11th Dec 2014 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

Strategy: Kick-off meetings: start as you mean to carry on

The way you start the tender response process will determine the way you finish it. It may sound simple, but a well-executed Kick-off meeting can set the tone for the entire response process.


  • Well prepared Kick-offs energise, motivate and organise.
  • Badly executed Kick-offs frustrate, confuse and can even immobilise your team
  • Use a set agenda to create structure, but allow it to flex with the team and the tasks ahead
  • Where possible, use an expert facilitator to run an effective meeting on your behalf

A well-planned and executed kick-off meeting assumes a critical role in the tender response process

What is a kick-off meeting?

The Kick-off meeting is the gathering of all the 'right' people - technical, sales, financial and management - to ensure everyone is 'on board' and heading in the same direction. This is where the rubber hits the road. It follows the decision to pursue the opportunity (Bid, No-bid decision) and the development of the Tender Project Plan.

Participants should leave the Kick-off meeting with a clear idea of what is to be done, by whom and by when.

A word of caution: the Kick-off meeting can be a double-edged sword - planned and executed properly it can inspire and energise the team to perform; poorly planned and executed it can create confusion and frustration.

Why so important?

A well-planned and well-run run Kick-off meeting can inspire, motivate, engage and drive a team to develop a superior tender response. It is an essential step to initiate the tender response effort and to ensure a professional submission. It serves to:

  • Engage all stakeholders - set expectations
  • Demonstrate senior management commitment and support
  • Understand context -the reason for pursuing the opportunity
  • Table and review the Tender Response Project Plan
  • Provide a forum to discuss issues & answer questions
  • Assign project tasks
  • Galvanise the team

Our experience at Tender Success has demonstrated time and again the critical role of a well-planned and executed Kick-off meeting. Failure to plan appropriately at this point can lead to significant angst during the response process and can rob you of the opportunity to craft a professional and compelling offer.

For instance, a failure to appreciate the importance of project timeframes and dependencies can undermine even the best submissions. There's a saying in the writing business that, "the writing is in the rewriting".

"More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina."

John Irving, (The Cider House Rules; The World According to Garp)

This has been borne out by experience. Without the time to rewrite - to ensure the question has been addressed, the response is compliant, the grammar and wording is both correct and compelling - many of the key benefits and features of a great offer may be lost in less-than-optimal expression and presentation.

The lesson? The Kick-off meeting provides the opportunity to "start as you mean to carry on" to set the tone for the process and to ensure everyone is on the same page. The secret to getting things done is to act! The secret to minimising stress is to act early, and the Kick-off meeting provides that opportunity.

Essential Elements of an effective kick-off meeting

Depending on the size and importance of the bid opportunity, a Kick-off meeting can run for two to three hours; perhaps longer for very complex bids.

However, Kick-off meetings should always include:

  • An Agenda
  • The right people in attendance (mandatory)
  • Senior management presentation/commitment
  • Tender Project Summary - background & opportunity
  • Client Profile - Hot Buttons
  • Tender Strategy - key themes/messages, differentiators
  • Assignment of roles, responsibilities & timeframes for all team members
  • Tender Response Toolkit (Writing templates, stakeholder analysis, project plan, etc.)
  • Review & document
  • Questions and Answers

A well-planned Tender Response project minimises stress for the tender team members and optimises the organisation's ability to present itself in the best possible light. It's a well-worn truism, but failing to plan is planning to fail.

An essential milestone in the tender response planning process is the Kick-off meeting. A well-planned, well-executed Kick-off meeting can set the tone and expectations for a successful bid response.


Rob Machin is a principal consultant for Tender Success. He has facilitated countless kick-off meetings that have led to the awarding of billions of dollars of contracts. Contact Rob to ensure your next response is a success.