October is Small Business Month.
This annual celebration recognizes the important contributions entrepreneurs make to the B.C. economy and to their local communities.
Small businesses (those with less than 50 employees) comprise 98 per cent of all businesses in British Columbia. With numbers like that, it’s imperative to showcase your unique value proposition so that your business stands out against the rest.
Awards are just one way to differentiate your business. Award ceremonies have been gaining in popularity recently with Small Business BC (SBBC) leading the charge in British Columbia. SBBC has done an incredible job of building a successful awards process that attracts hundreds of nominees every year. And of course, closer to home the Whistler Chamber of Commerce launched the Whistler Excellence Awards to celebrate the contribution small business leaders make to our local community.
The benefits of awards
The application process is daunting and time consuming, but awards can be a source of credibility to partners, clients and investors, as well as an internal motivator to rally staff together.
A benefit often overlooked is that the investment of time in preparing your award application is an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at your business. This process delves into your company’s achievements, charts a course for the future and buoys areas of challenge.
In measuring your business against an award’s criteria, you can potentially assess who your competition is, identify opportunities for improvement and highlight how to stand out above your competition.
Should you become a finalist or winner, there can be access to media and exposure in industry publications and local press.
Beyond that, some award winners even receive monetary prizes to boost their bottom line.
A benefit often overlooked is that the investment of time in preparing your award application is an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at your business.
Steps for a successful award process
If the above benefits have motivated you to take a step into the award arena, the first step is obviously to get nominated. Some awards allow you to nominate yourself, but should someone else nominate you, it is standard procedure that you will have the chance to accept or reject the nomination. Carefully review the criteria and rules to ensure you qualify.
Next, plan out your presentation package by creating a checklist of what deliverables you need to prepare, cross-referencing them against the required criteria. Adhere to their guidelines exactly.
Armed with a list of deliverables, create an action plan of tasks that need to be completed. Determine what you can do yourself, and what you might require help to accomplish. It’s often challenging to “toot your own horn,” so share your objectives and the criteria with those around you, asking for their input. Engage your staff in the process, with that added bonus of boosting morale.
An “easy-to-read” submission should be typed and without spelling errors. Proofread, proofread and proofread again.
If asked to submit financial information, ensure your numbers are transparent. If chosen as a finalist, you could be audited and at the very least, should have financial statements ready.
Although you don’t want to clutter your application, collateral and endorsements can be powerful inclusions. And your references should be your loudest cheerleaders so as to support your worthiness of this award.
Deadlines are stringent with disqualifications for late submission. Allow time to address transmission difficulties.
Share your story
The nomination process should be all about sharing your story. Have fun creating an interesting narrative, with sincerity and authenticity.
At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard is the founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for six consecutive years. Please cast your vote at http://www.lighthousevisionary.com/vote.