For many conveyancers, especially those with newer businesses, growth is a constant challenge. AIC NSW asked two business award-winning conveyancers how applying for business awards has helped them fuel their business growth.
Local exposure and networking
Alicia Windeisen from Conveyancing Smart and Michelle Kent from Kent Conveyancing have not only won small business awards, they regularly apply for awards at every opportunity. Both say that their new business growth has resulted not only from winning awards but from leveraging the application process that goes with it.
Alicia came across business awards in 2013—the first year she opened her doors—and has entered every year since. Alicia says that applying for local awards helped raise her profile in her local area. The process put her in contact with business owners who might not otherwise have heard about her.
Before her involvement with the awards process, Alicia didn’t consider herself a particularly outgoing person. But the process of award application, along with the requirement to mix with local businesses, helped her grow in confidence, to the point where she became Vice President of the Springwood Business Chamber.
Alicia’s now a regular and confident attendee of networking events, which has also helped her find mentors in the local business community. “It all came about because of entering the awards. Now people know who I am and what I do. And, of course, the award itself is a nice little achievement at the end after all the time and effort that you put into applying!”
Alicia understands the importance of leveraging her success on her business collateral. “I get to put the award at the bottom of emails and other material,” says Alicia. “When dealing with locals, they like to see these things. Sometimes it’s just a tiny thing that makes the difference.” Michelle Kent agrees. “People say things like, ‘We noticed on your website that you’ve won awards. That was enough for us!’”
Improved understanding of business
For both Michelle and Alicia, every application is an opportunity to reflect carefully on their business. For Michelle, the process is rewardingly deep. “The questions are very detailed,” Michelle said of the Telstra Small Business Awards application. “It’s like performing a self-audit of your business.” For Alicia, it’s a regular way to sharpen her business thinking. “Every year I apply, my answers get better,” she says. “Every year the judges provide me with valuable feedback.”
Many of the award application questions help business owners to focus in depth on their marketing strategy, often for the first time. Faced with questions like, “How do you identify your market?” and “Describe your competitive advantage,” Alicia realised that strong local relationships were critical to her marketing mix.
Where Alicia actively sought out awards for her business to apply for, Michelle’s first application came about when her business was nominated by a client. Kent Conveyancing was rewarded with an unexpected win that was due in part, Michelle believes, to the category she entered her business in. “Other businesses were competing but in different categories. The category you apply for can have a huge impact on your results.”
Business benefits are substantial
For both Alicia and Michelle, the rewards of award application are profound, although the submission process can sometimes be extensive. Michelle offers clear recommendations for those considering applying for awards. “Be clear about each aspect of your business and how it runs. Whether it’s culture, training and development, innovation, or information technology, you should have clear strategies in place for everything. You’ve really got to know your business, your staff, your values, and your vision.”
It’s not all about business success, either. According to Michelle, awards judges are just as interested in challenges as they are in successes. “They don’t necessarily want to hear that you did it all yourself. They also want to know how you failed and corrected course.”
The rewards are not just for business owners but for staff as well. For Michelle, simply being a finalist in the Telstra Small Business Awards had a very positive impact on team morale. “What it did for us as a business was priceless. It’s one thing for the boss to recognise staff, but for the whole team to be recognised by Telstra and the business community was just amazing.”
Time to apply?
So, should you take the plunge? Alicia says it’s not a question of whether you think you’re good enough to apply. Instead, the whole process of applying is a significant part of what helps your business improve and grow, and that alone makes it worth the effort.
Michelle has unequivocal advice for anyone wondering whether they should take the plunge and start applying. “There’s as much benefit to your business in applying as winning, so just do it!”
Alicia Windeisen (Conveyancing Smart): Winner, 2016 Young Entrepreneur Award – Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber Awards
Michelle Kent (Kent Conveyancing): Winner, 2016 Excellence in Workforce Training and Development Award – Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards; Winner, 2014 Outstanding Specialised Business – Hunter Small Business Awards