It’s Time to End the March Madness

A Tale of Two Contracts 

It’s April 1st, the start of a brand-new fiscal year, and Avril and Mavis, two project managers in a government agency, are hard at work. They’ve just wrapped their fiscal year end and are already moving forward on projects that were identified months ago in strategic planning. They’re excited about a big new capital project, and they’ve got project approval already. They’ve even got a Request for Proposals moving through contracting. They hope to get it out to potential contractors before things get too busy in summer. 

Meanwhile, two floors down, Octavius and Novembra have collapsed in exhaustion at having wedged an entire year’s worth of contracting and purchasing into the month of March. Their credit card has stretch marks; there’s a pile of paperwork on their desks the size of Mount St. Helens and the accounting department is howling for their end-of-fiscal receipts. 

office calendar

Planning? What planning?

They would like to do some strategic planning but honestly why start now when they’ve been getting by just fine all this time? Plus, the busy summer season is just around the corner and nothing’s been prepped. So any new projects are going to have to wait until fall. 

Fast forward to July. April and Mavis are starting to get bids in for their project. Competition is keen this time of year; all the best firms have assembled their A-teams and put together top-notch proposals at competitive prices—they can’t afford not to. Avril and Mavis take their time going through them, looking for the best possible value for the taxpayer. They’re delighted with the quality of the bids, and they can’t wait to get started with the winning company in September. 

Meanwhile, two floors down, contracting is the farthest thing from Octavius and Novembra’s mind; at least until October when their finance department reminds them that they’re way underspent on their budget and if they want to get any projects done before March 31, they better get moving. 

Contracting takes forever.

And get moving they do, in their own tortuous way. They take a month to put together a request for proposals, and they take another month to get it approved through contracting; things are getting busy down there. The bid package comes out in early December. They get a bit nervous when nobody signs up for the bidder teleconference, and so they do some calling around among their usual contractors. Turns out many of them are already maxed. March Madness is looming, and the top players had filled their work plans before October was done.

The companies that do bid on their project assemble their second string subcontractors; their best players are already booked up. Many companies don’t bid at all; they’re just too busy this time of year.

Eventually a few bids come in, and they’re disappointing. The proposals look rushed, the timelines are ridiculously compressed to fit everything in by March 31st, and the prices? Well, they’re all marked up with a rush premium. A big one.

Friends, be an Avril or a Mavis. 

We in the contracting community take pride in providing you the best possible work at the best possible price. I can’t tell you how much better the quality of your contract work will be if you get your requests for proposals out early in the fiscal year.

Please. Don’t be an Octavius or a Novembra. It’s just not worth it; not for you, and not for your contractors.


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Get monthly (ish) updates via email from Don Enright. I write about interpretation and visitor experience. I never sell or share my lists.

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