14 April 2009

I was talking to one of our tenants last week about the effort involved in entering business competitions and if it is worth it. They are a successful business and indeed won three awards last year but were questioning the point of entering more at a time when maximum effort is being put into growing the company.

Applications to the various competitions advertised can be time consuming and it is easy to overlook or ignore them in favour of more pressing items; however I believe that this is a mistake. The issue at hand is not about time available but one of strategy. Why are you entering the competitions? If it is solely for personal vanity then perhaps it is a low priority but if it forms an integral part of your marketing and business strategy then there is a compelling argument to pursue these opportunities with gusto.

At NWES we have always considered the entering of appropriate competitions as an important activity and on analysis I would categorise the following as sound reasons for incorporating this into your plans:

1. It amounts to low cost marketing and advertising. In a time when every penny counts it is vital to account for every penny of your marketing spend. Competition entries take up time but not money (usually) and assuming that you make it to the final short list can provide valuable publicity on a wide scale. A good example is the Barclays “Trading Places” awards which are currently looking for entries. Here previous winners are featured on national publicity, there are articles in heavyweight papers and trade magazines and all for free! This level of exposure would be beyond all of the winners and can only accelerate the growth in their businesses.

2. It improves staff morale, retention and recruitment. A little thought through by product of winning competitions is the effect that it has on staff members. Everyone likes to be associated with success and feel pride in working for their company. At NWES we focused on a particular category for three years which was the EDP “Staff Care” award sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council.. After being in the final three for two years we won it on the third attempt in 2008. In essence this was won for being the company in the region which does the most for staff through induction, support, training and reward. We have always felt that we care about every member of staff who works for us but winning this award demonstrated this to the outside world. In the current climate staff loyalty is key and by winning this we have shown that NWES is an excellent company to work for – it makes retention and recruitment much easier.

3. The “feelgood factor”. Winning is addictive! Without doubt it engenders a lift within a company and an added “spring in the step” when going about daily duties. At a time when all around seems doom laden this is a quick and easy way to lift spirits. This should never be underestimated. I am a great believer in that the general tone of a workplace is reflected in the work produced. A demotivated or unhappy workforce are not productive and can spell the end for many companies. Happy people work better!

4. It leads to more business. Everyone likes to be associated with success and the same is evident within the business community. At a time when supply chains are crucial, businesses will wish to ally themselves with “award winning” companies. The publicity from my first point and the added prominence within your sector can lead to new business. We use our award winning status in bidding for new contracts to establish our credentials and demonstrate our ethos. I cannot say for certain that it leads to new business but I would like to think that it plays its part.

5. Awards ceremonies are fun! Do not underestimate the restorative powers of a good night out – especially when someone else is paying! Enjoy it you have worked hard enough for it.

In summary a carefully planned awards entry strategy can have many benefits to your company. Next time you see an appropriate competition enter it because “you have to be in it to win it”

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