EP 16 - How subcontractors can level-up subcontract tendering

Construction has antiquated and adversarial cultures which hold the industry back. Subliminally, construction relies on ambiguity to generate profitability, and it all starts with poor-quality tender enquiries.

Cultures never change unless there’s a big movement. Here are my thoughts on how subcontractors can change the landscape of subcontract tendering. 


I speak with hundreds of subcontractors every year, and there’s a general theme and frustration when it comes to tendering. Tenders from clients lack quality, and the timescales to return a comprehensive price are often unrealistic.

Let’s take a look at how a subcontractor movement could change the landscape of subcontract tendering.

We’ve all been there, a tender comes in, with little scope description and a dropbox link with every piece of information to sift through - and you have less than two weeks to return a price.

This is the lowest form of subcontract tendering, and this poor-quality practice is all too common in the industry. Still, so many Subcontractors scramble to deliver a price, but it’s full of errors and ambiguity - this isn’t helpful for anyone, and it’s the reason why so many contracts end in dispute and supply chain relationships are short-lived.

So what can subcontractors do?

It’s simple; you need to start declining poor-quality tenders.

You can do this amicably by saying:

“Thanks for the tender pack; however, I’ll have to unfortunately decline as it lacks detail and direction, and I’ve been given too much information to process that’s not part of our works. If you could filter the information that’s relevant to me, and provide a more detailed scope, I’ll gladly take a look at it”.

Think about it; clients won’t accept a poor quote from you, so why should you accept a poor tender enquiry from them?

Again, when you’re given unrealistic time frames to return a price, you need to push back straight away. You could say:

“Thank you for the tender, I notice the tender deadline is less than two weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot return a comprehensive price in such a short period. If you can re-issue the tender with an alternative date or provide an extension, then we will gladly take a look at it.”

If every subcontractor did this, the industry will be forced to level up their game, give you more time to price, and provide higher-quality tenders.

Next time you get a poor tender, be bold, and push back.