ESPO sees rise in supplier engagement with SMEs over the last three years
9 Sep 2016 04:28 PM
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial to the success of our local economies and, as an organisation looking to work with a variety of suppliers, ESPO values the contribution smaller companies make to the success of our organisation.
Three years ago, ESPO decided to make a conscious effort to make it easier for all suppliers to seek a place on our frameworks, whether they are a larger business or an SME and has worked closely with Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) to achieve this.
In 2013, ESPO measured our engagement with SMEs and found that 55% of our suppliers at that time classified themselves as an SME. While a respectable figure, we found it wasn’t unusual for SMEs to be put off by the tender process; considering it to be onerous, time-consuming and overly complicated, or to be under the misapprehension that ‘only large firms win tenders’ – concluding that as ESPO’s frameworks tend to provide ‘national’ coverage, there was little point in small and medium companies bidding.
Around the same time, we signed up to the FSB’s Small Business Friendly Procurement Charter, which aims to create positive procurement opportunities between small enterprises and public sector buying organisations. The Charter sets out fourteen commitments - many of which ESPO had already adopted.
Since adopting the Charter, a number of initiatives have been implemented to make framework bidding opportunities more accessible and to overcome the perception of small and medium companies that ‘only large firms win tenders’. So far our engagement has slowly risen to a positive 76% of our suppliers classing themselves as an SME.
The initiatives put in place to make it easier for any supplier, but particularly SMEs, to bid for and win a place on a framework, include;
It’s a myth that ESPO frameworks are only for ‘large firms’; they provide a sustainable route to market for small and medium companies in a volatile economy.
Although ESPO have already made several positive changes to make our tenders more accessible to all suppliers, and to SMEs in particular, we are conscious there is still room for improvement. Our tendering processes and documentation are constantly reviewed against the feedback we receive from suppliers, and from ‘lessons learned’ as a result of tender exercises.
As a public sector buying organisation, ESPO’s main priority is to provide trusted, value for money procurement solutions to public sector organisations. Small and medium sized companies have a key role to play in helping us to achieve this and as far as they are concerned ESPO wants them to know we’re ‘open for business’.