If Coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that cleaning is vitally important in the battle for our health and wellbeing. While doctors and nurses were singled out for appreciation by a grateful public (and rightly so) there was an army of soft FM workers behind them, making sure that the virus didn’t spread. As the country gained a new appreciation for hygiene; washing our hands more often, coming to a new understanding of infection vectors and learning how to open doors with our elbows to avoid them.
But the soft FM industry has also been one of the casualties of the virus. With more than half of the opportunities coming from office cleaning, hospitality, and retail, the industry was seriously impacted by the lockdown. As a result, the forecast is gloomy – at least in the short term, with revenue expected to take a significant dip in 2020/2021 before bouncing back.
And with high profile companies such as Tesco canceling their cleaning contracts, we can expect that the marketplace will become more competitive. More firms chasing fewer contracts can soon become a race to the bottom if firms choose to compete only on price. However, it’s important to know that there are other, possibly better ways to compete on your tender submissions, offering a robust quality solution that could help preserve your price.
While the virus may have dealt the industry a serious blow, it does also offer opportunity. We are already noticing that Coronavirus is changing the bidding landscape in these notable ways:
- Procurers are interested in knowing how your company handled Coronavirus; how did you respond immediately, and how did you treat your people
- Organisations want to know what lessons have been learned from the virus, and what your plans are in the event of further lockdowns
- Many organisations have had their budgets impacted by their response to the crisis, so there is potential to add value by supporting them in other ways
- Social Value initiatives are being targeted specifically at helping an area recover from the impact of COVID-19.
For Soft FM companies in particular, it’s vital to get across to your potential customers that you have stayed up to date with the latest advice, and how you have changed your processes and products used to address the situation.
PPE supply has also become a hot topic, with news of shortages and the failures of many firms to supply the equipment making headlines. Being able to assure your clients that you have a reliable source of PPE to protect your people and theirs will be an advantage.
As an industry, soft FM is not overly known for innovation, mainly due to the fact that most firms are (relatively) small and the bulk of the service is delivered by manual labour. But changing the way you do things may give you an edge; is there a better cleaning product you could buy which offers more powerful virus-killing properties? Or new ways of working that ensure better protection? Is there technology you can hire that drives better efficiencies and reduces your labour costs and chemical consumption? Talk to your suppliers and find out what the stats are behind the products you use; facts and figures on performance will support your bid.
Another way that you may also be able to add value is to offer additional services alongside what you already do. If an organisation can come to you as a ‘one-stop-shop’ rather than having to organise contracts with multiple firms then you have an advantage. Think about how you work at the moment; what else could you be doing for your clients alongside the Soft FM services you currently offer? For example, could your staff carry out minor repairs that they find during the course of their regular work like a handyperson service, or offer window cleaning as well.
The requirements of the Public Procurement (Social Value) Act of 2015 are being seen in more bids, and we can expect that trend to increase due to the stretched local budgets that we mentioned earlier. If you’re not familiar with social value, then our white paper: Win More Bids, Do More Good is a good starting point to understanding what procurers want from you.
Social Value is measured over three main categories; employment, community, and environmental. A good social value offer can greatly increase the value to your client by helping them to meet their wider goals. This could mean hiring an apprentice or taking part in local job fairs, but it could also be a commitment to offering staff volunteering to deliver cleaning skills workshops to help local people take better care of themselves.
Environmental initiatives are also another great way to build your offering. If you can look at more environmentally friendly cleaning products that reduce the volume of natural resources used and require less volume to be used in the cleaning process. New energy-efficient equipment is another great way to also bring social value into your solution.
Riding out the Storm
What is clear is that experts expect that the industry will bounce back in 2021 and beyond, going on to even greater heights of success. While the current times might be challenging for Soft FM, if you can find a way to navigate through the next 18 months, you will be in the perfect position to take advantage of that, having ‘lived through’ the pandemic and learned the many lessons it has to teach.
Public sector bidding is a great way to gain stability to get you to that time; allowing you to win contracts with public sector organisations who aren’t going to go bankrupt and who are compelled to pay invoices within 30 days – all great news for business continuity. If you’ve never written a tender before but you’d like to find out more about it, then please get in touch. We have plenty of resources to support you on your bidding journey including our free ‘Bid Ready in Five Days’ challenge which is running again starting September 14th this year.