Here’s our take on how you should approach entering business competitions and filling in the forms. Sorry if this appears a bit didatic. But last year some of the smallbusinesscan team were on judging panels; this blog is based on some of the very simple mistakes that were made – and could so easily be avoided – by applicants.
Check the deadline for entry
Of course its obvious but almost 90% of applications are filled in on the last day…and they look rushed. Mad dashes to meet deadlines result in poorly written applications, errors and spelling mistakes. In many cases essential information is missing, probably because the author didn’t leave enough time to get it organised. It takes time to complete an application properly. You may have to undertake additional research – which you probably should be doing anyway as part of the routine of running the business (another reason to enter awards!). You may need to find research to back up your claims. And you’ll need to have your financials at hand.
Check you meet the criteria
Criteria might include how long you’ve been trading, level of turnover, your business sector. If there are a range of categories for entry, think carefully about which one best suits your business. Ulster Bank allows you to enter at least 2 categories, so make sure you check this out. It doubles your chances and helps you think about how you want to present your business and the kind of profile you want for it.
Read any entry guidelines available
Again obvious enough isn’t it. But ask yourself this…when you were doing the A Levels or Leaving Certificate, how many of you read exam papers from start to finish, before putting pen to paper? Yet it is and was probably taught to you as a fundamental exam technique. You’re older and hopefully wiser now, so read the guidelines for business competitions you’re entering!
Keep your answers simple, clear and as short as possible
First of all remember that judges are going to be reading hundreds of applications. They’re not going to read long rambling essays. They’ll also know if you just cut and paste answers from your website! Consider talking about your business, achievements, and plans for the future…
- In short sentences
- And in bullet points
Go over your application again
On the same theme: Read your application thoroughly for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, punctuation. Get a colleague to read over the final application. Ask for feedback on the content as well as correcting typos.
Back up what you are saying
Whatever you say about your business and achievements, eventually you’ll have to back these claims up with evidence – financials, research, marketing materials, testimonials and references.
Check out previous winners
It’s always worth looking at the ‘previous winners’ page to give you an insight into the types of business that win and how they project themselves. All these winners are good well managed companies and this is a good chance to peer review and benchmark.
Hit that deadline
Make sure you leave plenty of time to get the application in on time. And look for a receipt to prove that it is in.