How to win a Queen’s Award for Enterprise

There are awards, and then there are the Queen’s Awards. No other business award programme enjoys such national and international prestige. They’re not easy to win, but that’s why they’re so highly valued. And the good news is that there’s no limit to the number of winners in any category. Each entry is judged on a standalone basis in relation to the criteria – there’s no competition between entrants.

Could you be a 2020 Queen’s Award winner?

The 2020 Queen’s Awards for Enterprise open for entry on 1 May 2019. There are four categories: international trade, sustainable development, innovation and promoting opportunity through social mobility. Entrants must be UK-based and demonstrate strong corporate social responsibility as well as meeting specific category criteria. You can check out the full entry requirements here.  

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a winner? Great. But you need to create a compelling entry – the judges know their stuff and persuading them that you’re worthy takes concerted effort. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1.    Read the criteria properly – it sounds so obvious, but too many people dive in to the entry process without fully understanding the top-line requirements. If you don’t meet them, your entry will fall at the first hurdle. For instance, if you’re going for the international trade category, you need to have achieved impressive and sustained year-on-year growth in overseas sales. That means steep growth for three consecutive years or substantial growth for six consecutive years without dips. If export earnings increased overall in a three or six year timeframe, but there was a dip mid-way through the period, your entry won’t cut it.

2.    Allow more time than you think you need – entering the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is a significant undertaking. The final entry should be around 8,000 words of robust, finely crafted and persuasive copy. Much of the information you need will be squirrelled away in different parts of the business – from finance to HR to business development. Gathering all of this takes time, then you need to rationalise it and structure it in a coherent way while addressing the criteria and answering the questions detailed on the entry form. The 10 September deadline will roll around before you know it, so if you’re serious about entering, start early.  

3.    Get business leaders onboard – you’re going to need help and input from lots of different people in your organisation. If they don’t understand the importance of the award, they may be reluctant to spend time collating the information you need, or unsure about sharing sensitive or confidential details. Address this risk upfront by ensuring business leaders champion the award and make it known that it’s of strategic importance.

4.    Don’t just say it, prove it – any claims you make need to be backed up with evidence: official facts and figures, photos, third party reviews and reports, customer testimonials, media coverage, other award wins. Don’t leave all of this until the week before the deadline. Make a list of what you’re likely to need early in the process and if necessary, consider investing in market research or a benchmarking survey. Supporting evidence can be provided in various formats, such as pdf and video, so this is a great opportunity to bring your entry to life. Present it in a way that will engage and interest the judges while providing robust validation of your claims.

5.    Get a second (and third) opinion – several months and 8,000 words later you’ve completed the entry, but it’s easy to get snow-blind at this stage. Basic good practice says you should ask a colleague to review or approve the entry. But better still, get a trusted third party to review and sense-check it, giving you an honest opinion of any areas that seem weak or need additional evidence. Ideally this should be someone who hasn’t been closely involved with the activity – they’ll approach it with the same level of detached interest as the judges.

So, if you’re looking at this year’s winners and thinking ‘it should’ve been me’, now is the time to act. The 2020 Queen’s Awards for Enterprise open for entries soon. And you can sign up here.

Need some help? I’ve previously been involved with winning entries for the international trade and sustainable development categories. Drop me a line if you’d like to discuss how I can support the entry process:  

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