So you’re keen to get on the government’s construction books? It’s a pretty popular choice, particularly as construction is often used as a lever to boost the economy.
Most of the time it’s head contractors who take on the big government commercial construction projects. Through the tender process they’ll engage with subbies and suppliers to help get an idea of how much it’s all going to cost.
Usually through the construction tender process, you, as a subbie, may be required to submit a construction quote to the Head Contractor. However, you can still get on the government’s radar as a subbie directly.
Government commercial construction jobs can be a challenge to win, but once you’ve got the experience and foot in the door (formally through their processes too) you’ll be loving your job even more!
We’ll take you through some of the state level registers and the federal government to help you get that foot in the door.
Australian Federal Government
First cab off the rank is the Australian suppliers register. This register promotes different products and services to buyers from overseas through the Austrade website.
Applying for the Austrade register itself is relatively straight forward for the first touch point.
The federal government’s criteria is quite specific. Before you apply, ask yourself the below.
- Do I have an Australian Business Number (ABN)?
- Is Australia my main place of business?
- Are management committed to becoming an exporter and willing to develop our exportation business?
- Do we have the financial resources or ability to source specifically for expiration?
- Do we have the budget to potentially travel to international markets?
- Do we have a growth strategy?
- Do we have marketing materials such as a website, and the ability to customise for markets?
- Do we have the capacity to build supply capability?
If you think you tick all of these boxes and are confident, we recommend applying to the Australian Suppliers Directory.
Once you’ve applied, your application will be reviewed and someone will likely be in touch to gather more information to help them make a decision.
The Victorian Government has a Construction Supplier Register for commercial construction projects. The Constructions Supplier Register is a pre-qualification scheme, open to anyone who offers construction work and/or services. If you want government jobs, you need to be on this register!
Each supplier on the register has been classified as having the necessary skills and expertise, as well as financial capabilities and management systems needed to be involved in a Victorian Government construction project.
In Victoria, there are two main categories:
- Suppliers of construction work – builders
- Suppliers of construction related services – engineers, architects etc.
There is also now a third category to allow smaller businesses to get in the door. This category is for low value works of under $500,000 including GST.
The application process can be lengthy, but luckily the Victorian Government has given you pretty much everything you could possibly need to know before applying, including things like eligibility criteria.
You can check out the pre-application process here.
The Queensland Government has a few different methods of procurement.
They use several methods such as:
- Ad hoc purchasing
- Open tender
- Selective tender
- Limited tender
- List of preferred suppliers
- Standing offer arrangements (SOAs).
We won’t go through all of these, but you can check them out on the Business Queensland website.
It’s a little more difficult to track down the exact information you want on the Queensland Government website (it’s the government though, so are we surprised?). Your first bet is to check out the supply to Queensland Government page.
Usually there will be some form of tender process to complete to get the bigger jobs. You can also check out the supplying for buying categories and make sure you fulfil all the ethical requirements for supplying to the government before you take any further steps.
Once you’ve got all the information you need through exploration of their site, we recommend applying to the Queensland Government Supplier list.
New South Wales Government
In NSW, their process is a little more laid out in terms of what they expect.
The NSW Government have five procurement objectives:
- Value for money
- Promoting competition
- Easy to do business
- Economic development, social outcomes and sustainability.
These objectives allow a diverse range of suppliers to get in front of the government regardless of their size.
There are also particular obligations and responsibilities that you need to meet to become a supplier (as you would expect).
The NSW Government purchases a range of contracts and schemes either as a whole-of-government or agency-specific.
They also look at supporting small to medium businesses, including regional businesses. There’s also a focus on buying from Aboriginal business and Australian disability enterprises as well to ensure equal opportunity.
Before you sign up, it’s worth checking out the information the NSW Government has on supplying to government.
Western Australia Government
The Western Australia Government makes purchases a few different ways:
- Direct purchase
- Verbal quotation
- Written quotation
- Open tender.
The method is usually selected by the particular agency looking to source the supplier. There are a few different rules to each method of purchase, for example, verbal quotes can be requested for works up to $50,000 including GST.
Due to the high Aboriginal and Indignous population in WA, the Western Australia Government
has a big focus on working with Aboriginal business, as well as businesses who employ Aboriginal and Indigenous workers.
Businesses can supply either goods and services, community services and works-related services to the Western Australia Government.
