I had a brand new experience last night – I attended the SME Buckinghamshire Business Awards 2018. It was a black tie event, and the last time I went to one of those, it was a Scottish ceilidh. I really had no idea what to expect from a business event, although I was pretty sure there wasn’t going to be any Dashing White Sergeant.

Held at the Hilton DoubleTrees at MK Stadium, it was all very polished – drinks on arrival, a professional photographer lining all of the business groups up for snaps, a fancy goody bag, a silent auction to benefit a fantastic new local homeless charity, The Bus Shelter (#businessgoal – to be in a position to consider placing a bid in a silent auction that includes a helicopter flight over Vegas, with a four-figure reserve) and some incredible music from the very talented Amy Fields – the Manchester Violinist..

The atmosphere was fascinating. I was there to support a client in her award nomination, so the pressure wasn’t directly on me as a competing entrepreneur. There was a wonderfully supportive feel among the businesses – tables were made up of different companies, who had all used the three-course dinner and drinks to get to know each other, and there was lots of cheering for “table mates” when nominations were announced. We were sitting with some lovely ladies from a yoga studio, who were lucky enough to win two awards, and the noise from our table at their success was riotous.

For every celebration, of course, there was a feeling of anticlimax for those who didn’t win. But in the face of that, I was still left with a strong impression of the great value of putting your business forward for an award, even if there is disappointment at the final hurdle. Here’s why:

Number 1:  Even if it doesn’t win anything, just the process of writing an award submission gives you the chance to take stock, think about the journey your business has been on, and what makes it unique. This is even more valuable if you talk to others who are involved in your business, directly or indirectly, to get their input. It’s a great opportunity to think objectively about where you’ve come from, who or what has contributed to your success, and it may give you a clearer idea of where you want to go in the future. If it’s proving difficult, you could always get someone from outside your business to interview you, and write it for you (like me, for example).

Number 2: If you’re a finalist, you can splash this status about on all of your social media and marketing material – all the way up to awards night, and even afterwards if you don’t win. There is still enormous value in the recognition you’ve had for getting that far – customers are more likely to choose a business that has been independently recognised for its success than a business that hasn’t. Just look at the power of Which? ratings.

Number 3: You can really feel part of a strong and supportive business community. You’re on a level playing field with all the other finalists, and are as worthy of being there as the winners. All of the businesses there at the final had come successfully through stringent rounds of judge review, featuring a strict points system, to even qualify for the final. That’s a good feeling, whatever the outcome.

Everyone there deserved to win; but the actual winners had been able to find that grain of individuality in their business, that kernel of uniqueness, and grab the judges’ attention with it. The story of how they started, what drives them, what makes them a success, how they enrich their community – they found it, framed the right words around it, and made it impossible for them to go unnoticed.

Of course I’m not suggesting that they only won because of a good submission form. What I’m saying is that everyone there was great at what they do, and those who won had done so by explaining their brilliance in the right way. And it’s not easy to do that for your own business – I have clients all the time who tell me how difficult it is to come with words that make them shine.

So, go for it. If you have your own business, or know someone who does, enter your local business awards. Even if you don’t win, the benefits of entering are enormous. And I’d be delighted to help you write your submission.

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