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The power of reputation in growing and selling a business
In an über competitive business world, the credibility and recognition of winning a corporate award can lend an entrepreneurial business the edge needed to leverage competitive advantage and grow.
“Companies want to work with and be associated with people and businesses that have proved themselves. In today’s world, one of the key elements to success is a solid reputation with a proven ability to deliver.”
So says Lance Fanaroff, Joint CEO and founder of Integr8, the largest, privately-owned ICT management company in Africa. And he knows what he is talking about. Faranoff and co-founder and co-CEO Rob Sussman spent over a decade building the business into a thriving small company with a sterling reputation, successfully selling it in February 2013 to JSE-listed Business Connexion (BCX) for an estimated R126-million – cash.
The BCG acquisition took what was a modest-sized, privately owned entrepreneurial venture with 550 employees to the next level. Integr8’s clients now enjoy access to 7 000 high skilled personnel across the group, with more offices on the continent than any other local technology company. Offices also span across United Arab Emirates and into Europe.
Aside from having a solid service record, one of the ways they achieved this feat – one that many entreprenuers can only dream of – was through strategic PR and reputation management, specifically by entering, winning and leveraging awards that his fledgling company garnered.
“A reputable award can give the respective finalists and winners that credibility. It endorses the winners as stand-out and exemplary leaders in business,” says Fanaroff.
In an increasingly competitive local and global economy, where business is challenged by the need to grow corporate earnings and shareholder value despite increasing costs, competition and constant revenue squeeze, businesses such as Integr8 have found strategic advantage in selectively harnessing the numerous business awards offered by publications, not-for-profit organisations and industry groups to gain public recognition.
Fanaroff says success hinges on credibility, authenticity, proven ability, leadership and recognition, and an award which has recognised business or business leaders which have stood out in their respective industries for being exceptional, is invaluable.
“Big business wants to work with industry leaders and to differentiate themselves as leaders in their respective fields. Reputation and credibility is essential for the success of any business, big or small,” Fanaroff says.
A study by the University of Leicester, related to the British Quality Foundation’s UK Excellence Awards and European Foundation for Quality Management’s Excellence Awards, showed that three years after receiving an award, 120 award winning companies outperformed comparison companies by an average of 17% for sales and 36% for share value (www.stevieawards.com).
The trick, according to Faranoff, is to take full advantage of award recognition.
“It’s more about what companies do with these awards, and the mileage and marketing you can leverage from winning, or being a finalist, than the actual award,” he says.
Companies need to market their success via all social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and online news portals, as well as to staff and clients to get maximum mileage.
“We ensure that all our clients, potential clients, suppliers, business partners, and everyone we work with are aware of any awards and accolades bestowed upon us. This not only gives them a sense of comfort that they are working with the industry leaders, who have the proven ability to deliver, but by associating themselves with industry leaders, they are able to elevate themselves,” he says.
Awards also serve a higher function, says Fanaroff. By contributing to the winners’ and finalists’ growth and success they help towards job creation, skills development, growing the economy and setting a benchmark towards which companies, entrepreneurs and business leaders can continuously strive to better themselves.
Says Deon Swart, Acting Chief Executive, Liberty Corporate, which has sponsored headline awards in the past: “We support the development and recognition of successful businesses. It is important to recognise companies which best demonstrate excellence and a passion for what they do.
“Through the recognition offered by awards, nominees and winners alike share in greater public exposure and recognition. Being positioned as a nominee or winner creates the positive awareness business needs to thrive.”
Swart maintains that it is particularly important that SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) and any growing business is given a conducive environment in which to thrive, where stakeholders are looked after and given the opportunity to prosper.
Not only that, but awards serve as a morale booster to staff and can help towards staff retention. “Business is all about people and to stay on top of your game it is important to attract the right talent and to keep people motivated and focused on the client,” Swart said.
To stay on top, concludes Fanaroff, a business needs to constantly be aware of ever-changing technology trends, to be customer-centric and always strive to be recognised as the best in their field.
“In a tight economic climate, the acknowledgement by an outside organisation that your business has done well against the odds and against tough competition by other successful businesses, can go a long way towards boosting your credibility, confidence and staff morale,’ says Ralf Fletcher, CEO of Topco Media, which, in addition to the National Business Awards also hosts the Oliver Empowerment Awards and the Top Women Awards, to recognise top performance.
“An award, used for example on a website, prominently displayed in reception, announced in a press release and used in a pitch for new business can be a very powerful publicity tool and makes the effort of entering corporate award competitions well worthwhile,” Fletcher said.