Probably less time than you think.
That’s because most business awards have a category for new businesses or start-ups.
What counts as “new” varies between awards, but the cut off can be for businesses less than 12 months old. Sometimes it’s longer, such as business up to three years old.
These are great categories to enter if you’re eligible, for three reasons.
- Most businesses wait until they’re more established before they begin entering awards. That means, if you enter, you’re likely to be up against fewer competitors than some other categories.
2. It’s your only chance to do it. Leave it until you’re no longer new, and you’ll never be able to enter the “start-up” category.
3. You’ll get even more benefit from being able to add the words “award-winning business” to all your customer communications when you’re a fledgling business. It helps build trust if clients can see that someone external has looked at your business and decided it’s stable and achieving what it set out to do. When you’re new and don’t have a huge number of customer reviews, the number-one concern from clients is going to be whether you’re a legitimate business or are going to take their money but not deliver what you’ve promised.
However, there are a few things you need to make sure you’ve achieved BEFORE you start applying for business awards.
You don’t need to have made your first million, but you do need to have a demonstrable track record of financial success.
Most awards will ask for details of your financials – turnover, profit, predicted financials for the coming year etc.
You might not have many sets of annual accounts if you’re a new business, but putting what you do have in a table will usually be sufficient.
The award judges will want to see that you offer something that people are willing to pay for, and that your business model is sustainable.
A track record of satisfied customers is essential.
You’ll usually need a minimum of two customer testimonials to enter business awards. More is better.
Ideally you want customers to have mentioned the specific qualities of your business that you’re highlighting in your award entry.
Instead of, “Joanna is really lovely and we’ve enjoyed working with her,” it’s better to have “Joanna has been punctual, reliable and produced material that has helped us increase our number of customers by 10% this year.”
You’ll often need to choose one or two sentences out of a longer customer testimonial to include in your award entry, in order to meet tight word limits.
If that’s the case, again, choose the sentences that support what you’ve told the judges is great about your business.
Judges will sometimes look at your reviews – or lack of – online, so make sure you’ve got some before you enter awards.
FACTS AND STATS
You’ll need some facts and figures to back up what you say in your award entry.
That’s harder when your business is new, because you’re less likely to have long-term impact figures.
Try doing a survey of the customers you’ve already helped. Then you can get something measurable along the lines of, “Customers were 80% happier in their homes after using my decluttering service.”
Other things to include would be financials, sales figures, or measurable improvements you’ve made for your clients.
You need to back up what you say in your award entry, and using facts and figures will give it more credibility than simply telling the judges that you think your business is great.