Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on July 18, 2019


– A fair and equitable process? Hardly.

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If you have ever served in a sales position for a major company, you will inevitably come across a request from a government agency to make a bid for their business, be it at the federal, state or local level. This is typically called an RFP (Request for Proposal), an RFI (Request for Information), an RFQ (Request for Quotation) or, as I like to call it, an RFW (Request for Whatever). I say this because I do not have a lot of respect for these bid processes and have found they are more rigged for a particular vendor than they are honest requests for competitive business. Government agencies perform RFW’s to try and demonstrate to the public they are being fair and forthright in their bidding process, but the reality is you really don’t have a chance of winning the contract unless you already have the inside track.

We’ve done our fair share of RFW’s over the years. We’ve won some, but also lost many others. For example, there was one state government where we had two agencies who had already purchased our products. When the state wanted to have all of their agencies and departments purchase similar products, we thought we had the inside track due to the two agencies. We then went about the process of producing a comprehensive and professional response to the RFW, and at a reasonable price I might add. The size of the contract was such that just about everyone in our office dropped what they were doing in order to concentrate on the RFW. We felt pretty good about the proposal we produced and confident we would be the winning bid. However, despite all of our efforts, we lost the contract which went to a competitor with a greatly inferior product. Only years later did we find out that our competitor had a local salesman who wined and dined the state’s evaluation team, even going so far as to arrange for some hookers to take an “active” part in the selection process. In other words, we never stood a chance.

I don’t mind losing on a level playing field, but when the chips are stacked against you before you even get started, my Scottish blood begins to boil. This little episode forced us to rethink our policy on RFW’s and, as a result, we no longer waste our time on them. If someone wants our products, we instruct them to use the “sole source” designation, meaning they must declare we are the only vendor who offers this type of product. This works fine for us, but think about it, the government is stacking the deck against others by doing this. None of this sounds very fair or honest does it? But this is what happens when you try to pacify the public.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    A W.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “Having more than a little experience (on both sides of the fence, I might add) with federal government (military and civilian agencies) RFP’s, I can tell you that the over-riding element in the decision is COST, and pretty much nothing else. The terminology often used is “least cost, technically acceptable” proposal. Note: technically “ACCEPTABLE” – not “superior” or whatever other superlative you care to use. So, no matter how spiffy your solution is, no matter how sophisticated and expandable and whatever else it is, it HAS to be lowest cost to get through to the final decision. I will say, that IF the competition gets down to two competitors with the same pricing, then the technical side gets to play in the decision, and sometimes that decision is based on previous experience with one of the vendors…but it’s VERY RARE that it ever gets to that point.

    There are TWO ways to avoid that in government contracting: use the sole-source contract method – and there is a federally mandated LIMIT on the dollar value of a contract that can be sole-sourced without getting approval from “higher authority” – read that as sometimes pointing to the President (or perhaps congressional staffers). The other way is to put a caveat in the contract that the deciding factor will be “technically superior” bid, without the “least cost” caveat. It’s actually harder to get those into the RFP than it is to go sole source.

    Now, if you can prove that the bid process was rigged, that is something for LAWYERS (who just love to argue, because they get paid by the minute) to work out. Government officials who do that sort of thing can suddenly find themselves not only out of a job, but looking at some time in prison. Commercial companies – well, that’s a different story. Other countries use bribery as a normal cost of doing business and it’s part of their ethos, but that’s not SUPPOSED to be the case here.

    The typical modus operandi in large government contractors who lose a big contract bid is to challenge (protest) in court claiming the process was unfair or flawed, putting a hold on the contract until the protest can be resolved one way or the other. Sometimes they win, most of the time they do not. Sometimes, the winning contractor works an under-the-table deal with the loser to be a sub-contractor to mollify them.”


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