Why Birmingham 2022 is a “Golden Opportunity” for West Midlands SME’s:

On the 27th November, key members of the Birmingham 2022 organising committee delivered a presentation outlining the opportunities which the Commonwealth Games will create for Small and Medium sized enterprises (SME’s) throughout the West Midlands.

The diverse, 500-strong audience packed into the International Convention Centre were right to be excited about the 11-day, 17-discipline programme of events:

  • Birmingham 2022 is expected to stimulate up to £1.5B of economic benefits across a growing region, which is already reaping the benefits of significant public and private investment.
  • The organising committee have just 4 years to mobilise the city (significantly less than the 7 years afforded to Glasgow in 2014, and the Gold Coast in 2018), so input from a wide variety of capable local suppliers will be key. The organising committees for Glasgow and the Gold Coast awarded 76% and 84% of their contracts to local suppliers respectively, so it is clear that businesses from across the West Midlands will play an integral role.
  • The Games will be underpinned by a Social Charter which cements how the project team will deliver sustainable benefits to the region. This Charter will be developed around 3 pillars – “People, Places and Partners” – the latter focussed on providing “opportunities for local suppliers” to compete for £241M of organisational spend.

The Games therefore represent a unique opportunity for local suppliers to establish strong, long-term relationships with commissioning authorities, main contractors, venues and transport providers.

Many of these buying organisations are likely to conduct procurement through standardised, competitive bids or tenders – which will allow them to compare “apples with apples”, so they can identify the solutions which represent best value. Although larger, corporate organisations are typically well placed to win these opportunities (property consultancy Mace have already secured a £70M project for the re-development of the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham), bidding can often seem onerous, time-consuming or hopeless to SME’s.

Although bidding is challenging, local suppliers should not be discouraged from pursuing the exciting opportunities which will arise from Birmingham 2022.

SME’s have unique strengths:

When SME’s submit bids for contract work, they can emphasise a number of strengths to influence buyer’s decisions:

  • Responsiveness: The Games will be a hugely complex event, which will require precise timings, effective communication, and the ability to manage change. Smaller, local suppliers can often provide a level of flexibility and responsiveness which larger suppliers (or those based outside of the region) may struggle to match.
  • Relationships: Delivering an event of this scale and complexity will require strong relationships between buyers and supply chain members. Many SME’s can offer consistent teams, bespoke service, and direct access to senior personnel – which is a compelling combination for any buyer.
  • Social value: Supply chain members will be expected to deliver Social Value in line with the Birmingham 2022 “Social Charter”. Smaller businesses with local knowledge and established community relationships may be better placed to offer the recruitment, training and engagement initiatives which are likely to be required for the Games.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better:

There are a number of advantages which smaller, leaner organisations can leverage when they bid for contract work:

  • Knowledge management: Demonstrating capability in bids is all about providing relevant examples. Corporate businesses with multiple divisions can struggle to capture all of their activities, whereas smaller businesses can often identify the strongest “like for like” examples quickly and easily.
  • Agility: The majority of public and private sector bids have a fixed, immovable deadline – so time management is crucial. Communicating, sharing information and making decisions is often easier in smaller organisations, which aren’t burdened by complex team structures or onerous governance processes.
  • Content development: In larger teams, bids are often reviewed and edited by multiple individuals – so there is a risk that key messages (or “win themes”) can become lost or diluted by competing voices. In a smaller team, it can be easier to identify and embed strong, clear messages to influence’s buyer’s decisions.

Help is available:

There are numerous sources of support and expertise available to local suppliers – including:

  • Local procurement portals: The Find it in Birmingham and Find it in the Black Country websites have been developed specifically to facilitate relationships between buyers and suppliers around the West Midlands. These popular platforms help suppliers to search for potential clients (and vice versa), and to identify sources of information and support. Both sites also have dedicated Birmingham 2022 pages advertising events and opportunities connected to the Games.
  • Training: High-quality bid training can be invaluable, even for experienced businesses. Councils, Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) and business chambers regularly run free workshops, and bidding consultancies can provide more bespoke training courses at a cost.
  • Growth funding: If local suppliers feel that additional capacity would help them to compete for business, they should explore the wide range of growth funding packages which are available. The British Business Bank have recently launched a £250M Midlands Engine Investment Fund, HSBC have created a £1.1B SME Fund for the West Midlands, and there are a number of smaller funds managed by Local Enterprise Partnership’s and Universities.
  • External bid support: The additional resource and “knowhow” provided by an external bidding consultancy could help you to secure a tendered contract. Based in the Black Country, Klick Business Solutions have successfully helped companies from all sectors to win contracts with public and private sector clients for 12 years. We work exclusively in the work-winning sector, and we can provide a range of high-quality bid writing, management and training services to suit your needs. For more information on how we can help you WIN more tendered contracts email andrea.childs@klickbusinesssolutions.co.uk or call us on 01384 279568.

As Dennis Hone (Former Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Legacy Development Corporation) has identified, Birmingham 2022 represents a “Golden Opportunity” to develop the economy and cultural profile of the West Midlands. Local SME’s will play an integral part in delivering the Games, and they should not let this fantastic opportunity pass them by.

Written by Duncan Smith