Inside An Award Committee - The Takeaways

For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of being a member of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, Business Achievement Awards committee. For those of you who don't know, the HIA-LI is one of the largest business associations on Long Island and represents some 1,800 companies of all descriptions and sizes, many of which are concentrated in industrial parks the size of some towns.

Each year the HIA-LI accepts nominations for their prestigious Business Achievement Awards that are presented at a gala in September. There are four categories, Small Business (under 100 employees), Large Business (over 100), Not for Profit and Rookie of the Year for recent startups. I have the honor of reviewing, along with the committee members, and selecting five finalists for the Small Business award. Reading the nomination applications is a considerable task, since so many of the companies could be considered over achievers and have well-rounded resumes. Once the ratings and committee conversations are completed, the five are contacted to arrange site visits. It is the site visits that I am most intrigued by. Each of the finalists has impressive stories and took many different paths to success. It is in the hearing of their accomplishments, focus, vision and strategies that I obtain takeaways that apply to mine and many other businesses. The site visits are like a mini course in business development and best practices.

This years' cast provided a wealth of lessons. The following are only some of the things I learned from the finalists.

- Morning huddles (see "Mastering the Rockefeller Habits" by Verne Harnish)
Daily short stand up meetings are very effective.

• What was done yesterday?
• What wasn't done yesterday?
• What is being done today?
• What does tomorrow look like?

- Business Awards are important and open business opportunities.

Companies need to look for opportunities to be recognized for their good work, successful strategies and corporate citizenship. It is more then ok to self nominate.
You need to shine the light on who and what your company represents.

-Recurring revenue products can change your business model in a very positive way.
Although project work can be your primary offering, it is recurring periodic revenue that goes a long way to even out cash flow and contribute to the overall health of the company. Think subscriptions or contracts.

-Information technology, integration, coordination and availability throughout an organization are key to growth.
Incorporating the organization wide availability of data such as utilizing the cloud, Microsoft 365, Skype for business and Google, streamlines communication and allows for up to the minute snap shots of what is going on.

-Employee continuing education..... company required and employee desire to do so is important.
Encouraging and even requiring employees to be fully engaged in continuing their education is powerful in retaining better employees, elevating the skills of some and increasing the productivity of all employees. Increasing the skill levels of employees allows the company to promote from within, which is a major incentive throughout an organization. Employees stay and grow.

-Market focus helps define what the company is.

Companies cannot be all things to all people in their marketplace. It is better to sell the best apples than sell all kinds of average produce. There are many highways, avenues and boulevards that branch off from a particular product or service and management needs to identify the best route and stick to it.

-Knowing who to hire....What type of individual...not necessarily skills or past work experience ..... Pays huge dividends in terms of culture

- Employee initiatives and advancement.
Understanding the character traits that are most desirable in an employee affords a company the opportunity to think outside the box and garner great staff members that want to grow and thrive. Think rough diamond on their way to being polished gems. Acquiring employees with experience in different industries and markets brings a wealth of diverse thought into the teams and departments. Such employees, when given the chance to gain new skills, bloom. The company must make those opportunities accessible in terms of time to achieve certifications, attend webinars or classes.

-Personal knowledge of employee's humanizes management and allows for better discourse.
Knowing who people are as people and having a sense of the things that are important to them, the struggles they face outside of work and how their jobs fit into their dynamic is important. The knowledge makes it is easier to communicate in a way that resonates with them, values them as people and respects them.

-Injecting a certain level of fun and camaraderie, lightens the atmosphere in the work environment and makes the overall staff more productive...
If staff can see each other in a lighter more friendly context it will foster an attitude of not letting each other down and significantly reduce some of the petty drama that many companies experience when they don't take the time to have fun as a team.

-Peer to peer recognition is a great tool to say, "what you did is important."
Allowing every employee to recognize others in the organization, as quality people and coworkers, is a strategy for making each feel valued as a human being, as a member of the team and contributor to the organization. Recognitions can be given for anything from a small kindness- to an observed positive interaction - to exemplary work - to an effort outside the company with a charity or cause. There can be an award system whereby the most recognized person receives a prize of some kind, but making sure the rest of the staff knows the winner can be enough.

-The more knowledge you have about your market - the trends - the initiatives - and your industry, the better you can serve the customer.
Companies need to have their finger on the pulse of what the top thinkers are saying, the current best practices and most importantly what appears to be over the horizon in their industry. This mindset dovetails with empowering employees to continue their education. The knowledge they acquire can translate in real terms into effective changes and forward thinking within the company.

-Technology is the bedrock of every company. You cannot be a dinosaur.

Companies need to invest in technology. Without the ability to harness technology, you create scenarios that lack fore thought and leans on the status quo. Companies must understand what technology can do, not only for the company, but for their costumers and clients as well. There is no denying that in today's world technology touches everything and used correctly is extremely powerful in advancing everyone's efforts.

All of the finalists deserve to win the Business Achievement Awards. As much as I am excited to participate in the process, picking only one as the winner is the most difficult part. I thank all of the finalists for sharing their incredible stories and success with the committee and myself.

The author is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.

The author is also the CEO of Lorraine Gregy Communicationors in Farmingdale, New York. His company is a full service marketing and communications agency that serves all manner of businesses, organizations and not-for-profits. He is nationally published on various business topics. To read more visit Lorraine