The Western Australia Government has put a short, brief guide together for suppliers who wish to supply goods and services here.
The go-to point if you wish to get in front of them is to register your business as a supplier through Tenders WA. Tenders WA is used to source all suppliers for government works.
Occasionally they may use newspapers and websites, however your best bet is to get yourself onto Tenders WA.
Hopefully these insights and resources help you to figure out next steps. It can be a bit daunting navigating the government sites when it comes to procurement so have a dig and don’t hesitate to reach out to them when you have queries.
We’ve all heard it a thousand times before — “technology is turning us into the anti-social generation”.
If we were to take all the newspaper column inches dedicated to this topic, we’d be able to re-clad the Eureka Tower and have enough left over to do the Opera House.
Like most opinion articles, these aren’t worth the paper (or pixels) they’re on. While we might not mingle with strangers on the bus anymore (which is probably a good thing), tech has given us the opportunity to reach out to thousands of previously unknown people.
But what does this all have to do with the construction industry?
There is no denying that construction is a game of relationships. And while saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” might be an oversimplification, being able to get in touch with the right people will get you moving in the right direction.
There are three ways you should be using tech to make sure you are both getting in front of the right people and have enough time to build a working relationship with them —
— Networking, prioritisation and automation (don’t worry — it’s a hell of a lot easier than it sounds).
Getting in touch with new leads is no longer as laborious as jotting down names into a little black book from the tenders section of a newspaper. There’s also no more need to sleuth around multiple sources to work out who all the tendering builders are on a job.
And while you can now access all these details so easily, so can everyone else. If you’re calling into the builder cold, you are missing out on a great opportunity to get a head start on building that working relationship.
Every builder is online in some form or another these days. And it’s not just a matter of jumping on the EstimateOne address book and jotting down a few names or numbers. Try a couple of these tricks to get your networking to the next level:
- Before you call to enquire about a project, note the estimators name and have a quick look on their LinkedIn. Estimators are notorious for being on the move a bit, you might just find a couple of mutual connections from jobs you’ve worked on in the past.
- Have a squiz at the builders listing in the EstimateOne address book and see what other jobs they are working on. If there’s more than one you can help them out with, let them know you’re keen.
- If you’re on a paid plan, have a look at some of the jobs they’ve won recently — a nice congratulations can go a long way, and they might even need your help to get it built!
- Jump to their website. Many of the websites have a “News” or “About” section where you can mine heaps of useful information to drop in conversation.
There is a wealth of knowledge that is so easily accessible. Taking the time to find this knowledge can be worth its weight in gold.
Knowledge is power, and we all know people love it when you take the time to talk about them.
With all these new contacts comes an influx of invitations to put in a quote. But how do you work out the ones that are actually worth your time?
No one’s getting paid to put in a quote — so it’s important that you’re only quoting the jobs that will most likely to lead to a pay day.
In the marketing world there’s a thing known as lead scoring — putting a number against a lead so you know where to direct your efforts. This kind of system is perfect for many construction businesses.
All you need to do is work out and then codify how important aspects of a job are for you. For example if I was a supplier of glass, I’d be looking to see if my product was spec’d, if I had a prior relationship with the builder and how much of the product I could actually supply.
Then you need to put a percentage rating against those criteria to dictate how important they are. So say:
- Product Spec’d = 45%
- Relationship with the builder = 30%
- Product amount = 25%
Next, put a score between 1–10 for each of the criteria against the job. You just need to multiply your score with the percentage you assigned to it, then add them all up. You can see from the example below that I should be prioritising the St Kilda Trophy Cabinet job:
To get started, Google ‘lead scoring template’ — there are plenty of free options out there you could be taking advantage of.
Once you’ve got yourself into this kind of mindset, you can also start actively searching for jobs that will give you a high lead score.
Tools like EstimateOne’s spec search allow you to find jobs where you can put a 10 next to “product spec’d” straight away by only showing jobs where your product has actually been specified.
Automation seems to be one of those buzz words floating around at the moment that you just can’t shake.
It tends to conjure up images of computer experts writing 1000’s of lines of code just so they can get their time sheets to fill themselves out.
The reality is that you’re probably taking advantage of a few automation techniques in your day to day already. You might have a direct debit set up for your phone bill, or have a recurring slot in your calendar for meetings with a colleague.
If you’re utilising the EstimateOne Watchlist, you are already automating notifications about projects so you don’t need to constantly keep checking on them.
