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Funding your franchise: How to win public contracts

Funding your franchise: How to win public contracts

Servicing the public sector can be a good revenue opportunity for children’s franchises – so how can you place a successful bid?

The UK government spent £393 billion on public procurement in the 12 months ending 5 April 2023 - up 7% from the previous year, according to Public Spending Statistics.

Supplying products or services to the public sector can be rewarding business for those lucky enough to secure it. But the good news is that “franchises by their very nature can be appealing for public sector authorities that are putting contracts to tender,” explains Andrew Walters, founder of Kindling Franchise Consultants, a recognised expert in children’s activity franchising.

As Walter says: “The public sector is often looking for the reassurance and comfort provided by a bigger brand and the robust processes that a franchised operation can provide. In the case of nationwide tenders, a national footprint can also be a huge advantage as it allows them to contract with one central office that can manage the roll out.”

Children’s services franchises are also attractive to the public sector because franchising tends to have a low overhead business model and, as a result, fees per child are often lower which increases accessibility of services.

This advantage could be key to winning over a contractor – in this case, a local authority or authorities – looking to improve access to education and extra-curricular activities.

Preparing for the tender process

Stepping into the public sector arena can be daunting, regardless of the experience and size of your franchise, especially as procurement processes can be complicated and wrapped in red tape. “The public sector loves bureaucracy and has a certain way of doing things,” says Walters.

Franchisees can apply for a tender in their region directly or via a franchisor applying on your behalf. Before you can even be invited to pitch, you’ll be required to fill out the Standard Selection Questionnaire, often referred to by its acronym SSQ.

It’s a list of selection questions, including previous contracts, past experience, qualifications and your financial health, as well as self-declarations against exclusion grounds as set out in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The contractor will use responses to shortlist bidders, so it’s important that you answer the questions honestly and transparently.

Pitching for public contracts

Assuming you’re successful with the SSQ, the next step is to prepare your pitch, which should be treated like any normal sales pitch. You’ll need to be able to market your product or service in the best possible light in order to persuade the buyer that yours is the one to procure.

For example, you could emphasise how your children’s services business encourages play and inspires young minds. It’s also worth remembering that, at the end of the day, writing a tender response is more than just a form-filling exercise. Storytelling can help you to connect with those reviewing the application.

“Submitting a tender application can be a bit of an artform. It can be advantageous to get support from an organisation that specialises in tenders to help,” advises Walters. Such organisations can work with you to craft the perfect narrative.

Consider accreditation

When pitching for a tender, it’s vital that you read the tender document thoroughly, so you’re confident that you can answer the points raised.

Accreditation may help boost your application. Tenders will typically stipulate that you may have to hold certain certificates, but, even if they don’t, it could still be harder to win a pitch if you’re coming up against accredited competitors.

The two main accreditations are ISO:90001 for quality management, which demonstrates your ability to provide products and services that meet customer requirements; and ISO:90001 for regulations, which demonstrates that your franchise is being proactive in minimising its carbon footprint.

For children’s services franchises that run inclusive playgroups and support children with special education needs, specific accreditations such as those awarded through the Autism Accreditation Programme could boost your application.

Where to find tenders to pitch for

The UK government has a contract finder that allows you to find out about opportunities worth at least £12,000, including past tenders and upcoming contracts. There’s also a separate search facility for high-value contracts worth at least £138,760.

Each opportunity listed will give you the name of the contracting authority, the duration, anticipated value of the contract, plus the terms of the agreement.

Alternatively, there are third-party sites, like Bidstats, which boasts the largest database of public procurement data.

Where to find advice

As part of Brexit, the government has recently updated the UK Procurement Act, which is due to come into force this October.

Changes aim to make it easier for suppliers to do business with the public sector. Plus, YouTube tutorials, known as ‘Knowledge Drops’, are designed to prepare suppliers for the upcoming changes and include lessons on how contracts are awarded and managed, so you can begin pitching with confidence.

Words by Rich McEachran

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