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Is an award winning company better than a company lacking awards? Not necessarily, but in absence of other information, most people assume the award winning company is superior. So why not try to make your company an award winner?

When I asked Paul Hobaica how Hobaica Refrigeration became ACCA’s contractor of the year a few years ago, he said simply, “We entered.”

While I’m sure there was a lot more to it than that – a LOT more – Paul does make a valid point. Sometimes half the battle is entering. First, you need to be aware of the contests in the first place. It seems like I often find out about contests after the deadline. This makes it necessary to seek contests. Here are a few possibilities…

· Trade magazines

· Trade associations

· Chamber of commerce

· Local newspaper

· Local business journal

· Civic clubs

Look for others by searching online. Entrants might be the company, you as owner, or one of your team.

Finally, turn everything in, wait for the results, and start looking around for the next contest.

Reasons Contractors Hesitate to Enter Contests

Even when aware of a contest or award, some contractors hesitate to enter. They hesitate for the following reasons…

1. You Might Not Win

Of course you might not win an award or contest. You might not close a sale either, but you still ask for the order (well, some of you ask for the order). Don’t worry about the contests you fail to win, only those you do win. Besides, there’s always next year.

Sometimes losing a contest can be the best thing to happen to a company. Find out what the winner did that’s different from you and see where and how you can improve, and then go to work.

2. The Contest is a Joke

Some contests are so starved for contestants that anyone entering is practically guaranteed an award. Winning these means little… to you. To anyone else, it’s still impressive. Plus, it makes your business, “an award winning business.”

I attended 9th grade at Stockton Junior High in Stockton, California. Somehow I wound up on the junior high school newspaper as a sports reporter. One of the articles I wrote was submitted by the journalism teacher for a journalism award and won it. I didn’t put much stock in it. Given that this was a California junior high with an obsession about student self-esteem, I figured everyone won something. Nevertheless, from that point forward, I was forevermore, “an award winning writer.”

Even a joke award is better than no award. Given the fact that joke awards and honors are more easily attained than others, stack them up until you can earn something meaningful.

3. Excessive Humility

Some people feel self-conscious about nominating themselves. Just remember, if you don’t blow your own horn every now and then, you run the risk that someone might mistake it for a spittoon.

If it’s an award that represents an individual honor, don’t be shy about nominating yourself or getting someone else to nominate you. Ultimately, honors bestowed upon you and your employees reflect well on your company. While humility may be a virtue, it doesn’t make the phone ring or put food on the table.

4. You Have No Chance

Stan Johnson, owner of Stan’s Heating & Air Conditioning in Austin, belonged to the same college fraternity I did. When Stan was named National Chairman of ACCA, I emailed a note about it to the editor of the fraternity’s magazine because I figured Stan was too humble to do it. The editor suggested I nominate Stan as a “Significant Sig,” which is the fraternity’s hall of fame.

When I told Stan I was nominating him, he appreciated my sentiment, but scoffed at the notion he might be named “Significant Sig.” After all, this would place Stan in the company of John Wayne, Barry Goldwater, Drew Brees, and well known leaders from virtually every walk of life.

Minneapolis contractor, Scott Woolery, another member of the fraternity advised me on assembling a nomination package. After a few months, we heard that Stan was indeed named a Significant Sig. It’s a huge honor and what a mistake it would have been if I held off nominating Stan because I thought there was no chance he might be named Significant Sig.

A few years ago, I started making salsa. I submitted some to the North Texas State Fair, where it won first place. This is a small, regional fair, which might be considered a joke win. When I told my wife I won, she responded, “Did anyone else enter?”

Wives! However, I’ve got to admit, I don’t know if anyone else entered. I only know that I won. Emboldened by this, I entered the salsa in the State Fair of Texas’ competition, which is no joke. I didn’t think I had much of a chance, but I won that too. The next year, I entered an entirely different kind of salsa, skeptical that I could repeat with the same recipe, let alone an entirely different one. I won again. This year, I made my third entry with another new recipe and won my third blue ribbon.

It’s okay to doubt whether you can win, as long as you enter. The only certainty is you won’t win if you don’t submit an entry.

5. You’re Too Busy/It’s Too Much Effort

Some contests do require a lot of work. Frankly, those are probably the most rewarding for your company. Completing the application will give you pause to think about your business in ways you rarely do amidst the daily hustle and bustle.

Also, the amount of competition is probably inversely related to the difficulty. You may have a better shot at winning a contest with a challenging application process.

It’s always difficult to carve out the time to enter a contest or submit an award entry because time is limited. The award is perpetual. Once I consulted with a contractor who won Contracting Business’ National Residential Contractor of the Year award in the mid-1980s. After the millennium, the company was still touting the fact the business was selected as National Contractor of the Year. The marketing simply left off the date.

Once you win, you are a winner forever. Once a woman wins the Miss America Pageant, she will always be known as a Miss America. Once an athlete wins an Olympic Gold Medal, the athlete is always a Gold Medalist.

6. You’re Not Good at Completing Contest Applications

You might be better designing air conditioning systems than designing contest entries. If so, hire a contract employee for $20 an hour to prepare your entry. Simply advertise on Craig’s List for a grant writer.

After You Win

Once you win an award, don’t keep it to yourself. Send out a press release to the local papers. Talk about it on your social media sites. Announce it to your customers by mail, email, newsletters, your website, and your Google Places page. Note the award on your trucks. Mention it on your letterhead, brochures, yellow pages ads, newspaper ads, and invoices. Let everyone know your company is an award winner!

Imagine if you were considering dinner at two different, unknown restaurants in another city. If all else is equal, you would probably select a restaurant with awards over a restaurant without any. It’s the safer choice. It’s been endorsed by others. It’s the winner.

It works the same for your company. When a consumer lacks a relationship with a contracting company, carrying an award, any award, might just be enough to give your company the edge over your competitors.

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Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com) and a three-time winner of the State Fair of Texas salsa competition. This column was written in response to a challenge by Editor Kate Kelly to write about winning the State Fair in a Hotmail column. Do you have any challenges for one of Matt’s upcoming Hotmail columns? Email him at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com, connect with him on LinkedIn at www.LinkedIn.com/in/MattMichel, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MattMichelPage, follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/ComancheMktg, or give him a call toll free at 877.262.3341 or on his mobile at 214.995.8889.