What other day to day tasks you’re doing repeatedly that a computer could be doing for you? Think of doing things like:
- Set up google alerts for keywords that are of interest to your business (your products, your competitors, builders you have relationships with) so you can be alerted every time it’s written about.
- Create a digital signature so you don’t need to print, sign, scan, send every time.
- If your company uses Google sheets or Google docs to collaborate, ensure you’ve got notifications turned on so you don’t miss anything important.
While ‘automation’ does sound intimidating, it really is a matter of working out what you are doing too much of, and finding out if there’s a way a computer could be doing it for you.
And the more you automate the tedious, the more time you have to build those relationships and ultimately, the more time you can be working on winning work.
And if you’re looking for your next construction job right now, see how we can help here.
Thinking big and starting small.
BIM (Building Information Modeling) has been a topic of hot conversation for some years now, but its adoption in Australia’s construction industry has been tepid. Broadly speaking, ‘BIM’ encompasses a shift from documenting buildings and structures in 2D format as plans, sections and elevations, to documenting buildings in 3D format as physical forms, volumes and materials. It promises a shiny, bright future — a single source of truth during design and construction, and even post-occupation. So why wouldn’t an industry with so much to gain be running towards this with gusto?
As far a players in construction tech go, you don’t get much bigger than Autodesk. We tagged along to their Connect & Construct Summit last week to see where BIM — and other tech advancements in the industry are heading. We saw some pretty amazing stuff. What we didn’t see however, is many of the big new advances being widely adopted. Why is this? Is there some kind of industry-wide resistance or is something else going on?
The resounding takeaway from the sessions is that the technology is ready — it’s us mere mortals holding back.
Part of the challenge in adopting something as big as BIM is that it’s difficult to dabble in. It really needs wholesale, company-wide adoption to get the most out of it — and that’s a bit scary. It can feel like letting go of everything familiar, and often all at once. With the relentless pace of the construction industry, that’s pretty daunting- there’s no chance for it to pause, adopt and improve.
Certainly for large industry players, this is most true. And it is not for lack of trying. It’s increasingly common for large general contracting businesses to be putting concerted efforts into the technology systems as a source of competitive advantage. Hansen Yunken’s HYway initiative is a great example of this, there are many more.
But maybe BIM isn’t the best place to start, it’s certainly not the only place to start. At the Connect & Construct Summit, we heard that in the last 12 months alone, there’s been over $1b in capital invested in construction technology startups, globally. Beyond BIM, we’re spoilt for choice. But looking at ‘technology’ can a bit like drinking from the fire hydrant — it’s too much all at once. The path of least resistance lies in not looking at the technology at all — or at least not as the starting point.
The key will be starting small, and starting with a business problem. Rather than being overwhelmed by the ‘big’ wins, have a crack at the ‘quick’ wins.
Matthew Bien-Izowski (Managing Director, BN Electrical Contractors) talked through his success with such a quick win. In 2018, they set a goal to be paperless everywhere by 2019. Ambitious, and yet tangible. Far from saving trees, it seems this was about wanting to have the most current information for everyone, all the time, everywhere.
While eliminating paper doesn’t sound groundbreaking, it is measurable, trackable and valuable. With their goal in mind, BN Electrical looked to what technology would get them there. They realised that their $20k annual spend on printing could be better spent on 40 iPads. They found a tech tool that suited, and got to it. Fast. And they reaped rewards equally quickly, quoting a 12% cost reduction and zero rework on a recent Melbourne-based project.
And perhaps herein lies the solution to these tech adoption challenges — the frontrunners will be those that can find the quick wins. Shifting from a 5 year horizon, what can get done in 12 months? Or even 3 months? Rather than the big industry players going first, perhaps smaller businesses are better placed to lead the way, able to adopt new ways of working in one sweep. That’s a pretty liberating concept.
What will make a difference to your business? It might be reducing paper, but it may equally be about reducing the number of internal emails. Or reducing the amount of re-work based on working from outdated documentation on site. Perhaps it’s safety related, or even invoicing. No problem is too small to start, but knowing what you’re trying to improve means you’re in the driver’s seat. You’re the one putting the tech to work, rather than trying to figure out how the tech works.
The game is changing, and BIM is definitely part of this world, but to get there we probably need a bit of a rolling start. And it seems the best way to do that is to actually look away from the light, rather than stare into the sun.