17th May 2010

Interview: Five Minutes with... Robert Machin, Tender Success Principal

Robert Machin has been working on tender submissions since the late '80s - and he still loves it! What makes him tick?

interviews micRobert Machin

  • Loves: Writing, interacting with people and teaching
  • Finest Hour: $6bn tender win - against the odds!
  • Dream Day Off: A morning beach walk, some volunteer work then time with friends.
  • Contact Robert

robRobert Machin has been working on tender submissions since the late '80s - and he still loves it!
But what makes him tick?

What's your story - in 30 seconds?

I've always loved management, interaction with people and being able to make a difference. I also have a love of writing and teaching; many would say I'm a frustrated teacher.

In my early twenties these 'loves' took me into management within health services where I planned to change the world; some thought I might. While I've fallen well short of that ambition I have been able to influence, for the better, a number of individuals who have gone on to enjoy success beyond their initial expectations.

Today, I still enjoy helping people - teaching, coaching, and mentoring - and I'm probably better qualified at doing it than thirty years ago.

Consulting in the field of tenders and proposals, oddly enough, brings together all of these 'loves', writing, coaching, and helping others. What more can I say?

Why do you like working for Tender Success?

I get to meet a diverse range of people whom I'm able to help and the chance to leave improved systems, processes and hopefully some skills in my wake.

What's your most impressive tender win?

It was a major government tender worth more than $6B in revenues; more importantly hundreds of jobs. All the odds were against us. We had been the incumbent since inception and there was a mood of change in the air. The introduction of increased competition by government augured a loss of business. The wolves were out and the competition was fierce. Despite all of the market chatter, the win maximised our potential share of this business much to the surprise of our competitors.

In fact, I recall the words of an erstwhile colleague who had gone to a competitor "Unbelievable! How did you do it?"

What is the secret of a successful tender?

Like most secrets, there are many elements to it. Thoroughness and attention to detail must be top of the list. Understand the client, understand their needs and respond 'in full' to their requests. In order to do this successfully you must have a plan, a methodology and engagement by all stakeholders. A project manager to drive the plan is essential and all of this can be a waste of time unless you are fully compliant!

What are the first things you do when you receive a new RFT?

Read it read it and read it again! This means sharing the RFT with the key stakeholders in the organisation and coming together to share interpretations, understandings. If the tendering organisation has done its job properly it will already have a strong relationship with the client and hopefully there will be no surprises in the RFT itself. Once I comprehend the RFT my next step is to do a Bid, No-Bid Analysis which will not only improve my strike rate but save me untold resources if my analysis tells me I have no chance of winning the business.

How would you spend an unexpected day off?

Free from work or the need to get work done? An early morning walk along the beach, time to think, time with friends and family and volunteer work.

What would you be doing if you weren't a Tender Consultant?

I've been doing this work now for the better part of 20 years and every time I venture into something different Tender work beckons me back again.

So, I'd probably be pursuing the life described by Charles Handy ("The Elephant and the Flea", 2001) who talks about the Portfolio Life a little teaching, a little contracting and the occasional periods of employment - the life of a 'flea'. In his unflattering metaphor elephants are the large organisations and fleas the independent self-employed contractors that come and go. In other words, I'd continue to pursue my 'fleadom'.

Find out more about Robert Machin by reading his bio.

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