Bid Solicitation Process: Master It To Ignore It

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When you are engaging in a significant construction or renovation project, you are going to want to solicit competing bids for the work that needs to be done. Many blueprint companies can help you handle the bid solicitation process by hosting your plans and solicitation documents on their website.

There are a number of reasons why you wouldn’t want to handle this phase of the process yourself.

First of all, your staff would be faced with having to answer all requests for the bid materials and delivering them to the various parties in sufficient time prior to the bid deadline. It may not only be the primary contractor calling for materials, but the electrical, plumbing, excavation, mechanical, painting, floor covering, etc companies that work with that contractor.

Your staff probably has enough to do without that added burden.

Second, anyone who is helping to fund your capital improvements will want their names associated with a project that is free of accusations of impropriety. Some funding entities may have requirements for a fair and open bidding process.  By having all the plans equally available to all from a blueprint company, you can avoid accusations that your staff or project architect disadvantaged some bidders by only providing partial plans. Not to mention it helps avoid honest omissions or providing additional advantageous information over the course of conversation when someone requests materials.

When potential bidders contact the blueprint company, they can pay to receive a copy of all the documents. The blueprint company will keep a log of who requested access to materials and when. The blueprint company may also have a relationship with entities like Dodge Data and Analytics which sends out notices of projects up for bid to a wider range of companies than you might normally reach. Though while that might result in a wider range of competitive bids, that could also mean having to review a larger stack of proposals than you intended.

Many Bothans would not have had to die to bring us this information had the Empire just placed the plans on an accessible server

Once the project has been awarded, many blueprint companies offer project management software services that provide a central location where plans, changes and updates can be store. The need for an arms length relationship with the contractors isn’t as important so you or the project managers could also host the materials on widely available services like Basecamp. (Though the blueprint company’s services may be optimized for construction projects.)

Since all changes and interactions with project documents are logged, all parties will be aware of the most up to date version of the plans and get some sense of progress. It can be illuminating, for example, to note that yesterday the electrical contractor promised the new fixtures would arrive any day now, but just downloaded the new specs an hour ago.

You might find it valuable to use a similar approach in soliciting bids for other services: graphic designer, concessions/food service, landscaping, custodial, etc. Find a disinterested third party who will set up a Basecamp site where bid documents are stored and field general inquires throughout the bidding period. It may even be appropriate to have a board member who has no interest or experience in the area being solicited handle the process. Provided they can be discrete about who submitted proposals and what the amounts were, of course.

About Joe Patti

In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats (buttsseats.com) since 2004.
I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)
I am currently the Director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University. Across my career I have worked at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.

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