THE managing director of a company that specialises in helping businesses win public contracts has told how the type of deal has changed as councils and government move to adapt to coronavirus in the environment.

David Gray, managing director of Edinburgh-based AM Bid, said while the “tap was never completely turned off”, work dwindled quickly as lockdown came into force and as businesses have reopened and contracts offered again, much of the work has included Covid-related elements.

At one stage Glasgow and Edinburgh city councils were offering just three contracts between them when each would usually have around a dozen on offer at any given time.

Mr Gray was speaking a year after he took over the role.

He said the firm is now experiencing an increased volume of work as some businesses look to public rather than private sector relationships and it is also launching new services to help firms bid against the backdrop of the pandemic.

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He said: “What we have seen is from quite an early stage, I would say post-outbreak, if you like, is organisations adding coronavirus-specific requirements to their tenders.

“I suppose that is particularly prevalent with contracts particularly, for example, the construction sector, where there would normally be a lot of site work and buyers are starting think of that, but also a specific health and safety implications.

“We work with facilities management and commercial cleaning organisations who suddenly the tender specifications included very specific coronavirus deep cleaning and that kind of thing, making sure that environments were clean and safe to work in and trying to mitigate that spread of virus.”

The changing landscape is providing greater opportunity for the firm but it still took a jolt.

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Mr Gray said: “We’d managed to grow the business over the first five years, with continued growth in both staff numbers and turnover. So we had big plans to continue doing that, looking on track for the first few months of the year, certainly through to February, and looking well on track to surpass £1.1 million turnover this year.

“We’d hired some new staff as well. So continuing that growth story and continuing the journey, and most importantly, keeping up our win rates for our clients. We have an 80% win rate.

“It was all going well.”

A business trip to Holland at the start of March revealed how Covid was beginning to impact Europe.

He said: “The following week I’d instructed all the staff to get things ready to work from home indefinitely because that would to be the way we were going.

“So after that, it was very notable. There was a decrease, first and foremost, in public procurement activity, and with us being a public tender specialist in public contracts and bidding and tender specialists, we rely, to some extent, on there being a pipeline of opportunity there for our clients to bid for this new work.

“So that started to decrease as did the inquiries from clients. We were no different to the vast majority of other businesses really. Our revenues fell.

“Having been 30 per cent up for the period October to February, we were then starting to notice through March to May, we were down 50% on the previous year.”

As business has returned at pace, he said meetings have been continuing virtually and new aspects of the business are being introduced.

This includes “a bespoke public sector bid training series of modules, training delivered either online or eventually in person when it’s safe to do that”.

Mr Gray said: “Those will be aimed at individuals and organisations with different levels of experience in bidding and tendering for public sector work.

“We're really just sharing our experience and our expertise over the years and training organisations and individuals up for what they can expect in public tendering, particularly how it's very different from private sector proposals.

“It is just trying to give them the skills and the knowledge to be able to access those bid streams.

“For those organisations who perhaps don't have in-house resource to actually write the bids, we're also going to be offering a public sector, bid readiness service, where we'll actually go into a company, again, initially virtually, but we'll be evaluating their current readiness to win work in the public sector."