Awards: what are they good for? Well, as it happens, rather a lot
When you’ve got wall-to-wall meetings to attend, capital to raise and new markets to crack, taking time out to apply for and attend awards ceremonies may not seem like a top priority. However, only a fool would ignore what they can offer a business. We spoke to some profoundly un-foolish people about just what it is that makes awards great.
The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 & National Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year 2012
Better Bathrooms was motivated to start looking into business awards largely as a way of acknowledging all the effort put in by its staff. “I just wanted to give a bit of recognition to the guys,” says founder and managing director Colin Stevens. However, they’ve given them far more than just the much-deserved feel-good factor. Not only has it featured in news items and been the subject of several Sky News interviews but it has also had a huge impact on the company’s bottom line. “We’re about 50% up where we thought we’d be on sales by this time.”
Obviously, recognition for your enterprise is one thing. But receiving a personal commendation such as Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 can have an even more dramatic effect on the profile of the entrepreneur. “It has opened up a new world,” comments Stevens. Which it certainly has. Not only has Stevens become a regular fixture in features in papers and magazines, but his award also precipitated his involvement in Oli Barratt’s high-profile Tenner scheme and saw him the receive a personal letter from James Caan. Not at all shabby.
Winner Smarta 100 2011, the National Business Awards WorldPay Online Business of the Year 2011, Social Buzz Awards 2011, New Media Age Effectiveness Awards 2011
For Naked Wines, winning awards wasn’t even really on the radar. “It never even crossed our minds to be completely honest,” says founder Rowan Gormley. “It was just a happy surprise when it came along.” It was only at the recommendation of a friend that Gormley eventually decided to start putting Naked Wines forward. This started a bit of a chain reaction. “Curiously, entering one award provoked a whole lot of others as well,” he explains. “You get on people’s radar.”
All this attention has had a pronounced effect on the company. “I think it’s been transformational,” says Gormley. “I really think it can’t be underestimated.” Rather than affecting public perception and attracting customers, Naked Wines has found that it has been its professional relationships that have received the strongest boost from this high-profile recognition. One example Gormley gives is when they are soliciting new business with wine-makers. He elaborates: “Obviously, the first thing they do is Google you and when they read you’re an award-winning company then all of a sudden they take you more seriously.”
Webby Awards Best Comedy Site/Celebrity Site 2005, New Media Age Technology Innovation Award 2009, Communicator Awards Award of Excellence 2011
Having featured 30th on Design Week’s most awards won list a few years back, clock certainly isn’t lacking in accolades. One of the first it picked up was the Yahoo! Comedy Site of the Year 2003, a site put together for the comedian Eddie Izzard. “In my acceptance speech I did say: ‘I can’t help but think you were hoping Eddie Izzard would be here to pick this up instead of me,’” quips Syd Nadim, the firm’s CEO and founder. Unfortunately, well though the evening began, it ended tinged in tragedy. “We actually lost our awards in a taxi, having had a couple too many celebratory beers,” he says. “We’d love to get them back one day.”
This slight rumble preceded an avalanche of design awards. “Success bred success – we started winning more and more,” Nadim comments. “We actually started to become a bit blasé about it.” However, as newer members of staff joined the company, Nadim began to realise that it was important to recognise the efforts of employees who’d never had the chance to attend a ceremony. “They needed to feel that validation,” he says. “They would want to experience the things that the rest of us had.”
The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies to Work For 2012 & 2013, National Business Awards The Santander Small to Medium-Sized Business of the Year 2012
One of the most significant benefits of awards from Search Laboratory’s perspective is the fact that it demonstrates you’ve been carefully assessed and it stands as an effective accreditation of your enterprise. “As the business grows and over time you build the client base, if you go for the right ones they help demonstrate that you’re a proper business,” says operations director Tim Carr. “It helps to show that you’re credible.”
And, if high-profile awards are a mark of credibility, a significant stamp of approval next to Search Laboratory’s name is the fact they have featured in The Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Companies to Work For – not once but twice, having just netted a place for the second year running. “Prospects have been really impressed by it,” comments Carr. “I think it helps form that competitive edge.” But it’s not just prospective clients who might be enticed to an award-winning business. Since being recognised by The Sunday Times, there have been a huge number of job applications to the company’s site citing it as their main reason for wanting to work there. He concludes: “It’s about being recognised as a great place to work.”
The National Business Awards
As far as cross-industry business awards go, the National Business Awards is one of the biggest. Now entering into its 13th year, the NBAs have recognised a wide range of enterprises including Unruly Media and Ella’s Kitchen.
“The motivations for entering awards generally fall into several distinct categories,” explains Alex Evans, the National Business Awards’ programme director. First of all, being an award-winning business is also a powerful way to set oneself apart from the competition. In these recession-driven times, any SMEs trying to win tenders with bigger firms will simply be a face in the crowd. “In that situation, the head of procurement will look for a differentiator,” says Evans. Winning an award is a surefire way of attracting a second glance. “It’s becoming quite a powerful thing, using that kind of recognition to impress investors or shareholders.
“Another motivation is the PR element,” comments Evans. “The prize, once you’re recognised, is you can use that win or that shortlist to present yourself as a third-party-endorsed organisation that performs well.” This can go both ways; there’s the traditional external PR, allowing you to promote a positive image outside of the company but Evans feels there is also a strong internal element. He continues: “Obviously, that recognition creates a lot of staff morale, a lot of confidence internally. And it’s become something that is used to attract and keep talent in the business.”
Lastly, one of the strongest benefits of winning awards is the amount of exposure that comes with such a high-profile event. “The National Business Awards invests a lot of resources in PR and profile, whether it’s working with our partners such as the Telegraph or Sky News, we have a year-long programme that we use to tell the story,” says Evans. “We can create an opportunity for a winner and finalists to get a platform.” Since Sky News got involved in the awards last year, they have been using shortlisted entrants such Tom Allason of Shutl and Phil Smith of Cisco as commentators, and, after it was shortlisted for the Orange Innovation Award last year, the NBA team helped Duedil secure a high profile feature in The Telegraph.
Ultimately, awards are about recognising when an organisation is well-respected among its peers and the wider community. Evans concludes: “Really the value of awards is all about recognition.”