The Business Achievers Awards this year had almost 600 well thought out and well prepared submissions. The decision to kick off the competition earlier than usual and use the time to promote the myriad of good reasons you should enter seems to have paid off.
Feedback throughout the judging process shows that those entering had really thought about their businesses and displayed a very deep understanding of their business models. The messages that went out, especially from this site, about working on the business rather than in it, to focus on product benefits rather than features, to illustrate a clear understanding of the businesses niche and its routes to market were embraced.
It created a very tough competition indeed. As mentioned, there were almost 600 entries, the most in the 20 Year history of the competition. Every corner of the island was represented. Every category was full to the brim. And every stage of growth - from early stage pre revenue to established multi million revenue companies - was represented. With the vast majority clearly elucidating their business models and showing a strategic nuance not seen before, differentiating those deserving a final place from those that probably deserved a final place 'except for’…was very difficult.
It was the exceptions, the marginal differences, the inch of ground won over the competition that finally distinguished those that made the regional finals from those that didn't.
The 96 companies that are in the regionals and that will compete for the over all prize illustrated a clear understanding of where their businesses stood, where they wanted to be and how they were going to get there. They placed the right amount of emphasis on all aspects of the business to show a well-balanced business model.
According to the judges, they felt that they could see the companies that were run by engineers or financiers or sales orientated CEOs and they could see the companies that were being run by those that realized they were 'businesspeople' where product, customer, distribution, sales, etc., were all vital in the model.
It was the latter that differentiated themselves by showing a clarity and focus around all aspects of the business:
- They were externally focused and they showed why their businesses existed and why they would grow.
- They focused on why their customers bought, and their partners distributed, rather than talking about product or service features.
- They knew exactly who their customer niches were. You'd be surprised that there were a lot of companies that were very general on what their niche was and needed to say more about the market they served, but didn't.
- It was probably these 96, of all the companies that entered, that illustrated most clearly their understanding of distribution and route to market and the importance of channels to any growing business; Especially those companies that were exporting.
- They were able to clearly elucidate their revenue and financing models.
- They created clear distinctions between up front revenue and recurring revenue and understood the importance of up sell and cross sell.
- They talked about management, staff and funder structures - about the structures in place or the structures they needed to put in place to grow the business.
They’re using the media. They’re entering business competitions. They’re turning up at networking events. All are very focused on getting their names out there to build brand and credibility with customers, partners, funders and government agencies. In fact, when the judges couldn't make their minds up between 2 fine companies to short list, it was the fact that a judge remembered one of the company owners standing up at a Business Live event and introducing himself that made the difference to put him forward into the Regionals. In other cases Judges had read about companies raising funding, winning contracts or winning other competitions in the media that helped differentiate them.
There are 96 fine companies going forward to compete in the finals and they are to be commended. But there are also 500 fine companies out there that represent the strong heart beat of business on the island of Ireland. We should be proud of all of them.