On the eve of our first business awards night last year, I wrote an article on business awards and the benefits of going through the submission process - Business Awards Aren't Just About Winning. 8 months later, having won 5 awards and as finalists in 12 (the highlight for us was winning Bookkeeping Firm of the Year at the Australian Accounting Awards) I wanted to reflect on what we've learnt, and talk about how we achieved it.
If you are fortunate enough to win an award, the impact begins then and there. Typically business awards events are attended by other like-minded and motivated business owners. People who either love to support the small business community, are industry veterans, awards alumni, are finalists themselves or are key people supporting those finalists.
Winning an award is a perfect invitation for people to connect to you, learn more about you, and explore your business. It will create new opportunities for you and your business. When I won Young Business Entrepreneur at the Fremantle Business Awards, the sponsor of the award - the Dean of Business at Notre Dame - invited me to speak to his students about my experiences and lessons for the future. When we won Bookkeeping Firm of the Year - it connected us with industry publications where we now contribute content. The trick is to be open. Grasp the opportunity to connect with some amazing peers. Every time I've met some truly inspirational people, who I am blessed to now consider friends.
The question now though - is how did we achieve such a high strike rate. I don't believe that our business is any more special or different than the other amazing businesses out there. I have a huge respect for so many business leaders who we have been fortunate enough to rub shoulders with. What separated us is purely what we presented in our submission.
Here are my top 5 tips for writing an award winning entry -
Tell a great story
Writing about your business gives you the opportunity to bare your soul. Show your personality, and what makes you unique. Embrace the opportunity to be quirky, funny, serious, and write in a way that takes the reader on a journey that allows them to truly understand where you have come from, and what you have achieved. Sure you can state facts, but tell them in an engaging way.
Answer the question
It sounds obvious right? But often the questions are asking for specific topics to be addressed. A question may have multiple parts -
"Demonstrate a structured approach to start-up, with clear objectives and associated results. In addition, highlight how you have engaged best practice and innovation to achieve start-up success."or provide hints as to what you should consider when answering the question -
"Detail any community involvement, whether for the good of one or more people or the entire community. (Involvement can be past or present. Examples may include active service or memberships in community organisations, honours and awards received for community involvements or any other action to which the community is the beneficiary.)"
Make sure you answer the questions being asked - this is the criteria that you are being judged on. Remember how you used to write essays at school? It's the same thing.
Answer every question
I was chatting recently with a respected business leader who is often asked to judge award submissions. He noted with some sadness that he often sees people write fantastic answers for almost every question - then mysteriously forget to answer one or two. It leaves him with no choice but to award zero points for the blank answers. In his words - "the difference between getting in and missing out at the top is a matter of points" so when you forget to complete a question, you're guaranteeing that you will not only fail to win, but fail to be considered as a finalist. Answer. Every. Question.
Use the word limit
Each question typically has a word limit. You can write a short answer, but are you doing your business justice? Remember that each question can be judged independently from others. If all that a judge has to go on, to understand and associate with your journey is what is contained on that page - then it is critical for you to make the most of the word limits to communicate as clearly and effectively as possible.
Focus your message
Once you've written your initial answers - go back and focus the main message. Are there unnecessary words in there? Can you simplify the language to be easier to read? Have you written filler that you could replace with statistics, testimonials or proof backing up your answer. Is the overall theme of your answer consistent with what is being asked? Make sure you hone your message.
Applying for business awards is a great process that allows you to involve your team in understanding and celebrating what makes your business truly special. Winning awards helps you connect with other like-minded business people, and creates new opportunities. If you follow my five tips, you have a great chance to be a successful award winning business.