. It allows you to quickly determine what was a winning proposal (to include your earnings) and what failed to compete with other bidders.

The next thing we would suggest is employment of a bid organizer—know where you have cast the net—and a bid scheduler. The latter is a lifesaver when surrounded by multiple job site requirements and confronted with a need to be looking for the next job. Now we come to a bit of “magic,” the bid analyzer. Short and to the point, here’s what a public comptroller is going to look for:

  1. Is the bid mathematically unbalanced? Are the unit bid prices in reasonable conformance with the engineer's estimate and other bids?
  2. If awarded, what effect will unbalanced bid items have on the total contract amount?
  3. If quantities are incorrect, will the contract cost be increased when the quantities are corrected?
  4. On items where the quantities may vary, will the lower bidder remain as low bidder?
  5. If the bid is unbalanced, will the unbalance have a potentially detrimental effect upon the competitive process or cause contract administration problems after award?

In other words, make sure your estimator does the right homework.

All of which brings us to analyzing your own results. If you fail once, see if the winner’s bid is now public record. It should be. Go through line-by-line. Where did your estimate differ from the winner’s estimate, and why? We understand the need to make a profit, and some firms will swallow costs in hopes of winning larger contracts in the future. Don’t fall victim to this ploy. Typically it is a strategy that results in shoddy work and damaged reputation. The trick is to learn from a competitor’s bid and then tighten up your next package.

There you have it, a quick trip through turning losing bids into winners. Want to learn more? Please subscribe to our newsletter.