It’s not all about black ties and adding statuettes to your trophy cabinet. Accountancy awards can actually be the difference maker between getting that client or not.
Last month the country rightfully anointed Olivia Colman as a national treasure after she bagged the Oscar for her role in The Favourite. The world gushed as Colman waved at Lady Gaga and in an incredibly British way, apologised to the bookies’ favourite Glenn Close. While the black ties have now gone to the dry cleaners and the red carpet is rolled up for another year, the gold statuette is now likely to open up many more lucrative roles for Colman.
The same is true in the world of accountancy. While the Accounting Excellence awards can’t claim to have launched any winner into national treasure stratosphere, the effects of winning are no less transformative.
Part of the Oscars fun is watching the crestfallen nominees crack a bogus smile through their bitter disappointment and applaud the winners. But you wouldn’t have caught even a glimmer of expectation cross the face of Pioneer of the Year Darren Fell. Crunch’s Fell was naturally in disbelief when the award’s host Rachel Riley announced his name. “Everybody on my table looked at me going 'that sounds like you – she's talking about you, Darren'. I thought, 'no, I won't win it – why would they give it to me?”
For this reason, the first thing all our winners talk about is the overwhelming sense of validation they feel at the moment their name is announced. More than anything Fell said winning the award was a “big boost for all that we'd done and the changes we helped bring into the accountancy world”.
Aside from the occasional Cuba Gooding Jr, awards can springboard a hotshot whippersnapper winner out of obscurity and into the mainstream. The Accounting Excellence Awards provide that same star-making launch pad and confidence boost for new firms.
“Sometimes when you're on your own it can get challenging,” said Kieran James, the founder of new firm winner PayKeeper. Having overcome the mental challenge and self-doubt of changing his business and target client, James said winning the award was like a “benchmark to say you’ve done alright”.
Though many award-winners would first uncork the champagne after accepting their award, the next step is spreading the news beyond the office walls. Bhimal Hira, the chief marketing officer at specialist firm of the year Jeffreys Henry, said the internal pride and excitement soon trickled down to the client and became an effective marketing opportunity.
“When we started promoting the win on the website and telling our clients it meant that we ended up getting a lot more leads out of the awards,” he said. “It gave potential clients the comfort and confidence that you'd expect. In addition, we were also able to command a premium in fees as well.”
Jeffreys Henry’s specialist team has a client base of over 60 restaurants and bars, many of which are household names. Boasting a “hand-holding” approach and hosting a director’s club event that brings together restaurant directors, the firm has naturally become the go-to firm for those in the sector. But Hira said that in those conversations the award became “the cherry that helped us win the deals”.
The uplift in their new business since the awards night confirms this. “As a result of the award and a mix of other business development, we've seen our inquiries quadruple over the last seven-to-eight months since we won the award,” said Hira.
PayKeeper’s James also noticed the magnetic effect the late September award night had on potential clients. “We were already growing quite quickly, but winning the award has accelerated our pace. From about April 2018 we were moving quickly and then from October/November time we doubled our speed of growth.”
And having a trophy sitting in the cabinet goes a long way in backing up your practice’s credibility, continued James. “If a new business starts and somebody says to them, 'what's your USP?', you respond: 'customer service'. Right, OK, everyone says customer service. So having the credibility to back it, validates that it really is customer service and this is what we won and proof of our innovation. It's proof that what you're saying isn't just your opinion.”
The power of awards
It’s easy to be cynical about awards. But there’s no question that an award win packs a marketing punch. Firm of the future winner Peter Jarman was relatively cynical about awards in the past, but since winning the QuickBooks competition he’s seen many doors open.
“I’ve managed to speak to so many people that I wouldn’t have done before, in terms of other accountants, the press and ACCA recognition. The real value of these awards seems to be promoting the firm and getting your name out there which you couldn’t do any other way,” he told AccountingWEB. “There is a real upturn in the number of clients that want to come to us because of the awards. There is real value and I’d recommend anyone to try and win it.”
Are you our next award-winning practice? The 2019 Accounting Excellence Awards are now open! To enter the awards, visit here and complete your entry form.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.