Years ago, as part of a local ad agency, we used to tell our customers, “Nobody cares about how long you’ve been in business, your proud tradition, or the awards you’ve won. All they really care about is whether you understand the challenges they face and have the products or services to help solve them.”
Since that time I’ve softened my view regarding awards, but the fact that there is a fascinating, for-profit industry surrounding small business awards does give me some pause from time to time. That being said, there are many industry awards that are relevant because they demonstrate your particular business is either doing something better than anyone else or more innovative than your competitors. There are other awards and reviews that seemed to be based upon how much the company pays more than merit. Most awards seem to fall someplace in the middle.
I recently came across an award presented to a local fabrication and machining company that represents what I think is the essence of a truly relevant award. Petersen, Inc., a small business in Ogden, was recently recognized by Boeing as one of only 16 companies singled out as a supplier of the year. To be singled out among the 17,500 or so Boeing suppliers like this is a highly relevant recognition that should resonate with Petersen’s other customers.
How did they do it?
Petersen supplies Boeing with 300,000 parts a year for out-of-production aircraft with an on-time delivery success rate of 100 percent. How many companies can claim that? Additionally, they accomplished this great feat at they same time they were reducing cost for the aircraft manufacturer.
Vice President of New Business Development, Rob Despain, says the award has earned Perterson recognition that has companies from all around the world reaching out to congratulate them. I imagine it won’t take too long for that type of congratulations to translate into business.
This type of recognition is far more valuable than a paid endorsement by a review site or other such award. I’m always dubious of pay-to-play awards that seem to be more interested in the money they collect from applications and awards banquets than those who truly recognize outstanding companies.
I think relevant industry awards do communicate to customers and prospective customers that your business is substantive and they can have confidence in what you do, but far too many awards are designed to make money by stroking egos. Several years ago I’m aware of a CEO who was incensed that his company was identified as the 11th or 12th fastest growing company out of the 50 that were recognized that year—he wanted to be in the top ten (fortunately he didn’t presume that his company would be number one). His bruised ego reverberated a negative vibe throughout the entire organization for days. His company made a great showing and he should have been very pleased to have made the list at all. What’s more, his business continued to grow and capture additional customers despite the fact that he didn’t make the top ten.
If you were to ask me today, “Do industry awards matter to your customers?” I would respond, “Not anywhere near as much as they matter to you.”