As you approach the holiday season, it is a great time to reflect on your business and analyse what you are doing and work out ways to do it better. Although Christmas time is not usually the season for business awards, it is a good time to reflect on the possibility of entering awards.
I am a huge fan of awards. I am also happy to speak with some authority on the matter – in the last ten years being in business my business won 22 major international, national and local awards. These included such awards as the ‘Microsoft Partner of the Year’ award – an award that 400,000 Microsoft Partners are eligible to enter. We also won non-industry awards such as the ‘Champion of Champions Best IT Business in Australia’ award and the ‘Best Regional Business’ award.
At no stage did we create our business model with an emphasis on winning awards – but by the mere fact of entering awards, I believe it improved our business and therefore made us more likely to win future awards. Not quite a self-fulfilling prophecy but certainly incremental improvements that firstly improved our business and secondly made us more likely to win awards.
The first reason I am a big fan of entering awards is that it makes you think about your business from an external perspective without the cost of a consultant. An advanced award process will have a sophisticated series of questions that will lead the judges to analyse your business. If you treat this process very seriously, it allows you to think about your business through the eyes of the judge. What do you do about improving staff retention? What is your advertising strategy? How do you contribute to the community? What are your growth strategies? If you answer all of these questions as honestly as possible, it gives you a really good external picture of your business. I would also recommend involving as many people from your team as possible. Your answers to certain questions might be distinctly different depending on where different people see the business. This can reveal some disconnects within the business. After you finish compiling the different answers, sit back and read through the submission. It should reveal your passion, areas where you are strong and areas where you can improve. These are all benefits before you have even submitted your award application.
The second reason I like entering awards is that it gives you an excuse to buy some clients a cup of coffee. In the past I would suggest you buy them a beer but in our litigious society if they have an accident on the way home they will sue you for buying them a beer so keep it to a cup of coffee. Unless they spill the coffee on themselves and then sue you fur buying them a hot cup of coffee, I can’t see too many risks associated with the meeting.
When you invite your clients to a cuppa, it gives you the excuse to have some further external analysis of your business. You can ask the client to give you some honest assessment of some questions in the award submission and, the coup de grâce in the submission process, ask them for a quote you can use in the submission. An award submission that has several strong compelling quotes from clients (especially well-known clients) lifts your submission above the pack.
Lastly, as every human knows, awards are competition. Nothing makes a business person happier than stirring up the competitive juices and trying to beat the competition. We all do it every day when we swing open the doors for business. We may not think about it too much, but we are trying to be better than our competitors every single day. When we submit an awards entry, we are now competing against a much larger group of competitors. They may be from different geographical regions or they may be from different industries. Who cares – we are competing! Realsitically, I believe the major benefits to a business are realised before the actual submission is lodged but, if you do happen to win an award, work it for all it is worth. Advertise it, add it to business cards, add it to proposals. We once won a major regional competition with the trophy being called a Gold Rhino. Apart from our impressive trophy, we had use of a 1m tall Gold Rhino head that we had to hand back after a year. This was hung proudly inside the shop. That wasn’t good enough for me. I had a 3m high Gold Rhino head constructed that was waterproof and had it installed outside the main shop location. I was literally singing it from the rooftops. Add to that the change to the signwriting on the cars and the various letterheads and business cards and you get an idea of how hard you can push it. I was once accused of going ‘over the top’ by one of my competitors. I told him that it was only because we had won it and he hadn’t!
If your enthusiasm starts to wane after winning too many awards, give the responsibility to one of your senior staff members and you will notice an entirely new enthusiasm introduced into the process.
Stay tuned next week and I will give you some tips on exactly how to create an award-winning entry.
Tell me the best award you have won at firstname.lastname@example.org.