Case study five - Martin & Hamilton

Each of our case studies has been provided by enterprises across Northern Ireland who have been successful in winning public sector tenders. Their experience and advice may be helpful for you to learn how to access public sector opportunities.

Martin & Hamilton

Martin & Hamilton is an award-winning chartered building company, formed in 1967 and employing over 60 people. Martin & Hamilton carry out a large amount of work for the public sector - for example construction of healthcare, education and community facilities. For further details on the organisation visit the Martin & Hamilton website.

One of the recent public sector projects carried out by Martin & Hamilton was the design and development of the administration and gatehouse buildings at Crumlin Road Gaol. 

Crumlin Road Gaol

Finding out about the tender opportunity

The project was listed on the main Northern Ireland public sector procurement portal. The documents were downloaded and reviewed in-house.

We felt that we had the experience required and the project’s scope and complexity suited our capability, so the decision was made to submit an application.

Learning from previous bids

As a building contractor, Martin & Hamilton has conducted work in many sectors. As the company grew, the strengths were reviewed, and rather than trying to compete for work right across the spectrum, a refined list of services and associated markets was identified and agreed. This meant that we were better able to identify new business opportunities and compete for them.

Staff members attended events on sales and marketing training, bid writing and business improvement. This helped improve our standard of PQQ submissions which led to us being invited to submit tenders for public sector projects.

An example is the Crumlin Road Gaol project where we passed the initial PQQ for the design and development of the administration and gatehouse buildings and were invited to then submit a tender which proved successful.

Benefits of winning public sector contracts

We continually look for avenues to develop new business and quite simply recognised that potential customers can be grouped into two categories - public sector and private sector. By being able to compete for new business in the public sector we knew that we would be creating opportunities for the company to grow.

Our approach with this bid

Our business development department coordinated the tender over two stages comprising an initial PQQ submission followed by a tender submission. This process lasted several months from start to finish.

The PQQ was prepared based on using a library of past projects and previous submissions as a template. When the PQQ was deemed successful the commercial department became heavily involved in pricing the main tender and forming the proposed team to deliver the contract.

Investing in employee knowledge

Staff members continually attend events to improve their knowledge. Recent events attended include a Meet the Buyer open morning session which was hosted by one of the new local councils, a Constructionline seminar on supply chain management, a Construction Employers Federation workshop on bid writing, and a Chartered Institute of Building presentation on how to prepare for an ISO 9001 quality management system audit. 

Learning as a contractor

The project at Crumlin Road Gaol was a successful experience. Dealing with a public sector client meant that we needed to ensure all our systems and procedures were fully utilised such as our ISO 14001 certified environmental management system and compliance with social clauses as part of sustainability objectives.

Key to maintaining a good relationship with the client was continual communication and the provision of progress timely reports. We also proposed value engineering initiatives to improve the whole-life-cycle costs of the building. Being able to do so is important for public sector clients as ultimately they need to be able to demonstrate value for money.

The outcome - expansion!

The project resulted in the employment of more people in the short and long-term.  Subcontractors and consultants were employed in the short term to help deliver the project, such as our partnership with Hamilton Architects for the design work as the project was being procured using a design and  build form of contract. We also recruited and trained new site operatives, and were able to offer them full-time employment opportunities. The successful completion of the project then helped us win new contracts as a result of the experience gained.

Advice for new or growing businesses

The best piece of advice would be to avail of the training that is available locally - a lot of it is free. It is worth checking CPD’s webpages regularly along with the local councils’ websites.

The professional bodies and trade bodies such as the CIOB and CEF also provide regular seminars on a range of topics, and the speakers are always good. These events often book up early, which shows how valuable they are to local businesses.

For more information

Contact Gerard Graham (Business Development Manager) on 028 2565 3672.


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