View from the other side18 Sep 2013
Rob Hawthorn tracks his journey from contender to winner to judge of the National Business Awards
It is remarkable how one’s perspective changes depending on where one sits, writes Rob Hawthorn, Managing Director, Client Service, at Barclays Corporate. Over the past seven years I have viewed the National Business Awards from three different angles. Firstly, I viewed it as a hopeful contender, then as a proud winner, and now I view it as a judge. Each angle has given me an impressive sight and rewarding experience, but it is from the last of these, the judge’s perspective, that I can objectively appreciate the calibre of all the submissions.
There really is no other competition on a national scale that pits the small entrepreneur against multi-national corporate - David’s hand-picked stones against the might and strength of Goliath’s. Where else do we find ourselves in a situation where each has an equal opportunity of winning, and where winning means so much to both parties?
The ways in which each organisation this year has chosen to demonstrate their skill and fight to win have been diverse and impressive. Some provide statistics galore as proof of their prowess. Others deploy CEOs alongside rank and file, embodying a flat culture of collaboration and empowerment.
All have a message to us judges – they are the best at what they do. They believe it wholeheartedly, and they have some incredible stories to prove it.
In recent years, the client-focus penny has dropped with many organisations. We are seeing many firms striving for a market-leading service mentality that CEOs know needs to infect not only them and their management team, but the whole organisation. More companies are going to great to lengths to demonstrate that their workforce is engaged and focused each day on client service.
Large corporates with all singing all dancing websites and big training budgets don’t always achieve the compelling cultural shift needed as easily as a small, growing company in greater control of its selection process which, based upon the attitude of the people, can forge it from the ground up. What counts here is the calibre and attitude of all a firm’s people, the unified focus on the same client result. As nimble David and his choice stones shows, bulk doesn’t always win the day. But when a large corporate gets the magic mix of client-focus right, they are highly compelling.
Whatever the size of a firm, the judging process is robust as it places equal weighting across a set of criteria that all must satisfy. Business performance and profitability carries equal weighting with other key factors, such as team engagement and a positive social impact.
Over the years the standards of submissions have jumped massively. What was good enough to win three years ago is now just par. To have excellent metrics is now simply what is expected of all contenders. However from the small entrepreneurs and multi-national corporates, a few have invested in their people and their technology to set themselves apart from the rest. These are the disruptive innovators who leave us judges gobsmacked at their creativity and excellence, and make us all feel proud that they are British businesses. These few have competed with the best out there, and have won.
Whilst I enjoyed the contending, and loved winning, it is the perspective that I now have as a judge that I consider the greatest privilege as I get to see the best of British, and time and again I am made proud of UK plc.
Rob Hawthorn is a judge for the Customer Focus Award in 2013 and Barclays is an Alumnus of the National Business Awards for The Corporate Social Responsibility Award (2004); The City & Guild Employer of the Year (2005), and The Health, Work & Wellbeing Award (2006).