After 12 years it finally happened, we were rejected for non-compliance. Like a beat down from Mutombo, we were stunned. After attending a the pre-bid assembly, building a solid team, preparing a thoughtful proposal, and so much more, we received notification that our submittal was missing one form and, thus, was incomplete and rejected. What to do now??

We were crushed, but quickly went to work. First, we confirmed the accuracy of the error. It was true, we did not submit one form out of the 100 requested (okay, I exaggerate). Secondly, we pleaded our case as to why we should be considered despite our error–crickets. Lastly, there was not much left to do but have a beer, wallow, and contemplate the lessons this setback taught us.

1) It reminded us that procurement policies are stringent on public projects. Procurement departments are charged with the responsibility of making sure proposals are in order, boxes are checked, and “t”s are crossed. Miss something and you’re out. They care more about their own job than you getting one.

2) Proposer beware! RFPs are often poorly organized with submittal requirements spread throughout the document. Even if there is a submittal requirement section, read every line of the document to see if they sneak a requirement in an out-of-place location. Enlist a third party to review the proposal closely, ensuring it aligns with the RFP.

3) It taught us that even if your team was absolutely the best match (work with me here) no one will care enough to bend the rules for you even if the missing item is designated “non-material”.

4) Some submittal requirements are ridiculous: from specific content of recycled paper to unrealistic limitations on maximum pages that would result in a 6pt font nightmare. But, ridiculous doesn’t matter; meeting the requirements does.

5) We have to hold ourselves to the same standard we hold others. The RFPs we issue on behalf of our clients have deadlines, format requirements and more. We would be hypocrites if we didn’t hold ourselves responsible to meeting requirements requested by others.

So, we walk away, defeated, but wiser, and dedicated to not going through this experience again.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative