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Why we don’t surrender to tender


That just about sums up how I feel about tenders. The excitement mounts as the deliciously attractive headline figures reach your inbox promising a wonderful partnership with a multi-site national brand looking for someone who understands provenance and consistency.

It sounds good doesn’t it? The buzz around a sales office as figures are banded about.

You sign into the tender documents which reach over 10 different attachments each with in excess of 40 discrete sections needing varying input from accounts, to quality assurance, purchasing, sales and directors.

They want to delve into your company and your relationships with other people deeper than a journalist digs dirt on a dodgy politician. Still, you continue to read, lured by the continued promises of quality and consistency and partnership.

You click on the product list … 90 percent of the time you are met with an unwieldy spreadsheet into which a simple cut and paste is impossible with 15 columns to complete, all with the unfamiliar packaging specification of the incumbent supplier meaning that you need to translate your own prices into 5 x this or that.

Then you search, desperately at times for a column telling you what the specification is – where does it come from? Country of Origin? Classification meat chart giving us some indication of age of animal at slaughter or hint at quality? It isn’t there.

This can’t be right? The documents before that drew you in were adamant that quality was key. You work your way through the reams of electronic paper to find, if you are lucky, a tender weighting: 60% is on price.

You pick up the phone and this is how it goes:

Supplier – “Hello, we would love to understand more of what you do and what you are looking for in a key supplier – could we meet please to see if we think we can work together“

Tender person – “We really are too busy at this stage gathering information so if you can just put it together (oh yes I forgot to say the deadlines are often 7 days turn around!) and we will look at all the tenders and get back to you (they do, sometimes 6 months later after much chasing).

The phone goes down. You then have a choice. You turn all your teams attention to this one document clinging on still to the hope (it’s not the despair I can’t cope with it’s the hope!), or you can shut up, move on as you politely decline (they are often horrified that you won’t tender).

I am left with the impression that they want a number to fill a gap for them – we need 6 butchers, 3 fish mongers and 2 grocers to tender, like a distorted happy families.

We choose to shut up and move on as without specification or a willingness to even meet to discuss how you could work together. We are turning our own industry into a commodities market who are racing to the bottom together. If tenders are your thing and you deal only in commodities; great.

We aren’t.  We deal in only the top 5% of beef and lamb in the world so why would we spend weeks or months working on a tender when all that happens is they look at the last page and see the cheapest price and go with that. We believe that if you have to purchase ingredients for your business it can either be a cost or investment and we work hard to help to be an investment in the marketing with our clients and help them grow.

Best put now in the words of the first American astronaut to orbit the earth ……

“I guess the question I’m asked the most often is:

“When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?”

Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts – all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
― John Glenn , first American astronaut  to orbit the earth

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