The Dotted Line: What makes a successful RFP

May 6, 2019

Requests for proposals (RFPs) — they’re like supercharged invitations to bid, and contractor responses to them can form the blueprint for how the project will be run rather than just how much it will cost. So, when preparing a response to one of these documents, it’s important to know how RFPs relate to the contract, what will make a good impression on owners and how the experts handle proposals in response to these requests.


What is an RFP?

An RFP typically differs from a hard bid request in that the owner sometimes uses an RFP to get a level of detail from bidders that isn’t addressed in other types of bid opportunities.


“The RFP process is generally utilized for projects where the design of the project may not be fully complete, so an owner is looking for construction partners to work together to develop an execution plan for the project,” said Jorge Moros, vice president and director of business development at Plaza Construction in Miami.


To that end, an RFP, said Joshua Levy, partner at Husch Blackwell in Milwaukee, could include questions about:

  • The contractor’s approach to project management.
  • Who will make up the project team.
  • What experience the company has with building information modeling (BIM).
  • Ownership structure.
  • Profiles of past similar projects.
  • What kind of quality control plan the contractor will implement.
  • Methods of cost and schedule control.
  • The approach the company uses with governing authorities.
  • A general description of the project’s main features if the work will be performed under a design-build contract.
  • Plans and specifications if the development has a design already.

And the list goes on. By the time a construction company answers every question in such a detailed RFP, it’s likely it will have a fully fleshed out plan of attack if it wins the project.


Other considerations

But contractors need to keep an eye out for other not-so-obvious sections of the RFP — ones that can potentially impact the contract that the winning bidder will be expected to sign. For instance, Curran said, the completed and submitted bid form could be deemed an offer, and once the owner accepts it, the parties could have a contract based on responses in the RFP. If a contractor backtracks on any items included in the bid, the owner could reject the bid. Ordinarily, though, there is usually some back and forth about these items, he said.


Take the proposed staffing for the project, for example. Some RFPs want details on who will be part of the team, including project superintendents. But the project could be six or more months away from breaking ground, and it would be unrealistic to predict who will be part of the field supervision team. Such a commitment also fails to anticipate a legitimate shift in personnel.


More red flags

Another potential legal trap that contractors should keep an eye out for, Curran said, is the language that indicates the failure to propose changes to the provided sample contract constitutes acceptance upon submission of the proposal. If the contractor has time to have it reviewed by an attorney, then it doesn’t have to be a problem.


“But short of that,” he said, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s almost like a form of bullying.”


It is as if the owner, Curran said, is broadcasting that it has the economic upper hand with language that tells contractors they’re stuck with the contract if they move forward. “It’s just not the way [the relationship] should be starting off,” he said. “The owner needs to know exactly what the owner’s getting for the money it’s spending, and the contractor needs to know exactly what it’s doing for the money it’s being paid.”


What owners want

From an owner’s perspective, there are a few rules that contractors that move forward with a proposal should remember when completing the RFP, said Kelly Noel, system vice president of facilities at Advocate Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee.


First and foremost contractors should read and follow the directions of the RFP. “That seems very basic, but that’s my first indication of how strong your communication skills are,” she said. It’s also an opportunity to get everyone on the same page as far as interpretation of the RFP requirements.


As far as responses, she said, they should be thorough, thoughtful and reflect an understanding of the owner’s purpose, mission and values and show how the work will enhance or help deliver on those. Original Article Here.


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