Over the 5 years Learning Pool has been trading we’ve entered a few – won some & lost some – but is it worth the time & effort that it takes?
Like most things in life, the answer is probably “it depends”…which I know isn’t a great deal of help to you if you’re reading this blog to find out. The thing is that awards cover a huge spectrum. At one end are the “straightforward” awards – for example, the Deloitte Fast 50 technology awards. It costs nothing to enter, you don’t have to write an essay or deliver a presentation, you don’t have to be a Deloitte customer, it’s up to you if you want to buy a few more places at the Awards dinner but there’s no pressure. All you have to do is make your published financial information available and a calculation is performed of your revenue growth over a defined period of time. The 50 companies with the highest growth are then ranked with the winner being the company whose revenue has grown by the biggest percentage. It’s black & white and the numbers don’t lie. We like this one & have been the Rising Star winners in Ireland for the past two years.
At the other end of the spectrum are the much less clear & transparent “industry” awards such as those run by e-Learning Age magazine. I don’t know this is the case but from our perspective winning appears to be all about who you know in the industry and how much money you’ve spent with the magazine in sponsorship and advertising – as I say – only my own opinion from Learning Pool’s experience. We’ve entered twice and although shortlisted each time have won nothing. The winners are judged behind closed doors by a panel of industry “experts” – most of whom have their own e-learning companies and are therefore in direct competition with many of the entrants. A more cynical person may conclude that everyone who enters gets shortlisted so as they’ll fork out for a very expensive table at the Awards dinner. I shouldn’t scoff so – at least our last experience of this farce served to remind us that Learning Pool’s industry is very much the public sector and not e-learning.
Somewhere in the mix lies the business “competitions” – usually for seedcorn monies aimed at new or fast growing start-ups. These require a detailed business plan, a significant time commitment and a number of presentations over a period of time. The one & only time Learning Pool entered the Intertrade Ireland seedcorn competition (in 2008) we did well and won the Northern Ireland heat (we’re very proud of our trophy and that’s it in the photograph). We were pipped to the post by resellers of 3D printers…I’ll say no more but c’est la vie. This competition is definitely worthwhile for new start-ups, we learned a lot in the process and I would recommend it for any Irish companies thinking about entering.
In the future Learning Pool will continue to enter the Deloitte Fast 50 but we’ll probably be a bit more discerning about other awards and only enter in partnership with our customers to showcase their projects and achievements.
In summary, I don’t know whether entering awards is worth it or not – and I’ll be interested to hear your views on this. Awards dinners are a fun night out for your team, especially if you win, but weigh up how much time and energy entering will take up and think about whether or not you would be better off, certainly as a start-up business, investing that resource into making sales.