Last year I entered the WOBAs and with my fellow entrant we discussed daily how we were both excited to be shortlisted. We talked about what would happen in the interviews and who of us would be shortlisted, and what we’d wear at the finals!
I am good at writing things so I was confident I would make it through to the shortlist, which I did. And I was pleased about it especially as my fellow entrant applied for two and was only shortlisted for one so I knew there was a selection process going on.
At the interview however, I was unprepared. I didn’t really have answers for their questions. How did I love, motivate and reward my staff? The percentage growth of my customer base year on year? Client retention rates? and so it went on.
I didn’t have the answers. But I had my ‘values’ driven business, my turnover figures and my loyal team behind me… So, I remained optimistic I might make the finals.
Neither myself or my fellow entrant made it through and we joked that we didn’t care anyway.
But I had enjoyed the process. I loved meeting other WOBA applicants and talking about their applications with them, the questions we were asked in the interview, the speculation about other businesses and why they had won in the past. I was massively disappointed not to be a finalist but this was a new game and I was just learning how to play it.
Throughout the year I thought about the questions my interviewers had asked and how I could make sure I had the documentation to answer them. I set out to write my ‘book’ on how Push Start Marketing is run. From induction information for new staff members, to client info, systems and processes, how-tos and an analysis of my financial and client information. ‘The Book’ is a folder full of paper and the financials are covered in my notes. It is still a work in progress but it meant I was on top of my figures. I understood my best clients, and the worst, how I had changed the focus of my client base over the year. I then looked at how I could continue to develop this, making growth plans for the next few years.
Like an exam, homework or inspection – I was ready for it. Would I have done all this without the WOBAs? Maybe. But I hadn’t managed to get this done in the 3 years previously. Because of the WOBAs by the time 2017 interviews came around I had this 500+ page document completed.
When applications opened in 2016 I encouraged all my clients and West Oxfordshire businesses to enter. I knew how good it had been in shining a light on my business for me and motivating me to improve and spend time working on the business. I helped several clients with their applications, and to date have 100% track record of client’s applications being shortlisted. For the WOBAS, OBAs and Cherwell Business Awards. (so this time next year you know who to call…)
Not all of them made it to the finals, but one of them was happy just to make it to the shortlist, as they failed to do so last year. This year with a little help with their application, another was not only shortlisted but are finalists. They agreed that just entering the WOBAs forced them to do lots of things in and around their business they hadn’t done before – even simple things like putting pictures up on walls.
My fellow entrant from 2015 messaged me when I was made a finalist and I asked why they hadn’t entered this year, ‘After last year I said I would never do anything like that again’ was the reply.
It does seem like empty words for those of us that don’t make the finals ‘thank you and we hope you’ll try again next year’. But you don’t learn to ride a bike in a day. If at first you don’t succeed…
Look at me, shortlisted last year, finalist this year.
Look at my client, not shortlisted last year, finalist this year.
It’s not about the awards themselves, it’s about learning what is needed; looking at what makes a business ‘the best’, what makes a ‘business person of the year’ and taking steps to make that happen in the coming year.
My business has benefited exponentially from being part of the awards. There is a new community and network to get involved with and I have already gained new business simply through all the Twitter noise about it.
Whatever awards they are, enter them. If you want to win a race you train, if you want to get fit you pick a challenge to complete. Awards are no different, except there is food and booze involved and hopefully a nice framed certificate and possibly a trophy to lord around the office for a year.
This article was written by Lucy Lavers, MD of Push Start Marketing, a values driven marketing and PR agency with a no nonsense approach to delivering content on and offline. Follow Push Start Marketing on Twitter or Connect with Lucy via Linkedin.
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