Bidding On Projects?

For those of you who haven’t noticed, “Doug’s Docs” is back up on Sound & Communications’ website under Resources (apologies for the downtime as I reorganized the documents and copy). It’s a collection of documents I have used and are available via download for your use.

I realized as I was cross-referencing many of the documents to articles I have written about the subject matter that, when it came to the posted Bid Documents, I could not find the article I wrote (or thought I did) related to the subject. I couldn’t find it…oooops!

Here goes: Not too long ago, I was the regional engineer for (the long-gone) Xerox AV in Atlanta. I was responsible for the Atlanta office engineering, then they added the Pennsylvania offices (they had been without an engineer for, if I recall, about nine months), and I also handled all AV renovations and installations for Xerox Corporate (the parent company) for North America. To say I had a full plate is an understatement!

There is a lot of content I could cover here, such as working remotely and the relationship between sales, operations and engineering specific to this experience, but I will focus on some issues that arose when working remotely on a large bid project for the Pennsylvania office.

One of the key words here is remotely. I had a good amount of process and procedures in place at the local office, and communication had improved between engineering and sales. However, with no engineer in place in Pennsylvania, there was no process and procedure related to bidding on a project, so the story begins. I received a call from an account manager about an upcoming project they wanted to bid on: “Would I look at it?” I said yes.

I reviewed it, but pertinent “head-end” information was missing, such as when the deadline was for submitting Requests For Information (RFIs), when the site inspection would be and if it was mandatory or not, etc. (Issue 1: incomplete information.) I got with the account manager, but he was too busy to go to the FTP site, weed through all the information and download what we needed, so I had to do it. (Issue 2: not knowing what you are supposed to do/giving your work to someone else.)

I was able to gather the information and review the project bid documents. It was about a $200,000 project, mostly AV with some security thrown in. The RFI deadline had passed a few days earlier, and the site inspection was a week before that; luckily, the site inspection was not mandatory.

The general manager of the office still wanted to pursue the project. Fortunately, because there was a previous relationship with the owner, they extended the RFI deadline a week. I did my review, asked my questions and we were moving forward. I submitted my work to the account manager, but never heard back. (Issue 3: communication.)

At our next weekly meeting, I asked if we bid on the job. We did, it turned out, and I got an excuse that they were so far behind in getting the bid ready for submission that they just did not have the time to send it to me for review. (Issue 4: not having the project engineer review others’ work before submission.)

They finally sent me a copy of the bid submission, which I reviewed (after it was submitted). Lo and behold, you’re not going to believe this: The account manager made an error and submitted the bid not at about $200,000, but $2,000,000! That’s right, two million dollars! No one caught the error—not the general manager who reviewed it, not the operation manager—and they submitted it that way. Imagine that!

Well, I called a conference and all were in attendance when I dropped the bomb: Careful with the decimal point!

After a brief, embarrassing conversation for all involved, I emailed everyone two documents regarding process and procedure for bid projects that cover the issues of getting the information in the head end, having it reviewed by engineering, etc. I laid down the law, saying that these procedures must be followed, and if not, I would not review the bid.

The first of these procedural documents regarding bid work is “Bid Process and Procedure,” which directs the path of all involved and references the second document, the “Initial Bid Work Sheet,” which is what the account manager must fill out to even have a bid project considered.

These documents are available for download at Sound & Communications’ website, under Resources, Doug’s Docs, Process & Procedure. All the issues discussed here will go away if you follow these simple guidelines.

When you download and/or review these docs, please let me know what you think. If I missed anything or you want to add something, tell me. In fact, did I mention that, under Doug’s Docs, there is a “Readers’ Docs” section? That’s right: You, me, all of us, are part of the same community, and if you have some documents that have helped you in the past and would like to share, please send to me for inclusion. Let’s all work together to do a better job! So remember, don’t forget your “Ps and Ps” (Process & Procedure).

If you have any other comments, examples or stories you would like to share, please contact me at

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