With awards season nearly here, now’s the time to enter. It’s not just the winners that stand to benefit

David Frost once said, when accepting a TV award: “They used to say, ‘It’s not the winning that’s important - it’s the taking part’. I didn’t believe them then. I don’t believe them now.”

As Hollywood gears up for the 2012 Oscars ceremony a week on Sunday, many a star will secretly share Frost’s view. Yet in my view this doesn’t apply to the world of grocery awards. In this highly competitive age, taking part in grocery awards is as important as winning because everybody in your business benefits.

Entering awards helps to achieve three things: it raises standards in your store, helps lift your profile in the community and the industry, and generates a sense of pride - a bit of ‘pizazz’ - amongst your staff.

There are a host of awards throughout the year, including such prestigious competitions as The Grocer Gold Awards, Convenience Store Awards, Forecourt Trader Awards and ACS Community Heroes Awards - to name a few. While I’m not advocating that you enter every competition and every category, it is disappointing that some first-class operators have never entered any. I assume their reluctance to take part comes from a combination of being too busy and too modest.

In reality, it doesn’t take as long as you’d think to put the entry together. First you must decide which category you feel you should enter. Once you’ve identified the category that suits you and your business best there are a few things to bear in mind. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

Number one: read the criteria - in other words, the standards by which the judging will take place. This is the golden rule. If the judges are looking for evidence of investment over the past 12 months, don’t focus on your future investment plans or what you’ve spent in the last five years - tell them about your investment over the last 12 months. Likewise, if the judges say they are primarily looking for evidence of community involvement, make sure you emphasise it as a priority.

Once you know what the judges are looking for, begin to collate photographs, press cuttings, basic graphs and statistics - evidence to support your entry. Once you get into the routine of entering one or two awards a year, you’ll find yourself filing these things away as you go along.

After doing all this you’re ready to complete the entry. Keep it simple, brief, easy to read and eyecatching. Try to visualise the panel of judges and what is likely to appeal to them, as well as what may be a turn-off. For example, large font is likely to be preferable to difficult-to-read pages of small type. And avoid flannel - it is a turn-off.

By the way, don’t limit yourself to grocery award competitions - think about local business awards as well. Last year, for example, we entered the Luton and Bedfordshire Rising Stars Awards, pitting ourselves against non-grocery competition: solicitors, small manufacturers, IT businesses, accountants, restaurants, and so on. We were delighted to win the top award, which in some ways meant more to our staff and our customers than winning a major, national grocery award. It was also brilliant for local networking.

After you’ve sent your entry in - within the deadline requested - the judges will then meet to go through the entries and create a shortlist of the best three or four. Typically, that shortlist will be announced in advance of the awards ceremony.

In the case of the principal award, those on the shortlist may then receive a visit from one of the judges and/or a mystery shopper. If it’s the former, you will usually be notified in advance. Prepare by looking again at your original entry and planning a guided tour of your store. Keep it simple, don’t over-complicate things, but do emphasise your USPs.

And so it comes to the evening of the awards. I always book at least one table and invite a cross-section of staff, suppliers and fellow retailers. If you’re fortunate enough to win an award, make the most of it by sharing it with the people who have helped you get there - your staff and customers. Have the trophy on display in the store, use the winning award logo on your notepaper, website, leaflets and social networking sites, and contact local newspapers to feature your success.

In summary - give it a go - the rewards can certainly outweigh the effort you put in.

Kishor’s five tips

  • Start by entering one basic award in 2012
  • Follow the judging criteria
  • Keep it simple
  • Use your buying group for help and advice
  • Promote your success and share it with your staff and your customers