Most firms owned and managed by their founders are business to business, and many of these earn their living through submitting and winning bids. David Molian's theme for this year will be how to improve success rates for writing bids to win contracts.

More and more work is now obtained through open-market tendering – in 2017, the UK government spent over £220bn on procurement, nearly all via competitive bidding. Billions more are spent each year in the private sector.

Historically some firms have been protected through long-term contracts, subject to periodic renegotiation. That era is ending and industries such as construction and engineering are now dominated by competitive tendering, project by project. Firms that once took work for granted today find themselves staring down the barrel of a bid. The impact of tendering is being felt across the board as sectors like health and social care and information technology also find themselves increasingly obliged to win business through pre-qualified open competition. This trend can only grow: governments need to show value for money for taxpayers, and businesses have to demonstrate to shareholders they are keeping costs under control.

There is good news, however. Barriers to entry for smaller businesses are reducing, as big players are no longer automatically at the head of the queue to win contracts. Those tendering contracts are seeking innovative solutions and the smarter, more cost-effective outcomes which are often the preserve of agile, entrepreneurially-minded suppliers. If you look for it, opportunity is everywhere.

For many business owners, however, writing and submitting bids is not only time-consuming but also something of a mystery. In the months that come, this column will be seeking to de-mystify the process and show how you can increase your success rate if winning work through bidding is how you earn your living. Specifically, we’ll be examining:

- how to put together a bidding strategy that plays to your strengths and maximises your chances of succeeding through a focused approach

- avoiding the basic errors that eliminate many otherwise promising bids at the start

- steering clear of bids that you don’t want to win , and which will only cause you grief if you are successful

- the seven building blocks that underpin continuous improvement in your bidding performance

- the three golden rules that characterise winning bids

- embedding in the business robust systems and processes that deliver repeatable results, but don’t overload your organisation with bureaucracy

- how to manage the shortlister interview, to give you and your team the edge over the competition

- the three major forces that are shaping bidding for the future

These tips, techniques and tactics are derived from extensive research and first-hand experience of creating bids that win business, and we’ll be outlining them in the months to come.

David Molian is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management and the lead author of How to Write Bids That Win Business, to be published by Harriman House in March 2018.