Case Study - Winning Tenders

About Winning Tenders

Winning Tenders is a company whose mission is to help SMEs win public sector contracts. And with a typical tender win rate of 75% on average, we can safely say they are extremely successful in doing so.


Recently retired Chief Executive Ian Smith has over 30 years’ experience of winning substantial contracts for a vast range of companies entirely through the bid process. Ian founded Winning Tenders in 2006 and ran it initially alongside his other consulting activities. Moving to the south west in 2012, Ian concentrated on growing Winning Tenders, based in Exeter. As his business grew, Ian knew he needed to expand the team and evolve his ‘modus operandi’. To relieve the headache of doing everything in the business himself, Ian began outsourcing not only the bid and tender writing service to top quality experts, but also administrative operations to Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance. This enabled him to step back from day-to-day work and take a more strategic approach to expansion.


We spoke to Ian to get his take on what support and solutions Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance provided and continues to provide, and why having this support is vital to Winning Tender’s business operations.

Why a VA?

Ian began by telling us that he had realised for some time that the only way for his business to become established and one that can continue after him, was to get other people to do as much as possible so that he would eventually become superfluous. Originally, Ian did all the tender writing and proposals himself, but he was limited to the amount of time he could spend on this as the other ‘necessary stuff’ often got in the way. Things like chasing invoices, diary management, managing tasks and workflow, all interrupted Ian’s ability to focus on what he does best. Ian said that Joanne solved all those problems, and more.

“Joanne has been a real godsend, becoming a cornerstone of this business and made it so much easier for me whilst handing over to my successor as she has everything in place. This has also given a great deal of confidence to Paul who is taking over.”

“Joanne has supported me with a multitude of necessary and important services. I have always found her very easy to work with and her support has enabled the business to be less dependent on me being around. It freed up much of my time and I became better organised. I would advise other business owners not to hesitate in engaging her services – it will help you tremendously. I can’t speak highly enough of Joanne and the wider team.”

Joanne Manville VA_Poppy Jakes Photography-7153

The benefits

Ian admitted that pre-Joanne, he was simply doing the admin work himself with no real process in place. This became taxing and a worry as things can be easily missed, as well as it being extremely time-consuming. The benefit of having Joanne on hand to execute the behind-the-scenes stuff, has been invaluable.


Chasing invoices has been of huge importance to Ian as it keeps the steady flow of payments coming in, as well as taking this time-consuming process off his desk. It’s a common belief that whoever is running a business shouldn’t be the person chasing for payments as it can make your business appear less professional in some ways, so having Joanne to do this on Ian’s behalf became an absolute necessity.


All of this allowed Ian to focus on what he himself should be doing rather than being dragged into activities which someone else can achieve more quickly and efficiently.


Joanne has continually made sure networking sessions and team meetings are attended, organising the events and managing the diary which has meant better communication for the team and outside organisations we network with.


With the plethora of help and support Joanne is able to provide, she very quickly became crucial to the business.

Adding value

Ian is grateful that Joanne was able to identify where processes needed to be designed and implemented to ensure the smooth running of the day-to-day operations.


From onboarding new associates, creating and delivering procedural documentation, handling contracts, developing and sending proposals plus follow ups, the invoicing and payment processes, Joanne is a vital and integral part of the Winning Tenders team. Joanne is also responsible for identifying the areas of expertise for new hires and makes sure the Winning Tenders team always has a balanced skillset.


Joanne has also been great at supporting the social media presence, making sure there is continued engagement and visibility. This has helped no end with lead generation.


Having regular catch-ups and reviews, has been of huge importance to Ian and he appreciates the structure and time-management that Joanne has implemented, as this has allowed him to be more productive and efficient. Having that structure and driving processes has been key in growing the business. Each meeting is purposeful and pragmatic, and walking away with a list of tasks with deadlines has been essential to keep the wheels firmly in motion. Joanne’s proactive attitude has meant Ian is accountable to his to-do list, which has meant he gets things done in a timelier fashion.

Why us?

Ian and Joanne were introduced by Ian’s Business Consultant who was aiding him with business development. Ian felt Joanne was most suitable because of how well they got on, right from the start. Because of Joanne’s clearly capable and proactive approach, Ian was immediately sold on working with her. Ian knew that Joanne would keep things in order and was particularly happy with the fact that Joanne is extremely proficient at prompting and driving the necessary processes that come with running an efficient and successful business.

Team player

Ian added that Joanne’s team have also been excellent. Understanding that different people have different areas of expertise and ensuring tasks are delegated to the right team member is imperative, and Ian trusts that Joanne’s team will deliver the best possible service. This has given Ian peace of mind over the years, knowing everything is being handled and he need not concern himself with the nitty gritty. Ian is happy to leave Joanne and the team to do what we do best, while he does what he does best.

Passing the baton

Ian has now handed over the business to his successor and Joanne made the transition smooth and easy. Knowing that Joanne and the team already have an in-depth understanding of the business operations (having designed many of the processes herself) has given Ian even more peace of mind knowing that the business will continue smoothly through the transition. Joanne simply knows how it all works so it’s business as usual.

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