A day in the life of a bid manager is quite difficult to define as every day varies greatly depending on what type of project I’m working on. The term “bid manager” has many connotations, but I would describe my role as a Pre-Construction project manager on the contractor side. I am responsible for getting a project into contract and handed over to our Operational team to build on site. It is a very busy role, and I work closely with our wider preconstruction team of Design Managers, Estimators and Planners to establish how we can meet our customer’s needs.
My day will vary depending on what type of project I’m working on. We procure work through a mix of frameworks, negotiation and competitive tendering. Generally, I am responsible for either the second phase of a two-stage tender or delivering a single stage competitive tender.
If I’m working on a two-stage tender, I will be first point of contact for the customer. My day will be spent liaising with the external project team (the customer, the architects, quantity surveyors, project managers) to understand how their vision, timeframes, budgets and how they need the building to operate.
As a contractor, we can be engaged at any point in the design process, from conceptual design to detailed design, so my role will vary depending on what stage we join the team at. I could be doing anything from running a design competition to engage an architect, to producing a feasibility report for the project board to sign off costs. I have worked on a variety of projects, everything from R&D facilities, university campuses, residential developments to transport hubs for a wide range of customers.
A large part of my role centres on identifying and managing risk. I need to identify and collate any design, safety and commercial risks, and determining how the risks can be reduced or managed. I’ll also need to organise any enabling activities that we would need to allow us to start on site, such as ecological surveys and ground testing.
I am an advocate of early contractor involvement through two stage tendering as we are able to share our best practises and lessons learnt to advise on buildability, sequencing, and construction risk. I also think it helps foster a collaborative environment where there is more scope for innovation with the whole team’s expertise able to be utilised.
On a single stage tender, I am responsible for developing and producing our tender offer. Single stage tenders are a bit like the 100m sprint – there is a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time. These projects are high-stakes, with no second prizes if we don’t secure the contract.
In a single stage tender, there is usually quite limited contact we can make with the project team, so my day will be working closely with our internal team to understand the key drivers and requirements of the project. I then need to translate this into a bid delivery strategy. There is usually a prescriptive set of responses that we need to provide, and I will constantly review our responses against our delivery strategy to ensure that we don’t lose sight of what the customer wants.
Generally, on single stage tenders a lot of the design development work has already been done, so there is a limited scope to be able to have input into the design that the team has produced. However, I need to do a thorough design review to ensure that the design is fit for purpose. I will coordinate with our estimating team to review quotes from our supply chain and to come to a fixed price offer. Like two stage tendering, there is also a significant element of risk identification and management that I need to prepare.
Whilst it can certainly be stressful, I find the energy that single stage bids generate in the office very exciting. It’s a fantastic feeling to hand in a tender when you’ve worked really hard to deliver something exceptional in a very short period of time (and even better when you win the job!).
In addition to my role at Willmott Dixon, I also work on the South-West LandAid committee as a LandAid ambassador. Willmott Dixon are working as part of a wider local development group to redevelop a derelict site in central Bristol into 11 new, long-term accommodation flats for at-risk and homeless youth. I have been managing the construction process for this and procuring trades to help on a pro-bono basis. It is a fantastic opportunity to use my professional skills to help the local community and create a lasting legacy in Bristol. A lot of hard work has been done to date in securing services and I am excited to see this project come to fruition over the next 12 months.
Kate Francis is a chartered Civil Engineer working at construction company Willmott Dixon as a Bid Manager. Kate started her career in Australia and relocated to the UK three years ago. She has nearly 10 years of urban development experience in both Consultancy and Contractor companies. Kate is passionate about working with clients to achieve their visions and constructing innovative and sustainable buildings. She is also involved in LandAid, the largest property industry charity in the UK and is interested in how the construction industry can help play a role in ending youth homelessness.