Boss Lady

How to prepare for and enter awards


Entering awards can be of huge benefit to any business because it gives you the chance to celebrate all that you have achieved, review what you are currently working on, and helps you plan for future growth and success. It also gives you an opportunity to reward your team, build a profile, recognise initiatives and unique selling points that make you stand out, and puts your business well and truly on the map.

Here’s an extract from my newly release book ‘Award & Reward’ that demonstrates that the initial stages are all about the planning and preparation.

Plan ‘years’ ahead

This may sound as if it’s a crazy statement, but as with anything, planning ahead, beginning with the end goal in mind, and then executing and constantly striving to make the goal a reality is what will get you over the line. If you want to not only have a successful business, but an award-winning business, recognised for its strengths, then this takes years of planning.

Award winners, businesses and individuals are high achievers in life, not only in awards programs. They strive to deliver exceptional customer service, attain incredible sales, give-back to their local community, and constantly work hard to be the best in their field. Award winners map out their one year, five year, and ten year plans, and then work on them every single day. The plans may change, and to be honest usually will change frequently, especially when planning for the long term as new opportunities present themselves, but there is usually a plan or a life plan, that is carefully constructed for the highest performance levels, and then implemented and reviewed constantly.

Most awards will have a minimum requirement of being either an employee for at least twelve months, or a business in operation for at least the same term. There is good reason for this – there needs to be a proven and demonstrated path of success that clearly outlines the results, improvements, growth (not only in sales or dollars, but also in education and development) that have occurred over a period of time. High achievers and top performers are usually following a plan to reach and attain these goals.

Nothing happens overnight and in my opinion, nothing happens without putting in a lot of hard work, determination and drive. People who map out a vision, create a list of goals, KPIs or targets to attain, tend to achieve them, rather than people or businesses who operate without a plan. It’s also recognised that from all the people who set goals or plans, only approximately 1% of these actually write them down, and these are the people who really succeed and tick off each goal as they achieve it.

If you’re running a business, map out your plans and share these with your team. You need everyone on board, and they don’t know what you have in mind if you don’t share it with them. Give employees areas of responsibility and give them targets or KPIs to reach. Ask your staff for feedback and also ask them to share their ideas and suggestions, so they feel part of the process and buy-in to what’s happening. They will then be more inclined to work towards it when there are outcomes in mind. The saying ‘many hands make light work’ is true, and if everyone is on-board, they will all strive to achieve it. Tell them you want to enter awards, share with them the criteria, and brief them on how they can assist and contribute to bring the organisation’s goals to reality.

As an individual, research and study the awards, their criteria, and work on plans for you to implement to ensure that you are at the forefront and therefore in the running to be shortlisted. Plan ahead as there may be courses you need to do, skills you need to learn, and strengths to enhance in order to improve performance and sales. Make sure you tick all the boxes and meticulously plan the path to get to where you want to be, and then work towards it relentlessly over a period of time.

It’s all in the preparation & planning

As we discussed, it can take years of planning to ensure you have the credentials, skills, and mindset in order to be considered worthy of winning an award. They don’t get handed out willy-nilly, and it does take time and effort to reach the standards required. Let’s face it, if it was easy, everyone would be an award winner!

It does take time to achieve award winning status, so put in the work. My suggestion, whether it be a business or individual award, is to check out the awards you wish to enter or review and research if you’ve been nominated. Make sure it is something you’re interested in and also that you are qualified to enter.

Read through the criteria and the questions and ensure they resonate with you. Don’t go chasing awards just for the sake of winning an award; make sure it’s an organisation you would be proud to represent and that you would be a good fit as an ambassador. Once you know this is an awards program you would like to be involved with, then start to plan and map out your answers. Grab a sheet of paper, or start an Excel spreadsheet and create headings – Past, Present and Future. This is the only area in life I recommend that you fully immerse yourself into all three areas at once, as high achievers usually focus on action in the present and on future outcomes, rather than dwelling on the past.

Now that you have your ‘Past, Present, Future’ columns, make a list of all that you or the business has achieved. Sometimes you don’t even realise that you have ticked off some huge goals or dreams, as you are so caught up in the moment and working on a number of things all at once. List down all the achievements and milestones you’ve reached, targets you’ve met, growth in staff, growth in clients, ideas you’ve implemented, systems you’ve introduced, awards or acknowledgements you have already received or for which you’ve been recognised. The list is endless here, especially when you give it time, and its okay to celebrate, acknowledge, and be proud of all these things.

Next focus on the present. What are your current strengths (and weaknesses)? What great plans, new initiatives, or areas are you currently working on and achieving? What new things are happening; are you growing; what are you implementing?

Finally think about the future and ask yourself, how will your past and present activities shape the future? Where are you heading and how has this changed as you’ve made progress or changed direction? What’s next? What have your staff achieved and what have you personally achieved?

The time you give to this is invaluable, not only for looking at awards submissions, but also for the development and understanding of you and/or your staff and your business. I take time out annually to work on this planning and preparation, no matter what, as it’s one of the most valuable exercises you will do and it should be conducted often, whether you are applying for awards or not. Success is all in the planning and preparation and there’s no truer statement than this.

Five tips

from Zoë’s latest book to ensure you are maximizing your ‘Award & Reward’ opportunities:

  1. Recognise that money is not everything: Understand that money is not the only factor that drives people forward.
  2. Work your database: If you don’t have a mailing list or database, then it’s time to collate your existing data and start to build and generate new leads, prospects and subscribers.
  3. Plan ‘Years’ Ahead: Award winning businesses and individuals are high achievers in life, not only in awards programs and they constantly and consistently work on their development and progression.
  4. Attention to detail: Close attention to detail can really make or break an award or grant submission.
  5. So you’ve won or been recognised as finalist – now what? Be prepared and ensure you have a Press Release or Media Release prepared ahead of time.

About Zoë Sparks

Zoë Sparks has worked in business for 28 years, not only as a business owner but also as a franchisee, a Board and committee member in a range of not-for-profit organisations and as a volunteer and charity fundraiser. Having worked in large and small organisations, she has experienced business from all angles and from both sides of the desk. This year marks Zoë’s 20th year as a small business owner and her company is still growing and achieving great success. Zoë is a passionate business woman with a particular interest in helping women in business through reward and recognition, which has led to her recent launch of SHINE Business Women; to complement her travel and event business. Zoë relishes her roles as a mother of two rugby-loving boys and wife to a rugby tragic, which keeps her balanced! Twitter: @SpectacularEvts Facebook: @zoesparkstravel

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