By Ford Hazelip and Mark Winters
After 78 years in the construction industry, we’ve responded to our fair share of requests for proposals (RFPs). Because every project and owner are different, we meticulously craft our RFP responses to meet our clients’ needs and we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. Some proposals we get are easier to respond to than others, and as a result we are better able to send clear, complete responses — and by that we mean a proposed project budget and work plan that you can count on to remain consistent throughout construction.
If you want RFP responses that will help you hire the best team for your next project, there are a few things you can take from our experience and apply to your next round of requests.
A Price Should Match the Drawings
Be wary of mismatching the completeness of your drawings with the completeness of the pricing you’re expecting. With incomplete documents, different contractors may approach pricing differently. Some may be careful to fill in all the gaps and give you as complete of a budget as possible, while others may only price what is shown on the progress drawings — leaving many holes in their budget. If the design phase is still early, we suggest having respondents compete on preconstruction cost, general conditions, and/or fee only. If you have more complete documents, then you may be able to rely more on “competitive” budget pricing. It’s in your interest to limit the price criteria to only that which can be defined.
It is the responding contractors’ job to show you why they are the best choice to join your project team by answering questions that meet your conditions of satisfaction. What’s most important to you? Is it the budget? Schedule? Or just having someone else deal with the problems that could keep you up at night? Whatever it is — include it in the RFP. If your development is in a busy, downtown area and you’re concerned about the traffic complications, ask for specific examples of how they have successfully handled traffic plans, pedestrian safety, materials deliveries, and other challenges on similar projects and ask them how that experience translates to your project, make them prove they can do it in the way that meets your specific needs. Remember, if you don’t cater your RFP to your project, the responses you get won’t be specific either.
Pick the Right People
When we respond to an RFP, we carefully select the project team based on their experience, skill set, and availability. Every response you get will have an organizational chart and a folder full of resumes, but really look at each team member to see if their skill set matches your project needs. These people are the ones who will communicate with you and your team on a daily basis. They’re the ones who you need to trust will spot potential problems before they arise and bring you solutions. The RFP is your chance to vet the team members on paper. A good team can make or break a project, so don’t skim the resumes.
Better responses to your RFP give you better information to help you make an informed hiring decision for your project. Take these suggestions into consideration while writing your next RFP, and we believe you’ll get more detailed, specific responses that will help you choose the right team for you project’s needs.