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Q So we’ve just won a Deloitte Rising Star award, but now what? What should we do to maximise our exposure after winning this or any award? James Alder, BookMe
A BookMe is too young to make the official Deloitte Fast 50, which requires companies to be three years old. That surprises me, as it feels as if it’s been around for longer, but in any case it’s growing fast. But sadly the main impact of winning a competition, beyond the initial press, is everlasting calls from providers of all sorts of unwanted services. That’s what happened for me with PowerKiwi’s second place in the Deloitte Fast 50 last year, and I’m glad the calls will stop when this year’s list comes out.
Overall, awards should be a recognition of what you have achieved, not how good you are at applying for awards.
Firstly, spend very little time applying for any award, and by that I mean two hours or less. The Fast 50 is compliant here, as its form was simple, and sharing the Xero accounts made everything easy. There was an enjoyable interview as well. The Hi-Tech awards are also simple, with a web-based form to fill out. One company I know started to fill it out after the time had expired, and eventually ended up with a Highly Commended.
Secondly, apply for the awards that you respect. There are many low-quality awards in our ecosystem and the simple way to determine the quality of the awards is to look at the previous winners, the judges and the sponsoring organisation. If you respect these, then consider applying. To me, the judges are the key – if they’re not smart industry insiders, then the final results may be somewhat random. This can result in awards being presented to the glitziest application or fastest-talking individual. As a judge in several competitions, I’ve been very firm that the quality of the application is irrelevant versus the quality of the company, and I always look well beyond the application itself.
Thirdly, let the awards generate the publicity for you, not vice versa. Focus on growing your business rather than theirs, but use the award judiciously in your promotional materials. Xero did a very good job of this in its early years.
And finally, remember that it’s all a game – the sponsors, organisers, judges and participants are all gaining from a well-run event. It can be an expensive endeavour and someone has to pay for it, often the companies themselves. If you’re invited to take part in any of the roles, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Be aware that being part of a low-quality event may be damaging to your own personal or company brand, but on the other hand, a great event can be enhancing for everyone.
GET IT TOGETHER
Q We’re a tech startup growing quickly right now and we’re considering our options for a proper organisational structure. What should we think about, and how does organisational structure help influence the success of a company? Sarah, Auckland
A It’s the first of many organisation shuffles that you’ll need to do and it’s actually less important than you think. In the very short term, you’ll want to structure the company around key people, making sure they can handle the growth of responsibilities. As you grow, you’ll identify more key people you need and with an ever-expanding business it’s relatively easy to move responsibilities around.
Try to be logical in the division of responsibilities and don’t be afraid of promoting people from within – they’re usually capable of a lot more than you (or they) think.
The founders in particular should take the burden of flexibility and the CEO should be constantly seeking to shift their own responsibilities. From my extensive formal and informal study of organisational design I’ve realised that there is no one answer and the right thing to do is to periodically flip the organisation.
Q We’ve got a vocal faction making waves and I think they’re wrong, but they’re powerful. What can you do to shut down (or slow down) shareholder activism?. Melissa, Dunedin
A There are three approaches here: arriving at a consensus approach, invoking legal threats and leaving the situation. Quite obviously, only one of these is truly effective and the question is how to bring consensus about.
I find the only real way is to get all of the key players in a room, add enough internal people who know the space and are respected and mix in an external face or two to ensure good behaviour.
Break the group into smaller, mixed groups and take them though a journey that starts with the future, touches on end user needs ( preferably through interviews), mission, vision and values and ends with overarching long- and short-term strategy and priorities.
A well-facilitated session will arrive at an answer, but more importantly, consensus around it. I’ve found all parties have something to learn from others in the room, but that end user experiences have to drive the overall direction.
Now that invoking option is only really available to the CEO and board, so if you’re more junior, you have to be more subtle. Try to understand the language the key shareholders are speaking and therefore their perspective. Create a presentation that speaks to them in their language and shows how their direction is good, but that the consensus direction is better for the company. The shareholders might think they own the company, and they do, but they do not control the company. That power rests with the board of directors and their obligation is to act in the best interest of the company, not of the shareholders. If they’re not dong so, forget about the lawsuit, unless you are a substantial shareholder yourself, and start looking for a new gig.