SDMWVLGBTBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) business owners are often faced with responding to a variety of requests for proposals (RFPs), requests for quote (RFQ), Invitation to Bid (ITB), or Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) by our commercial or government clients.  If you are a Not-for-Profit, this might be called a Grant Request. Making sense of these documents and the process to respond can often be overwhelming.

It seems to us there should be some common sense checklist rules for the SDMWVLGBTBE to follow … so we’ve made up some up based on 20+ years of state contracting. When you get the request document here are some key items to look at first:

  • Due Date, how close is it? Can you legitimately make it without too much stress?
  • Is there a mandatory pre-bid conference? If it is out-of-state or town, can you look into hiring  someone local to attend for you?  (Some pre-bid conferences are offered online/over the phone attendance, that information will be available in the RFP.)
  • Is there an intent to bid document due? Has the deadline for this passed?
  • Is there a Q&A period? Has it passed?

Once these preliminary housekeeping issues are out of the way be ready to record any questions that might come to mind while reviewing the rest of the RFP – most usually allow for a Q&A period and we recommend submitting your questions together instead of inundating an RFP Coordinator’s email inbox.  Now look at:

  • SOW (Scope of Work): Is it something that you can do?  Does it meet your strategic business goals?
  • Do you meet the minimum qualifications? If not, can you partner with a prime or another small business to respond to the request?
  • Insurance/Bonding requirements: Will you have to buy new or increase coverage to meet the terms of the RFP?
  • Invoicing/Payment terms:  Is payment made based on deliverables, % complete payments or time and materials (T&M)? How often can you invoice?  How often or how many days will it take to collect on the invoice? How do they pay — check, EFT/ACH or credit card? Can you work with the payment type? Can you handle the payment terms?
  • Are there SDMWVLGBTBE goals? Are you allowed to self-fulfill any these goals, and if so what percent?
  • Can you use subcontractors? Are you required to name them in your proposal or can that process come later?
  • If you are using subcontractors to meet SDMWVLGBTBE goals, what certifications are required or acceptable? Some states/counties will only allow their SDMWVLGBTBE certified firms be used to meet participation goals.
  • Contract legalese or Terms and Conditions (T&Cs): Make sure there is nothing objectionable to you. Rarely,  if EVER, will a government or corporate waive any of their standard T&Cs.

By the way, most invitations to bid or quotes are usually awarded based on lowest cost responsible bidder; while requests for proposal are often awarded based on best value (a combination of strategic solution value and cost) from among responsible bidders.  Both types of procurement will define “responsible bidder” so read that section carefully.

That’s a great deal of prep work, but may be a most important first step to keep you from wasting your precious time on a project you might not even want to win.