by Lori Riddle
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Do you (or someone on your team) ever feel caught in an avalanche of contractor prequalification paperwork? imgbin-warning-sign-avalanche-hazard-skiing-high-voltage-KcQpS1icbbSDC6Fh1uEJJ9THd

Contractor qualification/prequalification is now a major part of doing business. In days gone by, contractors would budget and bid projects, and even be awarded work and THEN put together whatever qualification information the customer required. Not so today – prequalification is essential to even being considered as a resource for major projects. For us, qualification is as much a part of our business process as building tanks and practicing safety, and we are always trying to improve the process.

Don't get buried in an avalanche of qualification documentation! Check out these tips to help you speed up the qualification process and minimize your pain:

Centralize & Streamline

Designate one person within your organization to handle qualification forms (if possible). This benefits your team in a several ways - first, it helps ensure that the information you're putting out is consistent and it helps make the qualification process more efficient and accurate. In addition, having a single person handle your qualifications means you will have one person receiving update requests next year. That helps ensure that those update requests won't get lost and ignored. Keeping your information up to date is a great way to make sure you have oportunities to bid!

Take Time Now To Save Time Later

Like the old adage about the woodsman who had so many trees to chop down he couldn't take time to sharpen his axe, contractors are generally too busy to take time to set up their qualification info in a way that facilitates easy access later. But if you do it, you'll be so glad you did!

  • Gather all the printed materials you typically need and make a copy of each item, so you can keep everything on hand in one folder or binder.

  • Scan and save everything that’s a static form/certificate (signed W-9s, OSHA logs, Safety Manuals, Insurance Certifcates, etc.).

  • Locate and copy any other electronic files you might need (project lists, reference lists, organizational charts, etc.*)

  • Create an online folder for all of your qualification documentation, organized by type of information (safety, financial, projects, etc., or whatever makes sense for your team).

* if you don't have project lists, reference lists, etc. in place, think about developing them and updating periodically!

Keep Track Of Qualifications You've Completed

It's helpful to keep track of the questionnaires/forms you've completed, especailly if mutliple people in your organization are likely to receive qualification requests. And sometimes, your customers will request updates - it helps to know what you submitted the previous year. It may be the exact same form, and all you need to do is fill in new OSHA data or a new sales volume number in order to update. 

  • Set up an electronic file for all the qualification forms you receive/complete.

  • Organize your completed forms by customer, or by year, or whatever makes sense for your business.

  • Keep the original (blank) questionnaire AND a pdf of the completed form.

Assemble A Qualification Reference Document

Consider developing a single reference spreadsheet that contains all the data you use all the time when completing qualification forms. Questionnaires vary from customer to customer, and there's always something new, but there's a great deal of info that's consistently requested. Your spreadsheet should include the following, and any other info you typically need to provide:

  • Company address(es), Key Personnel, Subsidiaries

  • Tax ID #, Dun & Bradstreet Rating, NAICS code

  • OSHA TRIR for last 3-5 years, EMR last 3-5 years

  • Bonding information - contact, basic info

  • Insurance Information - contact, basic coverage info

  • Financial info - banking contact(s), basic data

  • Trade and customer references

You might also consider developing a brief one page document that includes your most basic qualification info; something you can share with potential customers. Many customers will still require your to compelte their questionnaires and submit specific documentation, but a brief overview of your qualifcations can be helpful, too. (See an example below)

Set Standards For Completing Forms

It's important to discuss & agree on standards you will use as an organization for completing qualification forms, especially if more than one person will be completing questionnaires. Make sure everyone is aware of standards for:

  • Contact information - who is the contact for qualification info, sales/bid requests, safety, etc.?

  • Locations - will you complete forms on a per-location basis or use a single location, such as your corporate headquarters, for all qualification forms?

  • Financial info - what information/figures will the company release, contract terms, etc.?

  • Versions of manuals and other documents to be used.

All of this front-end work can help make the process of completing qualification forms more efficient and less painful. It does take some effort to get organized, but it pays off when it's time to complete another questionnaire. And another one after that, and another one...

Remember, your potential customer is requesting this information in order to consider you as a resource for their projects – completing the questionnaire and providing documentation as requested is time well spent!

These are just a few tips based on our experience with qualification forms. We'd love to hear what you're doing to make the process easier, more efficient & pain-free! If you've got a great tip, please post it to the comments. We'll share the best tips on the Think Tank blog in a week or two!

Tank builder's contractor qualification info

 

Contractor Qualification Tank Contractor subcontractor

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