13/07/2012

By Ben Weiner | CEO, Conjungo

In difficult and challenging times, companies naturally seek to maximise their current customer base and of course find new markets. Easier said than done. Still, if not the biggest but certainly one of the biggest potential customers is our own UK Government.

To put this into perspective, in the fiscal period 2009-2010, the UK’s public sector spent approximately £230 billion on goods and services. Given that the SME sector is considered to be the ‘engine of the economy’ maximising this potential is extremely important.

The problem that most people have is that the perception (and to a large extent, the reality) of doing business with Government whether local or central is a turgid and difficult process. So what is the best way of approaching this potential goldmine? Frankly, there is no easy answer but none the less, opportunities do exist for small companies and the Government is committed to broadening its’ purchasing power to enable all sizes of companies to benefit.

Recently Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office & Paymaster General, stated that government is open for business and must make it easier for SMEs to compete for public sector contracts.

He said: “The message is clear – Government has become a tough negotiator. But at the same time a Government that hunts for the best deals for the taxpayer is also good for business. Efficiency and growth go hand in hand.

“Why? Because we are opening up competition – we are opening our doors to all kinds of business and business models. Any firm with innovative and competitively priced products can be assured that Government is no longer a closed shop. The mindset is no longer big is beautiful.”

Mr Maude said there is now an aspiration that 25 per cent of central government spend will either go directly to or within supply chains through SMEs by the end of this Parliament. He expects the wider public sector to follow the Government’s lead on levelling the playing field for smaller companies.

Unfortunately there is no panacea for doing business with UK Government but it will take persistence and patience.

I know all too well the issues involved and while one web site might look fruitful, a broken link then makes the whole process fall down. While the difficulties might seem overwhelming, the rewards can be great and certainly rewarding. Having gone through the process once, the system becomes easier naturally with experience. Of course many will be put off by the hurdles put in place and the resources needed to be successful. That said, it’s worth investigating and there are a number of useful sites that give some advice and guidance as well as helping potential suppliers find opportunities.

I hope these help!

Useful links:

www.businesslink.gov.uk/ContractsFinder/
http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?topicId=1074033478

http://ukprocurement.com/procurement-guide/business-opportunities-for-smes.php