Tips and Takeaways from the Owner Insights Panel

By McKenzie Richardson, Marketing Production Manager, PAE.

A crowd of more than 100 marketers and technical staff from across the A/E/C industry headed to the World Trade Center in downtown Portland on March 20 to attend the panel on “Owner Insights: Perspectives from Owners on the Procurement Process.” The panel was composed of:

  • Linda Degman, Director for the Bond Program at Portland Community College
  • Tracy Sagal, Senior Procurement Analyst at Metro
  • Scott Dreher, PE, Senior Program Manager at City of Hillsboro
  • Alex Santa, Project Lead at Beaverton School District

Many topics were covered over the course of the morning, but major themes included:

MWESB participation. Public clients are serious about meeting their goals for MWESB participation. Their representatives are active in the small business market, they know what firms are attending outreach events, and they know when a firm’s description of their outreach efforts is authentic. Make sure to show clients that you are committed to working with MWESB/COBID firms by providing past examples, actions taken, and quantitative data.

Clients are looking for firms willing to do small dollar design and construction projects. Most public clients are legally allowed to direct award projects under a certain dollar range, usually around $100,000. Showing you are willing to do small projects on tight deadlines will set you up for consideration when large projects are around the corner.

Best way to pre-position. All panelists were open to talking to consultants before an RFP is released. However, you need to do your research before you pick up the phone! Reviewing a client’s Capital Improvement Program or bond information and asking targeted questions will yield better answers and improve the way you are perceived by the client. Many clients will not answer specific questions about a RFP outside of the formal written Q&A process once an RFP has dropped.

Proposal tips. The conversation was sprinkled with numerous tips for proposal preparation. Highlights included:

  • Be honest. If your project ran over budget or you don’t have experience that is an exact fit for the project you’re pursuing, own up to it. Explain why there were overruns or why you think your experience is relevant.
  • Make sure you are presenting relevant information in a concise manner. Proposals should be easy to read and not look like you have crammed as much information in them as possible. Long proposals aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, but they should remain on topic and not be filled with generic content. Make sure there is a point to what you’re saying.
  • Reviewers want to know that your team has worked together before.
  • References can be a big part of scoring. Check that they are current and know what they will say if you include them.

Much thanks to the panelists and moderator Tony Roos, PE of Kittelson & Associates, Inc. for volunteering their time to help local firms improve their chances of winning work.

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