Get bid ready to be shovel ready – By Ben Paul

The press is awash with stories around when the 150 projects that are ‘shovel ready’ and worth an estimated $2.6 billion will be released to market. These projects, and the certainty of pipeline they bring, are undoubtedly vital for the construction industry.

I would argue, along with many others, that it is vital that these get underway as soon as possible for the good of New Zealand Inc. Infrastructure New Zealand has noted that ‘early this month the Government announced it had selected 150 projects worth $2.6 billion that would create or retain 20,000 jobs’.

The last figure – 20,000 jobs – is a significant one. The more people we keep employed, the faster we will recover from the inevitable economic downturn caused by Covid-19 and the required lockdown. And whilst the speed with which these projects have been released to the market has been slow, particularly for those in this sector, one thing is for sure – they are going to come. They are also, I would suggest, only just the beginning.

With an upcoming election, whoever forms our next Government will continue to spend on infrastructure. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is a great way to get the economy moving and keep people employed. Secondly, it is long overdue for our country. Kick-starting the infrastructure investment will have a huge long-term benefit for our economy and our social wellbeing.

However, as this investment is coming from the Government, to tap into it and be the company and people that deliver the work, you’ll have to tender for it. That means that right now, if you’re not at full capacity, you should be working on your capture plans and your bid material to make sure you’re best placed to respond to the requests for proposals (RFPs) when they come.


The first thing to do is not sit there idly waiting for an RFP to drop. It pays to start having conversations now.

Understand the projects you want

That’s right, you are very much in the qualification stage. There are 150 of these projects, and most companies will not want to pitch for all of them. To do that would seriously test your internal resources or your finances if you use external consultants.

When winning work effectively, it always pays to target the projects you want, rather than use a scattergun approach. Draw up a list of the projects you have the best capability in delivering, and that you most want to work on. If you know any are likely to be awarded to one of your competitors who is already well placed, remove that one from your list. Prioritise them, so that you pre-position and put the effort into the ones you most want to win.

Now is a great time for you and your teams to really look at your proposals library and review what you have previously submitted
Pre-position for the projects

Research where the shovel-ready project you want is currently at. Understand what needs to be done on day one to get it running straight away. After all, that’s key to the Government. Speak to your contacts and those in your network, and draw up a clear picture of who the key decision-makers will be in awarding the contract.

Ahead of the RFP being issued, go and meet them. Ask lots of open-ended questions and find out what their key drivers are. Share information and stories from previous work you’ve done that is relevant, and will help them get their project started. By the end of these meetings, you should know who you need to write your RFP responses to, and what two or three things are most important to them.

Get your bid documentation in order

Now is a great time for you and your teams to really look at your proposals library and review what you have previously submitted. Review previous scores and feedback you’ve received, and then start updating the information accordingly.

Many RFPs will ask for the same information, which means you can prepare the base document for it now. Look at it with a critical lens and seek to improve it. As an example, having a health and safety policy is good. Articulating the story of how your teams live and breathe health and safety onsite, with clear examples and pictures/diagrams, is much more compelling and will score far more highly.

Get your team lined up

This is important for both the key people who will be delivering the project, as well as the ones who will be writing the bid response. In many cases, this will be the same people. However, the quicker you have your team lined up, the better. The easier it will be to mobilise them when a fast turnaround is required.

It is highly likely that while there has been a delay in these projects coming to market, when they do come out, they will most likely have a very short turnaround time. If you do need to use external providers, get them lined up now and have backup options in case someone else gets to your preferred option first.


Clearly, the delays in coming to the market and the Covid-19 lockdown have made resourcing hard in the construction sector. For many, the uncertainty has understandably meant there is a lot to be done. The focus has been on your own business operations.

However, when the landslide of Government-funded work does come, to rebuild our country and our economy, you’ll want to be ready to capitalise fully.

Director and founder of The BD Ladder, a business development and marketing consultancy, Ben Paul has over 20 years’ experience in providing sales and marketing advice, and has produced and led teams in winning several successful multi-million-dollar proposals