Business awards - are they worth the cost and effort?

The winners of business awards often, quite understandably, like to shout about their achievement from the rooftops. But, for the time, money and effort they take - are they worth entering?

But for all the pomp, and the apparent pride with which winning business owners proclaim their successes, many business awards are simply not worth the paper they are written on. Company headed paper often includes emblems from obscure awards, alongside kite marks and trade association logos, yet all too often these awards are formulated as a PR exercise for an obscure pressure group or media-savvy company.

The often lengthy entry procedures involved with entry occupy the time of already over-stretched small business owners.  So with the business awards season approaching, how can you decide which business awards are worth the effort?

Is the award reputable?

More often than not, the winner of a business award does not receive a prize in the conventional sense; instead, the value of the award is often in the prestige that it brings the firm. So, reputation is one of the first aspects of the award that you should consider.

A good test of an awards value is to think about whether you would be impressed if one of your competitors won the same award. Would it make you view their firm in a more favourable light? If so, the award might well be worth entering.

Some awards also create a buzz in the industry press, and these can also be ones worth pursuing.

Who are the judges?

You should also consider the panel of judges that will be assessing entrants. Often, business awards are set up and sponsored by firms looking for publicity and, almost without fail, a representative of that business will be on the panel. But you should make sure that the rest of the panel has knowledge, expertise and reputation in the relevant field. Awards with panels made up solely of ‘celebrity judges’ or the like are generally not particularly adept at finding the most worthy winner.

Who are the previous winners?

Have a look at the list of previous winners. Are there firms on the list that are now in a position that you wish to see your own business reach in the future? Do you admire the past winners? If so, you may well wish to consider entering – particularly if winners are provided with some kind of practical support by the awards organisers.

Will it matter to your customers?

Business awards are often of the most use to B2B firms, as potential clients may well be impressed by an award in a relevant field. While there are many awards available for B2C firms, these are often less important to the customer – simply because they do not know what they are.

There are, of course, exceptions this. There are a few particularly high-profile business awards, about which the general public may have some knowledge. You may wish to concentrate on these if you consider an award to be a means of boosting sales.

Some awards, for example those in the customer services field, do hold some sway with customers in all sectors. Winning an award for excellent customer service tells people instantly that yours is an organisation that works hard on behalf of its customers.

Will entering benefit your business?

This is perhaps the most important consideration for any small business manager entering for a business award – particularly if the entry process is time consuming. The better awards offer some benefit to the entrants and the winner beyond the prize itself. For example, you may be given the opportunity to network with business professionals and potential suppliers, or there may be an event at which you can meet your competitors and seek information.

Some awards go even further; the National Business Awards, for example, provide a written overview and ‘benchmarking report’ for your firm, enabling you to judge your position amongst competitors.

Finally, it is worth considering some of the less tangible reasons for entering business awards. Running a business is a stressful occupation, and it is all too common for SME owners to spend all their time worrying about day-to-day management minutiae and forget to celebrate their successes. Often, business awards provide entrepreneurs, the public, and industry at large with the opportunity to recognise the vital contribution that these firms make to the economy – and there is nothing wrong with a little self-congratulation now and then.

It is clearly not beneficial for you to spend all your time entering every business award under the sun, especially as doing so could get quite expensive! That said, some of the more reputable or particularly specialist awards provide a valuable service. The chance to meet competitors, seek advice from successful business owners, and have a respected panel consider the strengths and weaknesses of your business is not something to be sniffed at.

If the right business award comes along, you may well benefit from entering – but make sure that you choose carefully, or you will end up taking valuable time away from running your firm.