Public Sector Contract Rates are unsustainable. Discuss.

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Public Sector Contract Rates are unsustainable. Discuss.

We are the leading BSL interpreting agency in the UK, delivering over 140 BSL assignments per day. Pressure from all sides, rising IT costs and customer demands can prove incompatible and, indeed, deadly as several agencies are currently discovering. This has a massive and painful knock-on effect to the self-employed interpreter or small agency who sit at the end of the supply chain.  With big numbers, comes big data though and we think there are few things we can do to make sure we get the recipe right in these challenging times.   Here are the main ones:


Know your numbers. Know what you need to supply a contract, what it’s going to cost, what might go wrong, what cashflow you need and what the risks are and then from this comes your price. It’s as simple as that.


Have a pyramid. This gives you a mixture of low priced work (but lots of it), medium and high price (but very bespoke and specialist) and it makes sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.



Walk away from contracts that are too low. They will cause you endless sleepless nights and stressful days. All that work for no gain that can’t be used for growth, training or development just makes people and organisations sad.


Treat your interpreters and other suppliers well; with clear guidelines, clear expectations, swift communication, respect for reasonable terms and conditions and pay them on time. There is no reason not to and if you can’t, it’s a sign you have something quite fundamental wrong in the business.  We don’t get it right 100% of the time, but when we don’t we try and fix it quickly.  An interpreter friend said to be yesterday


“Any large organisation who is prepared to hold firm on BSL T&Cs are a god-send”. How hard can it be?


Provide exactly what your clients want and give them extra sparkle. They may want speed and 100% fulfilment or a local, friendly, flexible company or one that is  technically innovative and at the cutting, bleeding  edge of the 21st century. Whatever it is, make sure that is your USP.


Keep your overheads low, low low. No vanity projects, no concrete, steel and glass monuments to ego and no six figure salaries.   Given the processing power and applications available on an Iphone 7, you could use it to run a small agency at a cost of £600. Recent companies that have gone under had very healthy profit margins of 30 or 31% with recruitment agencies running at 20- 25%.  You can see that it was not the tender price that was too low but something else that was too high.  Luxurious overheads is one of the key reasons why companies go bust, with poor public sector tendering as only one of the contributing factors.


It is possible to do public sector contracting with integrity, if it’s done rigorously, professionally and with scruples.


By |March 22nd, 2017|Categories: Advice|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Ken Hamilton at - Reply

    Sounds very sensible. I can attest personally to Sally’s business sense and acute sense of costs control! If I was starting out in this business, I would hope to have the contents of this blog imprinted in my mind.

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