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Accounting Excellence Software Awards 2019
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What makes a good Accounting Excellence award entry?

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Need some inspiration for writing your Accounting Excellence 2023 award entry? Mark Lee shares some tips on how to put together a good submission. 

20th Feb 2023
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The Accounting Excellence Awards have now been open for entrants for a little under a week, and accountancy firms have already set to work on crafting an entry worthy of lifting a trophy on the stage of the iconic Roundhouse in London on 3 October. 

With new categories for DEI and ESG, marketing, digital transformation alongside the usual competitive firm categories, firms have plenty of options to shout about their successes and attempt to bag a gong. 

But accountants and their teams may have already come up against the first hurdle – how on earth do you put together an award-winning entry?

Ask the expert

Those that rush off an entry do so at their own peril. There is more to putting together an impressive entry than throwing together a few stats and platitudes while taking a bite out of a tuna sandwich on your lunch break.  

To give budding award-winners a chance to grasp the trophy-shaped nettle and make their entries sparkle, we called on veteran Accounting Excellence judge and industry expert Mark Lee to share a few pointers on how to make an award entry stand out. 

And even if you’re not entering the awards this year, the award process is a worthwhile exercise for your practice. It encourages you to sit down and really consider your strategy and reflect on your successes from the past year and also how you plan on tackling the challenges lying ahead. 

1. Treat it like an exam question

Lee’s first tip is to tackle the entry like an exam question. “Remember our training – we were always told to read the flipping question and then provide your answers so the examiners can give you maximum marks. It’s exactly the same with entering awards,” said Lee.  

The aim is to make the entry stand out, but make sure it’s not for the wrong reasons like bad grammar. “A fantastic entry that is badly written could still win, while a good entry that is badly written may well get discarded,” Lee explained.

If you’re not confident in your writing abilities, Lee suggests using online writing assistants like Grammarly to check your entry before submitting it. “I know a number of people draft their entries on a word processing system or somewhere online and then have somebody else read it and check it to make sure it looks good enough to win,” said Lee. “You have to make it easy for us to recognise that you deserve to be shortlisted. We score everything.” 

2. What is your strategy?

When you start your entry you’ll be asked to describe your strategy. According to Lee it’s important to tell the judges what you’re doing, rather than just what you’re hoping to do. “A strategy involves more than just hope,” said Lee. “It involves plans and actions.” 

He added, “Winners in the past have been those that are able to really identify a strategy that stands out from other firms or that looks as if it has a good chance of success because of what the firm’s doing.” 

3. Back client care excellence with evidence

A key pillar of Accounting Excellence is client care. It’s one thing saying how your firm is demonstrating excellence in client care, but it packs more of a punch if you’re able to back this up with evidence that what you’re doing actually works. 

“I’ve seen firms say: ‘We put a lot of posts on our blog, we send out newsletters, we put up posts on social media.’ Yes, you’re doing stuff but do you have any evidence it’s actually working on clients?” 

Do you actually measure your client care success? This can be anything from tracking your referrals to client surveys and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). 

4. A percentage of what?!

Whether it’s staff numbers, clients or revenue, a major metric firms use to measure success is growth. 

But the judges have to weigh up whether that growth is really worthy of an award. As Lee advises, “Don’t just give us percentage increases, give us absolute numbers. So we know if those percentages are really meaningful.” 

He said that new firms would often say in their entry that they’ve had a 50% increase in fees, but they’ve neglected to say what their fees were or what they are. So they could have gone from £20,000 to £30,000 or from £50,000 to £75,000. There’s a big difference between the two. 

“So if you’re going to talk about percentage increases when you reference your growth or your development, for goodness’ sake give the judges the absolute numbers as well.” 

5. The steps you’re going to take

The final question in many of the categories is for entrants to describe the biggest challenge they’re facing. You get some firms that talk about generic challenges and then you have those that have clearly thought about the challenges and what separates these firms is that they’ve explained the steps they’re taking to overcome the challenge. 

“If you just tell us about the challenges you’re gonna face, and they’re the same as everybody else, and you’re not going to be doing anything different to try to overcome them, you’re unlikely to be a winner,” said Lee.

6. Are you innovative enough?

Those that lift a trophy are those that stand out from the crowd, whether that’s through client service, growth or innovation. With the launch of the brand new Digital Transformation Award, there will be even more scrutiny this year on innovation and the use of technology in the profession. 

This means firms have to really take efforts to explain how they’re innovative beyond saying that they’re a ‘cloud firm’. Encouraging entrants to really pay attention to the criteria, Lee said: “If we go back a few years, there were a number of times firms told us about how they were innovating, when actually all they were doing was catching up with the innovators. If you’re playing catch up, you won’t win.”

Saying that you’ve moved into the cloud five years after everyone else isn’t going to cut it, said Lee. “There are some real innovators out there…  So make it easy for the judges to go: ‘Yes, you deserve to be shortlisted because you are different or better than the others or faster than the others’.”

Entrants have until mid-April to enter the Accounting Excellence Awards 2023. There are over 20 categories to choose from, including the competitive firm awards and the brand-new categories recognising excellence in audit, marketing, DEI and ESG. 

Replies (6)

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By Tax is always taxing
20th Feb 2023 15:14

What makes a good Accounting Excellence award entry?

Pre booking 5 tables usually helps

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Replying to Tax is always taxing:
Joanne Birtwistle
By Joanne Birtwistle
22nd Feb 2023 16:18

Absolutely not, thank you. The awards judges are entirely independent - we are not involved in the judges' conversations around shortlisted and winning companies. We have around 30 judges, with each aligned to their areas of expertise. A few categories have an AWEB journalist on the panel - but not many - and each judge uses a scoring system for all entries in their category before they come together to discuss the merits of their top-ranking entries and agreeing the shortlist and winner.

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Replying to Tax is always taxing:
Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
27th Feb 2023 18:24

Duplicated reply removed

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Replying to Tax is always taxing:
Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
27th Feb 2023 18:25

Tax is always taxing wrote:

Pre booking 5 tables usually helps

Sadly cynical and UNTRUE. I have been a judge many times and have never seen any correlation between winners and those who have booked full tables, let alone multiple tables.

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By JustAnotherUser
20th Feb 2023 15:56

Most money spent on sponsorship and tables bought award. Who spammed their customers to vote the most, award..... Not poking fun at just this awards event but they are all the same IMO, lots of pay to play going on.

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Replying to JustAnotherUser:
Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
27th Feb 2023 18:29

JustAnotherUser wrote:

IMO, lots of pay to play going on.


Maybe that happens with some awards - but never with any of those I have judged over the years. The winners and shortlisted firms and individuals have not paid to play beyond submitting worthy entries.
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