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Improving your reputation with a business award: Winning tips

If there’s one certainty in business, it’s that companies love winning awards. Not only do trophies look nice on the mantelpiece, but as many past winners know, success at award time can have a telling effect on the future of your business.

Along with the added exposure an award nomination gives to your business and the long-lasting impact it can have on staff morale, industry recognition can also greatly assist your marketing efforts and help establish a clear point of difference from your competition. And as we all know, these factors have a huge impact on a company’s sales generation and profitability.

Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of running a small business, many SMEs either lose sight of these benefits or forget to set aside time to apply for awards. Nevertheless, it is SMEs that stand most to gain from an award win. So what is the secret for winning that coveted award? Award-readiness.

The businesses which most commonly win awards are those which constantly review their processes, both front and back-end, and improve them so that they are as productive and effective as possible. Whilst a certain level of ingenuity and flair is definitely important, what all award-winning companies have in common is a clear sense of business identity and a continued dedication to making their enterprise the best it can possibly be.

Members of the peer group mentoring organisation The Executive Connection (TEC) know all about what it takes to win business awards, with more than 100 members receiving accolades in 2011. While there are many avenues to winning awards, here are some of the top strategies many award-ready businesses employ in order to continually strengthen their enterprise.

Think like an athlete – fluid is important

It is important to remember that running a business is a fluid activity. Every business can be improved, and success on awards nights often comes to leaders who recognise the importance of building a flexible business model.

Businesses that can move and adapt with changing economic conditions have a clear advantage over their competitors – and award judges know this. Inbuilt flexibility allows business leaders to quickly bunker down in tough times and pounce on opportunities in better times, vastly increasing their profitability.

Take time to sit down and examine your business. What is currently working? What isn’t? Can any aspect be adjusted to improve your responsiveness? Is there enough flexibility in your business to enable you to switch gears as necessary?

Leaders who can quickly fine-tune their business to suit the requirements of the market generally experience a sharp boost in profits – and there’s no better way to catch a judges’ attention than demonstrating steadily increasing profits.

Be brave

Don’t be afraid to develop new and daring strategies to excite your customers. Equally, if you have identified aspects of your business which are not working, scrap them and move forward. Award-winning companies are usually very good at trimming the fat in order to remain as profitable as possible.

Remember that a profitable company is a successful company – so identify the talents and skills which made you successful in the past year and develop new strategies that take advantages of these strengths.

Keep up with the trends

No business operates in a vacuum, and to be award-ready it’s important for business leaders to keep up with current trends. Following and successfully predicting changes in consumer behaviour is vital. Generally, the best way business leaders can identify shifting trends is to learn from other companies. Those businesses that manage to stay relevant often have effective channels of communication, which facilitate an open dialogue with their customer base and with other business leaders.

Learning from previous award-wining businesses is also a great way of picking up on tips which might help propel your company to loftier heights. Joining a peer mentoring organisation, such as The Executive Connection, is a great way to learn from previous award winners.

Remember, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and while business leaders should be wary of copying other businesses too closely, there is much to be gained through peer-to-peer collaboration.

‘If only I had that great idea…’

Most great business ideas are not formed in brainstorming sessions, nor are they the result of divine intervention. They are the product of something far more practical and achievable – a thorough understanding of your business.

Those business leaders who consistently come up with the best ideas not only understand and embrace their point of difference, but also play to the unique strengths that make their company successful.

Whether it’s the ability to offer products at a lower price or deliver a higher grade of service, or a totally unique product; business leaders need to focus on successfully communicating their strengths to their customers. Come awards time, this is how you will stand out from the crowd.

And most important of all

Remember to enter! While you may not be a glory seeker, winning an industry award can have a significant impact on your business and it is definitely worth taking the time to enter.

Now is the best time to start mapping out the business awards you would like to enter, and to start making yourself award-ready. While for many business owners the award process starts with the application, previous winners know that it is a much longer process –one which will ultimately have a significant positive impact on their business.

So good luck this awards season, and remember: the road to award-readiness starts now!

Advice from some award-winning business owners

John Goddard, 2011 Customer Service Institute of Australia Awards – National Winner

“If you believe that competing for an award will improve your image and create a point of differentiation, entrench the award as a goal in your yearly plans. This will help solidify a process which will help you become award worthy.

“Only enter an award when you and your team know it is deserved. Your staff will know when they are ready and want to compete, so listen to them and ensure they are actively involves any competitive award process.”

David Dahm, CEO Health and Life & TEC Member and 2011 Telstra Business Awards – State Winner

“Ensure you allocate the right resources to the process. It’s important that if you believe you should win an award, you put the right amount of time into best presenting your case to the judges.

“Speak to others who have entered similar awards. From personal experience, talking with others who have won or entered previously can help illuminate the process and give you the confidence to put your best foot forward.”

Nieves Murray, Australian Business Awards – National Innovation and Community Contribution Winner

“Make sure that your company nominates with the right motivation and that it places the right value on award success.  Business awards are primarily a way of recognizing the extraordinary people who continue to improve our company and support the important social contribution we make. Celebrate the success of our staff.

“Don’t underestimate the marketing and promotional value of success in business awards. Because awards are independently evaluated, they can be a valuable point of difference between you and a competitor.”

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Tim Hantke

Tim Hantke

Tim Hantke is State Chair, WA, division, at The Executive Connection.

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