Could Your Business Win An Award?

Business awards offer more than just accolades from colleagues and clients. They  also provide  an  opportunity  for  much  greater  publicity  and  media  coverage  - which,  one  hopes, would  impact  on your  bottom  line.  So  if you are thinking about  entering the Tourism Awards,  or other business awards read on.

Imagine standing on a stage in front of your peers, suppliers and customers re­ceiving a New Zealand Tourism Award. It's likely to be the pinnacle of your tourism career and a true accolade for your tourism business. Just ask any of the 79 winners in the past five years what their tourism award meant to them.

If you happen to be looking on from the audience, don't be fooled by the glitz and glamour of the occasion. Winning a tour­ism award usually takes many attempts but each time you write an entry you're mea­suring your business against a set of robust international business excellence criteria. The process is designed to help you learn more about your business, benchmark its current performance and strive towards on­ going business excellence.

The awards criteria have been adapted from the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which is a system developed in the United States for assessing business and  non-profit organisations.

The tourism awards review seven key areas of your business; leadership, strate­gic planning, customer and marketing fo­cus, measurement analysis and knowledge management, human resource focus, pro­cess management and business results. Some businesses will be stronger in some areas than others, but overall you must achieve across all seven areas to be successful.

Being in a position to enter the awards may mean that you've implemented new initiatives to improve your business and these should be done months out, if not years out, not the night before you write your entry!

The entry process occurs over the sum­mer, which for most tourism businesses is the busiest time of the year, so start early to avoid too much stress' Access the questions from last year to get a head start.

It does take concentrated effort to sit down and actually write your entry. Chanc­es are that you'll be doing this in the eve­nings or on slightly quieter business days. This can be quite a discipline especially if you are an operational person who enjoys being at the front-line of your business. Either way, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.

Choose the most appropriate category or categories for your business and thor­oughly consider the questions. They are designed to make you think about how you do things in your business, your out­ comes, and how you integrate them for ongoing improvement.

Depending on the size of your business, it is probable that you'll need to engage with your business partner(s), manage­ment, staff and your accountant. Arrang­ing suitable meeting times with these contributors takes time and they, in turn, may need to source specific information relevant for your entry.

Rotorua's Wai-o-tapu Thermal Won­derland was a two-time winner in 2002/3. Managing director, Alex Leinhardt remem­bers clearly his entry process. "I have a vivid memory of an occasion when we had our accountant, my wife and some of my staff pouring over papers, spread from one end of the lounge to the other .....and we worked on it all day! "

The written entry is your chance to com­municate what you do, where  your busi­ness is 'at' and what you have achieved to someone who may have no previous knowledge of your business. It is a good idea to have a trusted colleague, who has not been involved in the entry process, to read your entry.

If you make it to the finalists'  level you'll have judges and assessors providing an external review of your business and scoring it against international standards. This is based not only on your written entry but also their on-site visit.

Their feedback is valuable. Whatever the outcome you may consider implement­ing their suggestions or 'areas for improve­ment' in time to include for your next en­try.

In 2005-6 Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours in Matamata was a finalist. Accord­ing to managing director, Russell Alexan­der, "After the winners were announced, we received written feedback  on our busi­ness and we had the opportunity to meet with one of our judges for additional feed­ back. It was really important for us going forward. "

There is no doubt that standing on the stage receiving a tourism award is exciting and a goal to aspire towards. However, it probably won't happen the first time you enter, so don't be disillusioned. Use what you have learned in the process, and the feedback to improve your business and try again. Ultimately an award entry gives you a snapshot of your business at that given time as you journey towards ongoing busi­ness excellence.

First Published Tourism Business Summer 2007-8