Does winning awards matter? Crass or Class?.
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Winning awards

Is winning an industry award worthwhile?


We’ve felt privileged over recent months to have won a couple of awards. But it has taken considerable time and energy preparing our entries, not to mention being caught off-guard for phone interviews, as well as subjecting ourselves to even greater scrutiny in face to face interviews. Since winning, I’ve also had in the back of my mind, a niggling thought that I’ve been wrestling with. Does winning awards matter, does it really give us or our clients any extra benefit, or should we just be confident in what we do, and carry on doing it well without risk of jeopardising our reputation through indulgent self-promotion? 

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a post on LinkedIn announcing the well-deserved recognition of achievement for an entrepreneur who had won a new business award, but, in the same sentence, the author described winning awards as ‘crass’. This has continued to trouble me. Who really stands to gain, does anyone suffer as a consequence or is a more considered approach required?

My career path has taken a few twists and turns. As a teenager, I was advised by my teachers that I would be lucky to pass two A levels, and that applying for University was completely out of the question. I rebelled against following my mother into a nursing career; I didn’t want to be a nurse, it’s in my nature to either be different, or be ‘the best’, and for me, nursing just didn’t qualify as an option.

I did eventually go to university and studied psychology – it turned out to be my true vocation. But, as life has a habit of doing, new, exciting, opportunities presented themselves, landing me at a crossroads, and I didn’t choose the route of my dream career. I opted to take a job in China launching their first Western kids magazine, then had a family, set up a garden design business, decided to become the next big thing in retail (nearly won an award, but not quite!), started a few online businesses, then set up my own publishing company, and won the 2019 Business Woman of the Year Award, Best Creative/Digital Award, Most Promising New Business Award, and are finalists in the KEiBA’s Exporter of the Year Award next month.

Anthony Thornley, creative design agency

To have won these awards, for me personally, has been the most incredible experience. In addition to the painful scrutiny and hard work, it has been fun; bringing drama, anticipation and glamour, but it has also benefitted the whole company in so many other ways:

Firstly, it has created a great marketing opportunity. This is what businesses dream of – having a success story to tell the local business community. We’re here, we’re on the map, we’ve been recognised as being successful and we are a business worth getting to know. We’ve been forced to take this opportunity to check-in with our promise about what we offer and have got up to date with all our own marketing. We feel like we’ve been fully accepted into the community, and we’re highly regarded. This is a great place to be. Differentiation from the competition has already opened new doors.

For the DayOne team, I am pleased we were all able to make it on the night of the dinner. It’s important for us to share our achievements and for Anthony and me to show the team that they are a significant and important part of our business success and growth. There has been a strengthening of the bonds between us all, and interestingly, while we all accept the different roles we play in the business, there is a sense of equality. Everyone feels a sense of responsibility and is proactively driving the company forward. There’s an almost tangible excitement pervading our office, and we all feel a great sense of pride in the fact that we are working for an ‘award-winning’ company. 

Award ceremony winners

Being an entrepreneur and a new business in a well-established business community can sometimes feel daunting. To feel validated and recognised therefore, by experts, as being a business with potential, that can stand up against other successful businesses and is capable of fulfilling its dreams and ambitions, is the most affirmative thing that can happen. We have gained instant credibility.

For me personally, winning Business Woman of the Year has given me greater confidence to lead the team and to set my dreams and ambitions even higher. I have a clear focus on what I want to achieve and how I’m going to do it – now I have an extra energy and extra sense of conviction that will get me there! Over time, an award is something I will personally be able to reflect on, it is mine, forever – I did that. This award will form part of my life-story archive.

Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce 2019 awards
The awards’ promoters and organisers (Business Awards Kent, Invicta Chamber Awards, KEiBA) have been magnificent, providing us with huge amounts of free publicity, as have our fellow nominees, judges (David Shaw) and others associated with the awards (Paul Andrews). My social media accounts have literally gone bananas. The network that we have been introduced to has been equal to having five rocket-fuel tanks strapped to our marketing and PR campaigns. Suddenly, we are being approached by new businesses, and potential new employees who are seeking us out on the back of the reputation we are building. When strangers know your brand, that is a wonderful place to be!

What we are now looking forward to most is sharing our experience with others who hopefully might feel nudged from a new direction into shaping their own ideas and will look at new ways of doing things for themselves.

Businesses don’t just happen. And not everyone can jump into a hot air balloon and fly around the world to gain credibility and publicity. New businesses can only gain the trust they need from their community if they are supported, invested in, validated and respected by the rest of their community. That’s why we have awards, and that’s why I shall continue to support them and feel proud of our own recognition, as well as recognition of others who have won, without that nagging modesty check.

Clare Foltynie and Anthony Thornley

...and you may even need to make a speech!

Written by Clare Foltynie

Clare is the cofounder and editorial director of DayOne Design Studio and Vespa Design & Publishing. Since starting Vespa Design in 2014, Clare has rapidly grown her business, partnering with Anthony Thornley, to become a successful creative design agency – DayOne Design. The pair have brought their expertise gained from working in London-based agencies and global publishers to their own business in Kent. They are proud to have some of Kent’s most successful companies on their books, and now publish their own magazine titles in seven countries worldwide.