Winning an award for your business feats is rewarding in a number of ways.
It gives you kudos in your industry. When you're marketing to customers, or when you're courting potential clients or business partners, being able to preface your name with 'award-winning' accords you extra credibility.
And of course there's that gleaming piece of silverware to put on your mantelpiece.
The recognition is also vindication for your hard work, persistence, and for all the risks you have taken. Not that entrepreneurs particularly need outside endorsements; one thing a good entrepreneur is rarely short of is confidence in his or her own abilities.
Yet it should certainly stifle negativity from within or without the company. Entrepreneurs are often ridiculed or doubted by people who would rather jump on bandwagons than anticipate the next big thing. An award will show that you are the man to steer the ship safely.
Types of awards
A lot of competitions give awards to existing businesses which have excelled in a particular field, or start-ups with the best ideas or business plans.
Awards are given for any element of your business you can imagine. Categories cover areas such as innovation, growth, technology, HR, health and safety, customer services, environmental credentials and corporate social responsibility. There are general business ceremonies, regional ceremonies, and industry-specific ceremonies, young entrepreneur and start-up ceremonies.
Business plan competitions can be beneficial whether you win or not. You get a free critique of your business plan from a panel of experts for a start. Executing your idea is just as important as the idea itself, so this is invaluable. Don't be overly concerned about giving your 'secrets' away.
Award ceremonies often hold supplementary seminars and lectures.
Such events are great networking opportunities and invariably attract business angel investors. Not only will you make great contacts, you will also learn much about the mechanics of dealing with investors.
Awards are also a good chance to practise public speaking and presentations.
You can get cash prizes with awards, although this is usually not the case. Much of the benefit lies in the publicity they bring to a business.
Some competitions offer cash prizes to entrepreneurs with the best business, product or service ideas, or the best business plans. This means it is possible, albeit very difficult, to raise finance to start a business through competitions. Check out the 'Start-ups and young entrepreneurs' section of the links below.
Awards can be run by the public bodies or businesses in the private sector.
A number of universities run start-up competitions for their students.
The BBC's hit programme Dragon's Den is a competition in a sense; entrepreneurs compete against each other to convince a panel of wealthy entrepreneurs to invest in their business. But a no-strings-attached award is not given - only investment in return for equity.
Prizes can be either be recreational - such as champagne, events tickets or holidays - or beneficial to the business, such as free training, computer equipment or advertising space.
If you think there is something about your business which merits recognition, check out our directory of competitions and award ceremonies by clicking here.
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Awards and grants guides
Award ceremonies directory >>
Links to the websites of various business awards ceremonies. Broken down into categories.
Raising finance from grants >>
Here's a guide to how you qualify for business grants.
Grant providers directory >>
Links to the websites of various grant providers. Broken down into categories.