Tending to business at itenders.com

Peter Cusimano is a business lawyer who has had his own practice for five years. And, if there is one thing he has noticed about small businesses, it’s that their biggest limited resource is time.

So, along with some partners, Cusimano founded itenders.com, a “business-to-business marketplace,” with the goal of saving business service purchasers and suppliers time and money.

Cusimano is the president and CEO of itenders.com Inc. The Toronto-based company recently launched its site, where companies can bid for Web design, janitorial and even office relocation services.

“We recognized the idea that purchasing services can be automated and made more efficient if it’s out on-line,” Cusimano explained.

Purchasers and suppliers can register to use the site for free. Once logged in, a purchaser looking for a particular service can fill out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for no charge.

The RFPs are industry-specific, according to Cusimano, which helps narrow the search and ensures the purchasers will only view suppliers that match their criteria.

Suppliers who match the indicated criteria receive an alert via e-mail and can view the RFP for free. Should that supplier desire to place a bid, it can create its proposal on-line, which is also filled out based on industry-specific questions.

The purchaser is able to receive up to ten different proposals from the responding suppliers, and once a choice has been made, both parties complete the transaction off-line.

Mark Quigley, senior analyst with Brockville, Ont.-based Yankee Group in Canada, said the Canadian market is ready for sites like itenders.com because small businesses need something geared towards them.

Smaller companies don’t have access to the same resources as larger companies, he explained, and “they may not represent contract work that is large enough to have a significant amount of businesses bid on it to ensure that they will get competitive pricing.”

But bringing the suppliers and purchasers together in one arena is beneficial for both of them.

“For small companies you expand the potential bidding arena, and then for companies that are supplying these services you greatly enhance the number of companies and contracts they would bid on,” Quigley said.

The price for the supplier’s proposal is a $25 administrative fee, according to Cusimano.

“Suppliers can then make an informed decision before they commit themselves,” he explained. Compared to popular forms of advertising, he said the fee is very reasonable and users know for sure who is seeing their proposal — with other forms of promotion you have no guarantees.

Cusimano said itenders.com is considering offering a payment plan for suppliers which would offer them the option of paying an annual fee for unlimited use. There is no charge to use the system right now, he noted, as it is in a 90-day trial period.

While the site is Canadian-based, there has been response to it from all over the world.

“We are Canadian, and our initial focus is on the Canadian marketplace, however what we’re noticing is that we are having suppliers from the U.S., and I think we’ve even got some suppliers from the U.K. signing up. But our initial focus really is just Canada at the moment,” Cusimano said.

While Quigley added that this is a good forum for small- and medium-sized businesses, he said that the popularity of the market might take a while to catch on.

“This is not something that’s going to be a massive overnight success – I think that’s largely dictated by the fact that the majority of businesses out there haven’t yet integrated the Internet into how they conduct their day-to-day business,” Quigley said.

The founders at itenders.com had the same thing in mind. So members can take advantage of a free Web page, and

newsletter with business tips, Cusimano said. The goal of the Web page is to help business owners. There are still a lot of small businesses that don’t have Web sites, Cusimano explained, so through itenders.com they can have their own. A domain name is assigned to them by itenders.com.