Many consider SMEs to be instrumental to the continued growth of the British economy and, in my opinion, more bosses should be shouting about their successes in pursuit of being named one of the best in their field.Of course, when I started Mash Direct back in 2004, entering awards wasn’t top of my priority list. The things we were doing on a day-to-day basis were essential in getting the business off the ground, yet as we’ve grown, we’ve realised that our strategy and processes are worthy of being recognised on a national scale. As any small business owner will attest, it can be easy to overlook the importance of the new initiatives you’re launching or the innovation you’re implementing, because to you, it is simply part of your routine in growing your business. But it is precisely these things that can make you truly stand out from your competitors. There are a whole host of awards and industry accolades out there, and naturally some will suit your business more than others. For us, awards such as the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards, Great Taste Awards and Farmers Weekly Awards have always been important for us to consider, in order to showcase our product range. However, more recently, we’ve found communicating our business story through the press and award entries has been equally rewarding in terms of increasing brand recognition. We have a bumper year in terms of award wins, but to name a few: we were granted the highest possible standard in food safety and hygiene by the British Retail Consortium, we won a Grocer New Product award for our vegetable burgers and my wife Tracy was recently named Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year. These three different achievements have enabled us to position ourselves as a conscientious food manufacturer with solid business credentials and skillful leadership. Diversity is key to presenting any business as a frontrunner in its field, with the additional rewards of attracting new customers and business contracts, whilst increasing loyalty amongst your existing customer base. Although the process can sometimes be lengthy, entering awards offers an opportunity for small businesses to promote themselves and evaluate their business from a variety of perspectives. For instance, some award entries could highlight areas you hadn’t previously thought about capitalising on, or uncover areas that could be developed even further – ensuring the growth and progression of your business is always front of mind. Employees play a key part in the success of businesses and there are many awards that honour the work they do – which in turn can boost company morale. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the time constraints that face small business owners every day. But I cannot stress enough the rewards that we have gained through dedicating time to award applications. In our business, it’s a team effort – that way we can share the benefits across all areas of the business, from sales and marketing to the new product development team. Establishing yourself as an award-winning organisation is a sure-fire way to motivate staff, improve relationships with customers and suppliers and strengthen your share of voice in the industry. Give yourself the recognition you deserve and always remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Top Tips on writing applications 1. Conduct careful research to determine which awards you should enter – picking those that are most relevant to you and your business. Many business awards have sector-specific or regional categories within them, as this may increase your chance of being shortlisted. 2. Be clear and concise in your messaging make sure you’re communicating the best parts of your business, backing each statement up with evidence, be it these with facts and figures or with a third-party testimonial. Read the application questions carefully and make sure you’re answering them correctly, without repeating yourself. Tailor the information you give to the category you’re entering and be precise to ensure every word counts. 3. Find out who is judging the awards so you can target your responses with things that will interest them. Don’t forget that the judges will be reading lots of applications, so thing of unique ways to ensure yours stands out. 4. Focus on the USPs of your business. Don’t play what you do or what you’re trying to achieve down – particularly if you’re doing something disruptive or innovative in your field, now is most definitely the time to shout about it! Five awards you should consider entering as a small business: 1. Growing Business Awards 2. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise 3. Great British Entrepreneur Awards 4. Best Business Awards 5. Chamber Awards Martin Hamilton is MD of Mash Direct.
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