Just recently a client was talking about entering some awards – and we thought it was just a case of answering the questions on the entry form, until we looked into it and discovered they wanted supporting material.

Most local business awards are happy with written answers to their questions, but some organisations, especially professional bodies, want evidence to support the narrative.

What is supporting evidence?

It depends on what award you’re entering for, but these are some I’ve seen:

A business plan:  OK, you should have one of these if you’re running a business, but in the real world many small business owners never get the plan out of their head and onto paper (or screen).  A business plan doesn’t have to be a 92 page document and it doesn’t have to be just a spreadsheet of financial projections.  A one pager is possible and should include:

  • Products/services
  • Target market
  • Competitors
  • Market share
  • Last year’s turnover and projected increase either in % or actual currency
  • Staff numbers and recruitment plans
  • A short statement of the company’s goals – vision, mission, etc.

Training plans for the staff:  If you are running a small organisation training may be hands-on rather than formal workshops.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have a training plan.  The secret is to identify where skills need upgrading and stating the method – even if that’s on-the-job.  Also where staff have the potential for promotion what skills/knowledge they need to step up and how they’ll acquire these.

Financial performance:  Turnover by product/service per year showing increases.

Make sure you’re comparing like with like, if a new product or service is introduced this is likely to have an impact.

Most awards panels will want to see the profit as well as the turnover.  You can increase the turnover year-on-year, and not increase the profit if overheads have risen.  They’ll want to see increases in both figures, especially the profit line.

Market analysis:  The customer base for your product and their buying patterns:

  • What kind of company/person buys your products/services? Location, age/company size, etc.
  • How often do they make repeat purchases?
  • How many additional purchases do they make? If the buy A do most of them also buy B?
  • How you stack up against competitors?
  • What sets you apart from your competitors – i.e. what are your advantages?

Expansion or development plans:  What activities are you intending to carry out to grow your business?  This might be new products or services, but it also might be opening new outlets or plants in different locations, moving overseas, changing suppliers, buying new equipment – anything that will enhance the company’s performance.

Testimonials/case studies:  If you don’t have these you’ll need to start talking to your customers.  Third party validation is powerful and a case study that shows how you go about solving customer’s challenges is an excellent way to show how you operate.  Always include customer feedback in a case study.  Asking for feedback is a really good habit to develop.

There may be other supporting evidence requests, but, even if you’re not entering an award any time soon, these are really good activities to carry out to help your business grow.