Governments have a great deal of money to spend on goods and services – and with the world economy in recovery, the government marketplace is attractive. The downside for most small to medium businesses is the necessity to deal with an entrenched, complex and non-uniform bureaucracy in order to do business.
There are three levels of government to deal with, each of which has its own rules, regulations, and requirements.In many cases these change with regularity, in response to perceived problems, lobbying by industry, or the desire to improve things.
The discussion to follow over the next few weeks will help to decipher the complexities, and give some tips on how best to approach what amounts to the largest buyer of goods and services in the country.The federal government alone spends approximately $20 billion annually on goods and services – with about half of that spent by National Defence.The other half is spent by departments and agencies, whose buyer of record is Public Works and Government Services Canada.While PWGSC is accountable and objective, often the buying decision is either made or highly influenced by the department wanting the goods or service.
The first thing we need to understand is that governments have to be seen, in general terms, to be open, fair, and transparent in their dealings with the private sector.We all are aware of individual cases which disprove this point, but for the vast majority of suppliers the three principles apply.
This means that suppliers have to be able to compete with other suppliers of similar goods and services, and should always be looking for the competitive edge.This can be as simple as knowing how to properly prepare a response to a request for proposal, how to structure an unsolicited proposal, or how to best position a company to be at the top of a standing offer list.
The big spender is the federal government – sometimes the least approachable.The most approachable spenders are small municipalities, where the personal touch is more acceptable, and where the staff is not available to conduct complex procurement activities involving requests for proposal, bid solicitations, the use of electronic bidding, and so on.
It is an abiding myth is that all procurement is completely objective. This week in Ottawa for example, Canadian defense manufacturers are showcasing their wares to interested federal government departments and agencies.If no opportunity existed to influence buyers and users, why would these companies spend their time and money to attend an annual trade show? Good question.