what i learnt from judging the hawkes bay chamber of commerce business awards

November 22nd, 2011

Congratulations to the winners & finalists in the Westpac sponsored Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.   I was fortunate to be involved in the judging this year and thought I’d share my view on what I saw as vital to the business success of the finalists and winners.

Feedback from all the judges identified key factors to success as:

  1. Clear business direction
  2. Solid practical plan
  3. Top people
  4. Key measurements
  5. Strong culture
  6. A ‘can do attitude’
  7. Keen to take on feedback
  8. Community involvement

Clear direction

All the finalists had a very clear direction for their business.   They knew who their target market was, where they were positioned in that market and what they needed to do to achieve their outcomes.

Strong Planning

Action without planning can be dangerous and planning without action is a waste of time.   It was pleasing to see that planning formed a basis of the business activity.   They had taken the time to stop, think about their business and plan what needed to be done before they did it.   This gave strong results and lead to more clarity.   These plans weren’t a pretty document that got completed for a bank (sorry bankers) and then went in the bottom drawer, but a document that was used in an ongoing way in their business

Top people

It was good to see that the business owners were prepared to surround themselves with people that could compliment their skills.   Most of these people were employed by the business but there was also good engagement of outside advisors such as external CFOs, advisory board members, accountants and consultants.   The business owners understood to grow their business that they needed additional skills and actively sought these people out.

Key measurements

An understanding of key numbers and measures that affected their business supported activity.   This included both general ledger type numbers such as balance sheet and trading report information as well as key activity metrics.   Not only were these numbers understood but also they helped guide business activity.

Strong Culture

It’s easy to say that a business has a focus on staff and customers, but more often or not that can get lost in the general day to day business.   The businesses that stood out had a strong culture, knowing their staff and customers and were always thinking about what those people wanted and fitting their business around them as opposed to the other way.

A Can Do Attitude

Every business experiences set backs and challenges.   The finalists all had their share but the important thing is that they never gave up and they kept their eye on the ultimate goal.   Sure the path may have to change but they all had a real can do attitude.

Keen To Take On Feedback

In business we can’t operate in isolation and a key feature was the ability to take on feedback from both customers and staff alike and then act on that to the betterment of the business.   Some had formal processes, others were more reactive, but the day the business owner thinks they know it all is the start of the slippery slope.

Community Involvement

As judges not only were we looking for strong business acumen, but also an involvement in the wider community.   For the SME business sector often there isn’t a lot of surplus funds available for this type of activity so community involvement wasn’t just limited to $ but also time and expertise.

It was a privilege to be allowed to visit these businesses and there are so many great stories in Hawke’s Bay that fly below the radar and I learnt a lot from them.   If you’d like to read about the finalists and winners visit the Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce Website

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