The annual Electra Business Awards in Kāpiti Horowhenua could be among the most rigorous and beneficial for businesses to enter of any of the business awards in New Zealand. That’s according to current chair of Business Kāpiti Horowhenua Inc (BKH) Cr Tony Rush, and he should know as he has been involved in its gradual improvement over the past fourteen years.
“Improvement of our processes has always driven our organisation and over the years there have been a lot of lessons learned. As a result our entry process, our assessment and our judging processes are very different this year. These days, our awards evenings are far more entertaining too.” Rush said.
Benefiting from the Entry Process
Some awards have fairly simple entry forms, relying on assessment and judging of this alone to find winners. BKH is constantly told by its entrants that the way the entry form requires a wide range of information, and is not simple to complete, is actually one of the most beneficial aspects of entering.
Entrants are forced to look at every aspect of their business in ways they simply may not have done in day to day business life since they initially set up or at all. As a result they may start using new processes or business concepts that make a difference to them even before assessment, judging or winning an award takes place.
Recently BKH instituted an Entry Co-ordinator to help entrants better understand what was needed in entering and to answer any questions. A large chunk of BKH’s annual budget goes in professional event management and entry co-ordination and help, things some other awards lack.
The Whole Business
Many awards acknowledge business categories; the ‘Best’ Retailer, the ‘Best’ Manufacturer or ‘Tourism Business of the Year’. So did BKH in its early years.
“But we wanted to recognise business excellence across the full spectrum of business success” says Rush. “The best example of a marketing-focussed business could be a very small business from any business sector.”
“Excellence at marketing and customer service, operations, financial management and results, sustainability, growth, health and safety, and staff development: a successful business will have strengths in all these areas so that’s what we have tried to measure and reward.”
There is also a place for special categories such as Export activity, High-growth, Not-for-Profit organisations and new businesses so the Electra business awards cover these too.
Eleven different aspects of business activity are assessed with finalists and awards made to each before getting to the Small and Emerging Businesses of the year, and then the Business of the Year winner.
Assessing and Judging a rigorous process
It’s probably in the assessing and judging processes that our local awards stand out. It’s an independent, two level process with a high degree of confidentiality. Sponsors and the BKH Board learn about the winners at the same time as the public; at the awards dinner.
Assessing is carried out by a team of experienced volunteer business people. The entry forms are assessed first, followed by a visit to each entrant’s business site, usually by two assessors. This enables entrants to answer any questions assessors have and clarify what they see as their business strengths.
An assessor’s score card is then completed. Sometimes a moderation of scores is appropriate to ensure one assessor is not marking harder than the others.
The task of selecting winners then falls to a completely separate independent group of judges who examine both the entry forms and the assessors’ scores and comments. Sometimes the judges will also visit entrants before making their decisions.
Finally, after the awards function each business receives an ‘Assessor’s Report’ highlighting perceived strengths and often making valuable suggestions for improvement.
“Of course we receive one or two complaints from entrants who are unhappy with some aspect of their experience, and these complaints are treated seriously. But overwhelmingly BKH gets rave reviews from entrants who have benefited from the process and enjoyed the recognition and fun of the awards functions”.
Winning can be a long haul
One last thing stands out. Many businesses enter the awards two, three or even four times, usually with better results each time. Last year’s Business of the Year winner, Turk’s Poultry Farm, entered for the first time six years ago as a deliberate business improvement strategy. That first entry gave them an independent assessment of their strengths and weaknesses; a clear picture of what changes they needed to make if they were to be equal to the best of local businesses.
They went away, did more planning, made changes and improved their business.
Sometimes winning can require a long haul, but it’s always worth it.
Businesses wanting more information about entering the awards can get it from www.electra.co.nz/businessawards.