Are you leading an award-winning business? You could be…

Awards are much more than a simple ego boost. They provide validation, PR and networking opportunities – but many small businesses don’t know where to start.

Battlefield Sports co-founder Nicole Lander has overseen more than 30 award wins for herself and her company, including a Telstra business award in 2013, and says a lot of company owners don’t win because they simply don’t enter.

“I think the most important thing is to give it a go, because many don’t,” she told The Pulse.

She said winning awards had added a layer of credibility to the exporting business, as overseas customers didn’t have time to see what was happening in the factory, but felt assured of the quality of the product because of the company’s award wins.

“It’s helped us as a business really instil credibility into the minds of our potential and actual customers,” said Lander.

Why bother?

Lander said one of the key benefits of applying for awards (aside from the obvious PR boost) was that it gave her the opportunity to think about her business from a different perspective.

“It’s really good for us as a management team to go through the awards process because it gives us an opportunity to really analyse what we’ve done well, and what we could improve in the short and medium term,” she said.

Many business owners lack the time (and inclination) to look at the big picture – as they’re busy simply running their business.

Lander said the validation of a third party also helped put nagging doubts over the business to bed.

“Sometimes you’re so busy doing your own thing and it’s overwhelming sometimes. But if you actually get a third party endorsing you, then you go ‘OK, so yeah we’re doing some things right’,” she said.

She also said the networking opportunity afforded for being a finalist gave her a fantastic opportunity to meet other business owners and learn about what they were doing.

“We can actually say okay what’s in the broader context of our industry and how can we learn from each other as well?”

Tips and tricks

Battlefield Sports’ first award was an export award aimed at emerging exporters based in Cairns. Lander said she applied for it because she knew they’d be in with a good chance of winning.

“First of all, there’s not many exporters based out of Cairns. And secondly, there aren’t that many emerging exporters that are based out of Cairns,” she said.

She said applying for a local award is great if your market is local, but as your business grew it made sense to apply for state and national awards.

Once you have the first award under the belt, Lander said, it will begin to snowball – if you play your cards right.

The first application will take a while (but it does get easier)

Lander said a common mistake businesses make when applying for awards is leaving it too late. Your first submission will take about two days depending on the complexity of application criteria.

“I try to trick myself by saying the deadline is one day earlier, so I’ve actually finished the application twenty-four hours before it needs to be done,” she said.

“If you start your application for a big national award or something at 9pm the night before…you’re not give yourself enough time to present a good case.”

The good news is that with a couple of submissions under the belt, you’ll have a repository of business information you can use in subsequent submissions.

Understand the criteria

Don’t waste time on complex award submissions only to find your business is ineligible.

Lander says taking the time to understand application eligibility is crucial.

“Make sure you read the selection criteria really carefully and understand what they’re really asking for, because sometimes the criteria can be a bit ambiguous,” she said.

If you’re in any doubt, contact the award people and ask them about the criteria.

Get plugging!

If you’ve won an award, or even been listed as a finalist – now’s the time to engage in blatant self-promotion.

Lander said while there was still value in pitching to local newspapers and news outlets, the better play was the use the award to create content for social media.

“Nowadays, we also focus on writing blogs about it, putting out social media posts about how it’s beneficial to our customers, not just about we’ve won another award and we’re great,” she said.

“Most awards don’t give you cash, but it’s definitely a fantastic PR opportunity.”