One of the most frustrating things for us is when great businesses don’t translate to great entries. You can be the most amazing, successful, innovative business around, but if the judges can’t see that in your entry then they simply can’t give you the points needed to win.
Sometimes awards applications can be quite intimidating. All those blank questions to fill in are enough to give anyone writer’s block! But this shouldn’t be a daunting process. It might be as simple as sitting down with a colleague or a friend (or even calling us!) and having a chat about the history of your business, why you do what you do, and what exactly it is that makes your business unique. Suddenly you’ll know exactly what you want to say in your entry.
To help you on your way to winning, we’ve compiled a list of the five most common (and easily avoidable) mistakes past entrants have made:
1. Not including enough information
It is simply impossible for the judges to award marks on information that isn’t there. Most often, entries struggle because they don’t contain enough financial information or include supporting documents.
We understand that your business finances are sensitive information, and that many entrants would prefer not to share it. For that reason, all of our judges sign a non-disclosure agreement. The information you give only needs to be an overview, and could even be represented in percentages, but the financial results of a business are the simplest way to prove that it is viable.
The judges also take into account the business’s size and strategy when considering its finances. For example, you may be trying to grow your business and making a loss. If you explain this in your entry, and emphasise your vision for the future, there is no reason why it should stop you from winning!
We want to make the entry process as easy as possible for busy rural business owners. Therefore, it is not compulsory to submit supporting documents with your entry. However, many of our most successful entrants do, and it is a great way to get across the character of your business. Even just including photos of your business and your team will really help to bring your entry to life.
2. Using a general or out of date presentation
Lots of entrants choose to include a presentation as part of their supporting information. This can be a really engaging way to get across information about your business. However, the temptation is to use a presentation you’ve created for something else, and isn’t relevant to the Rural Business Awards. We’ve even had presentations a couple of years out of date.
Making this mistake will negatively impact the judges scores. Using only relevant documents may be the difference between a good and a great entry. It’s as easy as spending five minutes just reading through your supporting documents and deleting any irrelevant information.
3. Getting the wrong category
Choosing the right category is essential. Take Hoe Grange Holidays for example. In 2017 they won the Best Rural Tourism Business Award, and were crowned Champion of Champions. What you won’t know is that they also entered the Outstanding Rural Diversification Project category, and didn’t even make it as finalists. Obviously Hoe Grange are an amazing rural business and worthy winners, but for some reason they just didn’t tick the right boxes for that category.
To counteract this, many of our entrants choose to enter multiple categories. Each one counts as a completely separate entry so it won’t impact your chances of winning. There’s even a handy “Copy Entry” button on our awards site so you don’t have to waste time filling in the same information all over again!
If you aren’t sure you are right for the category you have chosen, the best thing to do is to take a look at our Entry Guidelines. They contain all the judging criteria for each category. Your business doesn’t have to fulfil all of them, but bearing them in mind when writing your entry is the secret to success!
4. Not telling your story
Telling the story of your business can be a really engaging and memorable part of your entry. It is a chance for the judges to really connect with your business on an emotional level, and some of the best entries tell us how and why their businesses exist. For example, in their entry Cotswold Distillery told us all about how they grew their business through crowdfunding, and this has led to them being featured in April’s edition of our magazine, In Your Field.
Make sure to talk in detail about your vision for the future, too. It’s a great way, especially for smaller businesses, to prove that your business has the potential to grow.
5. Not emphasizing your rural credentials.
As we are the Rural Business Awards it’s important to show the judges how your business embodies all things rural! We get lots of questions asking if businesses are rural enough. We define a rural business as being based in a rural location, serving a rural client-group, or having a rural theme. If you fulfil one or more of these criteria, then you are eligible for an award!
The best entries clearly demonstrate their rural identity, values, and impact on the rural economy or way of life. This impact could be through hiring rural staff, attracting urban clients to rural locations, supporting other rural businesses, and raising awareness of rural issues and the rural way of life.
The entry process can be pretty baffling at times, so these mistakes are easy to make. Hopefully this article will make things a little clearer! If you have any questions about what to include in your entry, please get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org or 01163800525.
To enter the Rural Business Awards, or to check you haven’t made these mistakes, click here.