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Published Date: 28-02-2024
Author: Ciaran Brass
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
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By using evidence-based approaches and emphasising the skills, experience and capability of subcontractors, we explain how your subcontracting partners can be leveraged as a positive aspect of your tender submission, complementing your directly employed resource.

Quality questions in a tender response may specifically mention subcontractors, for example, within a quality assurance or resource-based response where the authority wants to know how your workforce and contingency resource will be assigned. Failing to address an aspect of the question runs the risk of losing marks when it is received by the buyer’s evaluation committee. Instead, you should explain the benefits subcontracting partners will provide as part of the contract, assuring the authority that they will receive high-quality works or services.

We take a look at some instances where quality questions may include mention of subcontractors in tendering, and how you can ensure this is positioned in a positive light for your organisation and your tender submission.

Selecting suitable subcontractors

As a first step, you should emphasise that any subcontractors working on the contract you are tendering for will be pre-vetted, assessed and approved with the contracting authority prior to delivering works. This can minimise concern that unsuitable or insufficiently skilled resource would be allocated to any works or services.

For example, when a tender response requires you to outline how you select and work with suitable contractors, you may wish to consider writing the following:

‘… Our pre-approved, vetted subcontractors have over 20 years’ experience delivering similar testing and rewiring works for housing associations, ensuring they are ideally positioned to deliver works for Newcastle City Council. All subcontracting partners will have equivalent or higher qualifications (e.g. NVQ Level 3 or above).’

Presented in this light, emphasising that suitable subcontractors will support your organisation acting as the general contractor will be an additional benefit as part of the submission. The vetting processes, strength of experience and qualifications will all assure the authority of their technical proficiency and suitability to complete the scope of works.

Business continuity measures

As a general contractor, the purchasing authority will require information around business continuity measures to ensure works will not be impacted by inclement weather, peaks in demand or force majeure events such as fire and flooding. Subcontractors may form an integral part of your business continuity and disaster planning to assure continuity of resource.

Potential benefits of subcontractors within the context of business continuity planning include:

  • Greater ability to resource peaks in demand outside the anticipated contract scope, reducing the burden on the authority to search for suitable contractors on short notice
  • Responding to challenges or specialised requirements – for instance, if a works order requires scaffolding – enabling prompt and comprehensive completion of works or services
  • Subcontractors within rural or difficult to reach areas for contracts spread across a wide geographic area, ensuring compliance with shorter timescales for reactive callouts or inclement weather impacting ability to travel
  • Same-day availability for instances of mass illness, minimising the risk of slippage to the overall programme of works.

Wariness of overreliance on subcontractors as a general contractor is a sensible concern. However, in the context of business continuity, all the above are presented as benefits to the client, assuring them of your ability to react to unforeseen circumstances.

Monitoring subcontractor performance

Public sector buyers will also want to know the quality of subcontractors’ work will be in accordance with industry best practices and the requirements of the specification. Consequently, tender responses around quality assurance processes and procedures should also include how you will monitor subcontractor performance, where relevant.

As with your directly employed resource, your tender response should evidence how performance of subcontractors is managed proactively. For example, a quality question may require you to evidence how you will manage quality for works-in-progress jobs. To emphasise the benefits of utilising subcontractors as a general contractor, you may choose to describe it as such:

‘… A minimum of 25% of works orders delivered by subcontractors will be subject to works-in-progress audits, exceeding the 10% minimum for directly employed operatives. Audits will be performed by a site supervisor or contract manager, and will verify compliance with quality standards, the contract specification, site-specific RAMS (such as working at height) and organisational safe systems of work.’

In this example, a clear percentage and scope of audits is given, emphasising that subcontractors’ work will be assessed more frequently than direct operatives. If you have the facility, you may also choose to include minimum levels of acceptable performance for subcontractors:

“… Subcontractor KPI performance will be assessed independently of direct operatives, with minimum levels of acceptable performance set higher than KPI thresholds (e.g. 98% compliance with reactive callouts in lieu of 95%) supporting quality in delivery and contractual compliance.’

Once again, outlining higher targets for performance audits and KPIs is a direct benefit to the buyer. More frequent oversight will support quality in delivery, and result in compliance with the specification, timescales and ultimately the programme of works – strengthening the credibility of your tender submission.

How we can help you win bids and tenders

Our team of bid and tender writers are highly experienced at responding to questions involving subcontractors in tendering, and we have experience of various different situations and scenarios. By emphasising the benefits via the qualifications, experience and availability of our clients’ subcontracting partners, we achieve high marks from evaluating committees, supporting our 85% overall success rate.

If you would like to learn more about the bid and tender writing or review services we provide, our sales and marketing team are available for an informal chat or free, no-obligation quotation at or 0800 612 5563 today.

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