Dr Paul Stead explores why entering award programmes matters and provides some top tips for getting onto the shortlist. Who knows, you may even become a future winner!
As many of you know, each year, The Manufacturer puts out a call for entry to the Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Awards (for 2019, calls for entry started in February and run to 28 June).
There are 11 award categories in total, which can be reviewed and entered here.
Unless you’ve already been an entrant, probably the first questions that will pop into your head are: “Can we be bothered to enter? Is it a lot of pain for little gain? So many awards to choose from – which one? How are we ever going to win? – we’d be up against the ‘big boys’ with deep pockets”.
All valid points – however, let’s re-frame the question and start to think what would winning an award achieve in terms of showcasing your business, your brand, your products, your people or processes?
What would it mean to your customers to be working with an award-winning business? What would it mean to staff, employees and stakeholders to be part of a winning team?
First, a little background to the awards process. For the past two years, I’ve been invited to be on the judging panel for The Manufacturer Manufacturing Excellence (MX) awards – in particular, reviewing the Innovation & Design Category.
To enter each of the 11 different categories, your application involves filling out 10 relatively simple questions. Upon submission, the judging panels (comprising industry experts, the title sponsor and a representative from The Manufacturer) come together to pre-vet all the applications with the aim of shortlisting six worthy contenders.
In the majority of awards, the judging panel then travels the length and breadth of the country to interview each on the shortlist. These interviews are two-hours long.
Each follow the same format and agenda, have the same amount of time allotted, and are performed rigorously against specific question sets where each interview criterion is scored from 0 to 5.
At the end of every visit, the judges give high-level feedback, which most entrants have subsequently commented they found invaluable. After the judges’ road trip, there are follow up meetings, reports, and a final assessment, before the great unveil at The Manufacturer MX awards ceremony in Liverpool in mid-November.
To showcase the entrants and winners, The Manufacturer features the shortlists and winners in the magazine, online and in the official Opus publication, together with certificates and the award itself.
Now, back to the headline – why entering awards programmes matters
Pierre de Coubertin (French educator, historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee) famously said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”.
Therefore, just as the Olympics showcase the very best of the world’s athletes, The Manufacturer MX awards reveal the gold medalists of British manufacturing.
In order to be the best – to get to your Olympics – there’s an awful lot of teamwork, a lot of training, a lot of fine tuning and honest self-comparison with the best in the world. Through this hard work you and your team will becoming stronger, leaner and fitter. And, strangely the more you train, the better you get!
So for me, it’s the team work and business culture that emerges from taking part which are the key aspects of any submission. And this alone is a good enough reason to enter.
The ‘big boys’ often take a shotgun approach and enter multiple categories; however, this is rarely a formula for success. The best approach is to focus your efforts on two or three awards in which your business excels, and support the team assigned to deliver the chosen category.
For example, with the Innovation & Design Awards, the submission involves answering 10 relatively simple questions, and by far the best way of doing this is to bring all those involved, including your partners/suppliers to review the submission and answer the questions honestly.
I am sure this ‘honesty’ notion is sometimes ignored, and sometimes it actually stops companies from entering. However, the questions should be seen as your ‘starting blocks’ to make you better prepared, fitter and faster.
And if you genuinely can’t give compelling, true answers then that in itself is a reason to make changes – to make yourself more competitive.
These points may sound obvious, but in the pre-screening we’ve seen submissions:
- Written by PR agencies that ‘spin’ reality
- Questions left unanswered
- Answers that completely ignore the question
- Questions answered falsely to paper over cracks
- Answers from management, and the wider team, who when questioned further haven’t a clue!
If this is the reality, then please don’t waste your time – it’s only going to lead to disappointment!
I’ve already mentioned team working, honesty and becoming stronger through the process of answering all the questions; here are some more tips:
- Ensure ‘top-down’ input, empowerment and approval from the management team
- Maintain a consistent writing style, keeping the answers short and precise, and do use bullet points
- Check the introduction to the company matches your online presence – yes, we do look!
- Try not to use industry-specific terms – and definitely no abbreviations without explanation
- Where possible, cite examples, testimonials, and other achievements.
You will invest time and resource entering The Manufacturer MX awards, so do make the most of the teamwork and learning opportunities, which will ultimately feed back into your business and strengthen it.
For all entrants, I recommend you:
- Bring the team to the awards ceremony as a thank you and in recognition of their input (including special partners and clients)
- Use the ceremony, and the exhibition/conference which runs alongside The Manufacturer MX awards to network and meet your co-entrants
- Share the experience throughout your company, and with customers, clients and stakeholders
- Use Opus and The Manufacturer’s online collateral in your marketing, sales and stakeholder communications
- Engage with The Manufacturer, become a champion/ambassador for your industry sector – help UK manufacturing become stronger!