25 June 2015

No business too small to enter Southland business awards

The Southland Times

That’s the message from the organisers of the 2015 Westpac Southland Business Excellence Awards who are anticipating a big surge in entries compared to the inaugural awards held in 2013.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Hannan said encouraging smaller businesses to enter was a way of evening the playing field for them against bigger businesses which might have more resources.

As 90 per cent of Southland businesses were small and medium enterprises, they were the key to making the awards a success and it was important their successes were recognised and celebrated, she said.

Hannan said the awards were a competition, but were also about businesses learning more about themselves and about benchmarking themselves against other businesses. The feedback entrants received from judges was also regarded as very valuable, she said.

About 30 people attended a workshop this month designed to help aspiring entrants overcome any barriers they might see in entering.

Chamber events and marketing manager Nikki Dermody said it was encouraging to see businesses were underway in terms of the application process and not just thinking about it. A lot of registrations of interest had been received, and they were confident of building on the 30 entries from 13 businesses in the 2013 awards, she said.

“The big take out point was that we’ve simplified it from 2013,” Hannan said.

Key information about businesses could be summarised in bullet points and through a few clear facts, she said. “You don’t need to write a novel.”

There were three new awards, including an innovation award, which could apply to a product but also to a process or a service.

“For Southland innovation is a key to taking the economy forward. We need to be continually innovative to be globally competitive,” Hannan said.

The employer award was designed to recognise best practice among employers in areas such as creating team culture. The people’s choice award would be voted on from August 4 to 28, with voting to be done through The Southland Times website. This would be a great way for businesses to promote themselves and get their customers to support them, Hannan said.

Former winners had been very positive about the awards experience, in terms of the process, the credibility it gave them, the exposure and also boosts to staff morale.

Businesses entering need to have their head office in the region, although franchises are welcome to enter.

“We’re great at celebrating sporting success, but we’re not so good at celebrating business success,” Hannan said.

Dermody said defining success was also subjective, and entrants needed to consider that entering did not always need to relate to financial success. Success around the likes of staff achievements and innovations were great things to celebrate, she said.

The main judges for the awards are Andrew Moreton, from Westpac, Monika Barton from SIT and Warrick Low from Venture Southland.

Hannan said they wanted to ensure the awards were the premier business event in the region. The organisers are hoping to pack out the Ascot Park Hotel in September 25 for the awards evening - with up to 400 people likely to attend. Earlybird tickets for the awards are on sale from August 17.

Awards categories

Crowe Horwath Business (less than 15FTE) Award

Invercargill City Council (more than 15 FTE) Award

Powernet New and Emerging Award

The Southland Times Retail Award

Invercargill Licensing Trust Not for Profit Award

Market South Innovation Award

Otago Southland Employers’ Association Employer Award

ACC Workplace Safety Award

Southern Institute of Technology Personality Award - a nomination for an individual

The Southland Times People’s Choice Award - a public vote that will be held in August

Awards timeline

Entries close August 3

Judging (including people’s choice award) August 4-28

Finalists Announced September 2

Awards Gala Dinner September 25

It’s simpler to enter - and the benefits are wide-ranging.