What the judges are really looking for

As the entries open for the 2022 Growing Business Awards, the million-dollar question that every hopeful business wants to know the answer to is – what are the judges really looking for? What is it that spells the difference between an entry that makes it onto the coveted shortlist, and one that doesn’t?

Well fortunately for you, this year we have asked them exactly what they hope to see in a Growing Business Award entry, and their answers were revealing, ranging from innovation and passion to providing realistic numbers and projections. This is what they told us:

For Mark McCormack, Founder of Talking Tables, the magic ingredients are passion and believable numbers. He said: “I like to feel and smell the passion coming through from the presentation that supports the entry. I am looking for companies that have seen a gap in the market for an innovative product, service, or delivery method. They need to back this up with firm foundations, success so far and projections that are believable. The numbers are key, they must stack up to showcase a viable long-term business that can then widen its perspective to include considerations such as Carbon Net Zero.”

Nohman Ahmed, co-Founder of Undercover Brothers, meanwhile, looks for signs of innovation. He said: “What I look for in a business is innovation; businesses who don’t always follow the traditional route but create a way of operating that works for them. I also look for businesses who are able to create not only products but recreate and transform a whole industry - similar to Red Bull in the energy drinks market.”

So does David Sanger, serial entrepreneur and non-executive Director. He said: “As a judge of the Disruptor of the Year Award, I was particularly looking for an innovative product or service that has deeply penetrated its sector, causing the existing companies to take notice. It is likely that the disruptor has achieved substantial turnover, taking market share from the incumbent providers. It is often the case that the disruptor also has truly innovative procedures, policies and methodology within its own business too.”

Guy Schanschieff, Founder of Bambino Mio, said: “As a judge I am always looking for those companies that are clearly doing well but also doing things differently, creating opportunities and having a clear purpose in what they are trying to achieve.”

Charles Johnstone, co-Founder of Newlands Capital, wants entrants to be able to back up their claims. He said: “As a judge I look for businesses that demonstrate that they value and respect the Growing Business Awards, that can back up their claims, especially financial claims, that have demonstrated a track record of consistent growth, that have built growth in a sustainable manner by treating customers, team, suppliers, shareholders fairly, and that have an open and accountable culture.”

James Davis, Partner at Positive Momentum, looks for a variety of factors. He said: “There are four different criteria which I typically use to judge a company. Services or products – assessing whether they are lagging or leading and the revenue potential; Customer base – a diverse customer base and multi-channel acquisition shows the services/products have broad appeal; People – good staff retention and recruitment KPIs are often lead indicators of a strong, balanced, collegiate culture; and Brand and reputation – consistency and substance on social media and other communication channels. For all of the above, I use a standard set of really good questions to prod and probe in each of these areas.”

So does Chris Forbes, Founder of Cheeky Panda. He said: “When looking at growth businesses any business achieving high growth is already doing very well. So when choosing a winner, its not about size of turnover, I look for, the size of the market opportunity, the innovation and how the business is meeting market trends, the growth over the last few years and the quality of the management team.”

Aidan Bell, co-Founder of EnviroBuild, is looking for some evidence that the entrant will improve the world. He said: “The most obvious and therefore important metric has to simply be revenue/EBIT. Which of those is more relevant will depend upon the type of company. However for me what also becomes important is how a company is looking to improve the world in some way, be that through genuinely caring about their employees, or sustainability, alleviating poverty and so. Essentially something beyond just the bottom line.”

Simon Duffy, Founder of Bulldog and Waken, meanwhile simply wants entrants to read the entry form carefully. He said: “In terms of a great entry, I think it’s worth carefully considering exactly what you are being asked to prepare. The awards’ criteria tends to be fairly specific so a great entry form will be sure to cover all the bases that the judges have been specifically asked to assess, whilst also acting as a springboard for further discussions during the face to face part of the judging process.”

If you think your business has got what it takes to win a Growing Business Award, you can find out more and enter at www.growingbusinessawards.co.uk.