Tips for creating a winning entry

Tips for creating a winning award entry 

  1. Tell an interesting story. Being in business isn’t just about profit and the hard daily grind – It should be fun, interesting, challenging, disappointing, exciting, and rewarding. Ensure you get these factors across in your entry. A winning entry will stand out from the others by being easy to read and being a good read.
  2. Assume the judges know nothing about your business. Don’t overlook the small but important details or, what seems to you to be, the obvious stuff. E.g.: What your business does; Where it operates from; how it operates; who your key people are and what they do etc. It can be really useful to have an independent person read your entry before its submitted – A fresh set of eyes will spot things you have overlooked.
  3. Every section should be a stand-alone winner. Judging is done by attributing points to each section, and for the overall entry. One weak section can affect the quality of the overall entry, so make every section a winner.
  4. Don’t leave any questions or potential issues unanswered. We all understand that being in business is not easy, and owners constantly face challenges. Don’t shy away from identifying the challenges, but ensure you explain them, how you are handling them etc. For example: Industry issues; staff issues; financial challenges etc.
  5. Include client feedback and staff comments. This can be handled in a variety of ways e.g.: listing favourable quotes, or attaching supporting letters.
  6. Involve your staff in the entry. Make sure they know you are entering and why. Ensure they are prepared for the judges visit. Understand that the judges assessment starts from the phone call to make the appointment, and first impressions count. All the judges review the assessment report and compare it to what they read in the entry.
  7. Include a SWOT analysis in the Management and Strategy section – it shows you have spent time ‘working on’ your business and understand the significant strengths and weaknesses. You don’t need to include your full Business or Strategic Plan but it is important to convey to the judges that you do have a plan and give them a flavour of it. You can do this by providing a summary of key strategies, examples of action plans and how they are implemented.
  8. Explain how Governance is handled for your business – What expertise do you involve, or tap into, for specialist advice in making key decisions, doing strategic planning, risk management etc. ‘Two heads are better than one’ etc. Do you have regular board meetings or strategic sessions?
  9. Avoid repetition – It’s important not to abuse the word limits which are there to ensure fairness for the entrants and the judges. So don’t repeat content which will waste your opportunity to cover as much as possible in limited content, unless you really want to reinforce a key point.
  10. Tricks for maximising the entry, while respecting the word limit, include:
    • Add a page at the front of your financial reports that explains any variances and any key points you want to highlight;
    • Use photos, diagrams and graphs through the entry. A picture really is worth 1,000 words, but make sure you explain what is happening in the picture.
    • It's okay to include a modest number of appendices; e.g.: Client letters; staff comments; an example of a product, a promo example etc.

Compiled by David Kerr (former Business Awards judge 2000-2010)

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