What it takes to be an award winner

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As headline sponsors of the Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards, we are well aware of the positive effect these awards have on those that enter and we are encouraging businesses to get involved.

We spoke to some of last year’s winners to find out the secret to their success, and what winning has done for their business.

To enter, or to find out more about the Herts Chamber’s Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards, visit ​their website

The Aubrey Park Hotel, Redbourn
Winner of the Tourism Award, The Aubrey Park Hotel in Redbourn, has gone through a dramatic change in recent years with the addition of £3 million state-of-the-art function facility, “The Oak Suite”. Their award has been added to their heavily adorned “Accolades Wall” in reception. Seasoned awards entrants, Managing Director David Timmis and his team, have a collaborative approach to entering awards. David explained, “Most of our department heads have clear aims and objectives which form a template for our entry and Chelsey our Sales and Events Manager collates everything. The difficult bit is whittling down 4000 or so words to the 2600 word limit so that it addresses the points in question!”

For many people the prospect of dedicating so much time to entering an award can be off-putting but David sees it differently. “The first entry can take several weeks to pull together if you do it properly, but once you have it you can fine tune it for future entries”

With so many awards out there, why did David choose to enter the Chamber’s Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards? “We understand our place in the market, our business is primarily corporate and Herts Chamber has an established relationship with our customers. Their Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards is a fantastic platform that speaks directly to our target market.”

So what about the benefits? David is clear on these “Being a small independent hotel, Aubrey Park doesn’t have the power of the big brand hotels so awards earn us valuable independent recognition and a seal of approval. It’s recognition for the whole team and we always take the opportunity to pop some bubbly and celebrate our success.”

So what does David think makes a winning entry? “I believe an entry has to be easy to read, minimal jargon, relatively light but focusing on the core values of a business. It needs to have a beginning, middle and end of a journey that the business has gone through. It should celebrate outcomes and successes rather than just what it does, there should be a focus on team and in my sector, a personality, whether the leader or key team members. Celebrate being independent (even if you are part of a brand) and show that while we all work hard, we can have some fun, celebrating success which often breeds success.”

For more information about the Aubrey Park Hotel visit their website www.aubreypark.co.uk

JPA Furniture, St Albans
Last year’s Environmental Award went to St Albans based family business JPA Furniture, specialists in commercial project furniture since 1974. Fiona Edwards, Commercial Director, explained their reason for entering awards, “It’s twofold really – to get our name out there and raise our profile locally, and also to practice for tender writing which is a similar but vital element of our business.”

JPA Furniture operates locally with their own fitters, vans and warehouse, enabling control over the complete order process and giving clients peace of mind. “Our local operation ensures that our resources are where our clients are based, improving our service, sustainability and the efficiency of our operation”.

Sustainability is a cornerstone of JPA’s business and is evidenced via ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management accreditation and FSC accreditation meaning that chain of custody can be supplied. Encouraged by The Green Triangle they first entered the FSB awards in 2015, winning the Green Award much to their amazement. “It had never occurred to us before to enter any business awards, we thought we were too small, but it really gave us an insight into what other local businesses get up to and also gave us a lot of confidence”.

Since then, they have strengthened their sustainability credentials and piloted several new initiatives such as recycling and rehoming old furniture which are now standard for project work. “We call this our Dodo programme, because we refuse to let old unwanted furniture become extinct”.

Recycling and re-homing unwanted furniture contributes to JPA’s Corporate Social Responsibility as well as that of their clients both socially and environmentally. “If a client’s old furniture is diverted from landfill to help a local charity or voluntary organisation it adds value for the client and sets us apart.” This innovative service has also earned valuable PR and a network of social media tweeters and supporters.

Fiona does the entry herself, pulling together all of the supporting evidence and ensuring it’s measurable so that she can show the impact they have had. “The challenge is getting it into a format that people want to read, is easy to read and then make it stand out! It is time consuming, but tackling the awards entry writing has definitely helped our tender writing so it’s worth it.”

JPA also use the awards to involve the team and encourage innovation – no idea is too silly in our office!  We also take different teams to awards evenings to meet other businesses and inspire them into thinking about how we can improve our services and products.

Fiona has also seized the opportunity to build relationships with other award winners. “We are trying to develop strategic partnerships with other award winners and combining forces in tenders as this type of local collaboration might be the differentiator that gives us the edge over our competitors”.

For more information about JPA Furniture visit their website https://www.jpa-workspaces.com/.

Chilfen Joinery, Letchworth.
Chilfen Joinery not only won the Made in Herts award but also took the overall Inspiring Business of the Year award.

Established in 1960, Chilfen provides bespoke joinery for commercial and high end residential projects. With an emphasis on quality, Chilfen manufacturers within the UK. As Michelle Dear, Joint MD explains, “It’s important to our clients that we manufacture 100% of our products within the UK, as outsourcing bespoke products can often be problematic, and not always the most cost effective solution .Sustainability is also important to Chilfen. “We have the FSC accreditation which means we only source products from sustainable sources. Plus we recycle our waste and use it as fuel to heat the premises which is great for the environment and it keeps the bills down!”

Visiting the Chilfen site was an eye opener and a long way from the dusty, noisy old spaces that spring to mind when you think of a joinery shop. The site uses state of the art technology and their offices are stylish, modern and beautifully decorated. Keen to attract the next generation, Chilfen have an apprenticeship programme and run open days for schools to help dispel the myth of the old joinery shop. Michelle explains, “We offer training in production and operations, which means our apprentices finish with highly transferable skills and an understanding of quality manufacturing. ”

Having entered the awards in the two previous years and making it to finalist stage, they persevered and finally it paid off. Michelle thinks that is a great lesson to others entering awards, “The worst thing you can do when entering an award for the first time, is to only do it the once. You need to invest quite a bit of time and effort in the first attempt, so why give up when you can give it another go the following year. You learn a lot during your first attempt so apply that the following year and improve your chance of winning. You don’t have to start again with your entry, just update and refine what you already have.”

Michelle spends around two days pulling the awards entry together “You need to think about how you engage your employees, drive efficiencies, tackle opportunities and challenges, explain your innovations and plans for the future. Putting it into the right format and making sure you get across your passion for what you are doing takes time.” After first pulling together all the content for the entry Michelle enlists the expertise of an external marketing agency to help her craft it into their submission.

Involving the team is really important too, “We send the finished entry around the team to show them what we’ve all achieved”. For Michelle and the Chilfen team, winning the awards is great external recognition. “It’s important to celebrate your win – the day after the awards we celebrated with the whole team.”

For more information about Chilfen Joinery visit their website www.chilfen.co.uk.

The entry deadline is 19 March 2018 so to find out more about the 19 categories and to download an entry form visit the Herts Chamber website.