By Mark Blayney Stuart Annual Conference Going for gold: the advantages of entering professional awards 10 Jan 2018 An award after your name can be one of the best ways to distinguish yourself among your peers, find new clients and give you credibility when it comes to looking for the next role. So what are the key advantages of entering awards and how can you get your entry to the top of the pile? Mark Blayney Stuart asked some award-winners for their advice. “A prize gets you exposure,” says Lisa Newton, Owner of Boogles, a bookkeeping company that has won a number of awards including Best Bookkeeping Business London at the AI awards in 2015, and Best Accounting Franchiser at the BKN Awards in 2013. “Effectively, your award becomes free promotion for you and your company – you can use it on your email tags, newsletters, website and social media.” An award gives you credibility – “a third party said you’re amazing,” Lisa says, “and it’s incredibly good to be able to say that.” On a personal level an award helps you take stock of your career so far. “The first award I won was special in the sense that I worked really hard for three years non-stop, often working through the night to get things done; so getting recognised made the nights without sleep worth it. It makes you very proud to get endorsed for your efforts.” Even if you don’t win the prize, “if you’re shortlisted, you can leverage that,” says Lisa. “Being a runner-up or finalist still looks very good on your CV and can create some publicity for you.” Celebrating achievements “When you get your first award, you can call yourself ‘an award-winning business’,” says Steve Dimmick, Co-Founder of Doopoll, which won the Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start-up of the Year in 2016. “You can show that you’re best in class, and that gives customers the confidence to come to you, rather than go to the competition.” One of the underestimated advantages of a prize, Steve reckons, “is the psychological boost you get. If you’re part of a small company for example, you don’t often get the chance to all go out and have a glamorous black-tie event and celebrate how far you’ve come.” Aside from the obvious PR advantages of a prize or a shortlisting, “it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the progress that’s been made and why you’re in that position to win awards.” That sense of teamwork is important to Pippa Craddock, Director of Marketing and Development at Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts, whose teams have won many awards. “Industry awards are huge morale-boosters,” she says. “The marketing benefits of prizes are immense; we make the most of them and they raise your profile within the industry, where a seal of approval is really noticed and recognised.” Making the most of your chances What about particular advice of what to do (and not do) on the entry form? “The key is evaluation,” Pippa says. “Your project may be the most important thing in the world to you, but you have to show the judges why you’re worthy of merit.” Evaluating what you’ve achieved is key to that. “Base your achievements on sound evidence. Being able to prove why you’re good is the way to get shortlisted.” Secondly, and especially for individuals entering awards, the language you use is essential. “Be proud of what you’ve done, and don’t be shy to demonstrate why you should win the award. But you have to juggle that against not coming across as arrogant or cocky.” “Be proud of what you’ve done, and don’t be shy to demonstrate why you should win the award.” This is a careful balancing act – be professional and factual on the entry form. It doesn’t have to be emotionless; judges like engaging, lively personalities, but avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. “Some people do great work but aren’t so good at marketing themselves,” Pippa says. “Make yourself overcome that!” It can help to write objectively – if you were talking about someone else’s achievements, what would you say? Alison Orrells, Managing Director of the Safety Letterbox Company, won Woman of the Year and a growth and expansion award in the recent Women in Business Awards in South Wales. In a male-dominated industry, Orrells has achieved enormous successes in manufacturing. “It’s very positive as a business and for me personally; we’re good at what we do and it sends the right message.” Any supporting publicity from a prize, Alison says, can only help you as an individual and also as a business. “It raises the profile, reiterates the brand and gives quality and substance to it – awards show customers that we are professional and do the right thing.” Why nominate yourself? Stand out to employers. “Winning an award sets you apart,”says Steve Dimmick. “If you can show on your CV that you’ve won or been nominated for an award, employers will notice.” Attract customers. Awards create awareness and people will notice you and trust you. A winning mentality gives potential customers confidence in what you can do and that you will deliver an excellent, professional job. Celebrate your achievements. “If you are part of a team, that team benefits hugely from the rewards of the ceremony, the bonding that emerges from it and the sense of pride,” says Pippa Craddock. Cement your reputation. A prize is a milestone in your professional development, and a benchmark to your peers of what you can do in your industry. Gain priceless publicity. “If the awards are free to enter,” says Lisa Newton, “there’s no good reason not to.” There are seven categories at the 2018 AAT Professional Member Awards, including Professional Member of the Year, Licensed Member of the Year, Rising Star of the Year, AAT Champion of the Year and Branch of the Year. The winners will be announced in a ceremony at the AAT Annual Conference on 7 June 2018. Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.