In it to win it!


Billy McKenna, managing director of Aro PR and Marketing, discusses the value of industry awards to composites companies, which are the best to go for and how to go about winning them.

We are reaching the season of shortlisting and awards dinners, where many question if they could have found the time to apply for an award and why aren’t they up on stage collecting the trophy.

So, why apply for awards? Award applications can be time-consuming to fill out and to find the supporting evidence and documents. However, there are many reasons why this hard work is worthwhile. Awards offer recognition, a sense of achievement, and give your business an opportunity to show off its capabilities.

Awards often also lead to additional interest in the business, due to an enhanced company profile or awareness of a new innovation. It also showcases the skills of the team to both a local and national audience as well as in the industry.

Being shortlisted or winning an award certainly encourages existing and potential customers to work with your business. Being recognised as innovative, expert or exceptional by a leading industry body highlights your service or product and makes the company stand out against competitors.

Another important result of the application for an award is the boost to team morale. Staff are inevitably confronted with how good and important their work is, enabling them to reflect on their expertise and not simply have their heads down in the day-to-day tasks. The opportunity to attend an awards ceremony as a company, or to celebrate being recognised for an award can foster a strong team spirit and encourage new people to join your workforce. An award win is the perfect opportunity to congratulate your team for a good job well done.

Airbond’s managing director, Graham Waters wins the Queen's Award

Graham Waters, managing director of Airbond, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a second Queen’s Award for Innovation. This was a whole team effort, with every member of the company contributing to its success. I am proud and fortunate to work with such a talented and creative group of people.”

Rockwood Composites won the Composites UK award for Innovation in Manufacture in 2018. Mark Crouchen, managing director of Rockwood Composites, makes a similar point: “What a fantastic achievement for the whole Rockwood team. After attending the dinner and being surrounded by experts in our industry, I feel very honoured to have been recognised and rewarded for all our hard work.

“This award demonstrates the dedication from the team at Rockwood and the loyalty of our customers to trust us to continue to supply innovative products.”

The awards’ dinners also offer a good chance for networking and learning which awards you could apply for next year. In turn, this can increase productivity and word-of-mouth recommendations of your services; pride should not be underestimated!

Shouting about success

Awards are also a good opportunity to evaluate what is going well in your business. Searching for the figures can unearth ‘overlooked’ successes. A client that we helped apply for a Queen’s Award said that one of their products is in every Boeing 737. Whilst the client was modest and didn’t consider this particularly great, we encouraged them to include it in their application. ‘Small’ facts that are an everyday part of your business really make you stand out from the crowd in awards applications.

Deciding on which award to apply for is as important as the application itself. When choosing which award to apply for, there are several key things to bear in mind. Firstly, considering if you have the evidence to make a strong application. Knowing the application process, or having someone on board who understands it, will make applying less stressful, and will yield better results.

The key industry awards that I suggest are: the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, which recognises British companies that excel at international trade, sustainable development and innovation; Make UK - celebrating companies’ and employee’s successes and achievements in the manufacturing sector; Composites UK - an award for SMEs and OEMs alike, celebrating innovative companies, people and ideas; and local media awards, that celebrate great engineering in the local area, showing development and innovation in the region.

Your potential and existing customers or clients can also help to influence a decision on which award to apply for. Being named one of the best places to work is great for staff morale internally, but an award for innovation, export or quality showcases your products and services, encouraging new custom whilst reinforcing your company’s value to current customers.

Mark Crouchen, director at Rockwood Composites with Axillium’s director, Will Searle at the Composite UK awards

Dr Sue Halliwell, operations manager at Composites UK advises: “Composites UK has run its industry awards for several years now as a way of celebrating excellence, achievement and contribution across the sector. The standard of entries increases year on year, with nominations coming from all sizes and types of organisation, which creates an opportunity for all to compete on the same stage.

“It's key to write a strong entry, focus on completing the form fully and add additional information to support the entry - this gives those judging as much detail as possible to assess your nomination against the rest. Sometimes we're too modest in the UK - we should shout louder about what we're good at!”

It isn’t all about turnover, either. Leadership, innovation and an exceptional standard of service are all important when deciding which award to go for. To add to this, exports and international trade awards are a good way to show the capability of your organisation as an industry leader across the globe.

Application processes are often time consuming and there is a certain knack to navigating a successful path through them. Several companies I have worked with in the past found that the award took significantly longer than expected, and felt it became a drain on resources. Most of the awards deadlines are in the first half of the year, so now is a good time to plan your applications for next year.

Writing most awards’ applications isn’t rocket science; you can do it yourself. However, delegating this to an experienced outsider can ensure that that they day job isn’t pushed to the side in order to concentrate on an awards application. This outsider will also be able to ask the questions that aren’t always easy for the staff team. Having an outside perspective also helps as the day-to-day tasks, policies, or procedures that may seem mundane to you can give your company the edge when entering an award.

Making sure to publicise being shortlisted and, hopefully, the win itself is as important as the application process. Your website, newsletter, trade and local media and your social media should all reflect the victory - make the most of it.

To sum up, awards applications are time-consuming, but will offer a positive impact on a company’s reputation, profile, staff morale and ultimately the bottom line when approached in the right way. Now is the time to set your sights on silverware!

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