Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole

Transparency and transformation in awards with Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards international & Founder of UK & International Customer Experience Awards, Employee Experience Awards, Digital Experience Awards, & more!

September 03, 2020 Donna O'Toole
Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole
Transparency and transformation in awards with Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards international & Founder of UK & International Customer Experience Awards, Employee Experience Awards, Digital Experience Awards, & more!
Chapters
Winning Awards with Donna O'Toole
Transparency and transformation in awards with Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards international & Founder of UK & International Customer Experience Awards, Employee Experience Awards, Digital Experience Awards, & more!
Sep 03, 2020
Donna O'Toole

Donna O'Toole catches up with Awards International CEO Neil Skehel to talk about his journey into awards, from award-winning McDonald's Restaurant Manager to organising some of the most popular awards in the UK and Internationally, the challenges of moving to digital award ceremonies in 2020 and his message to aspiring businesses.

Awards International launched in 2008 and they successfully organise 11 Awards Programmes in the UK, UAE, Netherlands and Germany, giving much-deserved recognition to outstanding business initiatives. They believe winning awards creates real possibilities for personal and professional growth.

Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.




Show Notes Transcript

Donna O'Toole catches up with Awards International CEO Neil Skehel to talk about his journey into awards, from award-winning McDonald's Restaurant Manager to organising some of the most popular awards in the UK and Internationally, the challenges of moving to digital award ceremonies in 2020 and his message to aspiring businesses.

Awards International launched in 2008 and they successfully organise 11 Awards Programmes in the UK, UAE, Netherlands and Germany, giving much-deserved recognition to outstanding business initiatives. They believe winning awards creates real possibilities for personal and professional growth.

Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.




Donna O'Toole  00:09

Hi, I'm Donna O'Toole and you're listening to my exclusive winning awards podcast. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. I've seen firsthand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharge brands and raise profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community. In this podcast, I'll be sharing valuable awards insights, tips and inspirational stories to make sure that you get the recognition that you deserve, so that you can go on and achieve your dreams. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start winning. Good morning and welcome. This morning. We are joined by Neil Skehel, who is the CEO of Awards International, an absolutely fantastic awards organisation and running some of the most popular awards in the UK and international, I have to say. So thank you for joining us now. How are you?

 

Neil Skehel  01:11

I'm very well thank you for having me, Donna, this is good fun. I'm looking forward to this.

 

Donna O'Toole  01:16

Excellent. Well, we've talked before, and as I was saying, I think it's a really good opportunity to start getting to know some of the people behind all the fabulous awards that we love to enter and our clients love to enter and all those businesses out there are longing to get recognition from. So what would be really great today, is if we can talk a little bit about your journey into awards, and where they are now where they're going to go and tell us a bit more so we can really get to know the awards programmes that we want to enter. So when did you first get into awards?

 

Neil Skehel  01:48

It's a lovely question, actually. And you know, when you ask that question, one of the first things that comes to my mind is that we're all in the business, in the awards business. Do you know that? And I was thinking, you know, when I got my first award, I think it was for swimming five metres when I was about five years old, generally and awards plays such an important part in people's lives. I mean, I remember in the 90s, I got an award for a store of the year when I first took over as restaurant manager for McDonald's. The year after I got an award for restaurant of the year, the year after at the National Conference, you know, in the year after that, I got an award for highest profit in the company. Then when I was promoted, I got an award for Best supervisor of the year, and so on. So awards paid a really important part in my career, and in learning what it meant to have a winning mindset because I think winners want to win everything and I certainly wanted to win everything in sight. And that really helped me with my career. But to answer your question properly, I suppose that it was 2006 and I won an award at the British Computer Society. I worked on a very, really good fun IT project with the IT department at McDonald's. And they, they involve me and I actually was interviewed by a panel in this way. But at the 2006 British Computer Societies IT Innovation Awards, I met my co founder, chairman of our company, the lovely Don Hales, we sat on the same table. And we found out we live very close to each other. And we over the, you know, next year or so, we played golf a few times, and eventually I became a judge for Don at the National Customer Service Awards, and the UK Business Awards, which I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed it. And it worked for me because my last role in McDonald's was always it was all about performance measurement, was also about customer insight, and was also about new product development. So I knew a lot about Customer measurement, people measurement, and so on. So, seeing these awards things was like, and how they worked and everything was like getting the insight from being a judge for Don was, was really quite cool, really interesting. And I and I love judging and being a judge. So that's how I got into it and, and Don, and I got to know each other better and better. And then in 2008, we put together a pitch for an awards, which we didn't get. But we used that to make a pitch to the Chartered Institute of marketing to pitch for to tell that we told them, you know, they need to run a marketing Awards. And they bought it. And we ran that for six years. And that enabled me and Don to set up Awards International. And that's how we began and yeah,

 

Donna O'Toole  04:46

Amazing. But what a story of fate as well. I mean, had do you have not been sat next to him? You know, it's amazing how everything can change, isn't it in a moment and also shows as well behind behind everything is all about building relationships, isn't it? And obviously, you know, I know Don, he's an absolute legend. And we all know he is in the Awards industry. So, you know what, what a fortuitous moment for you both that you actually ended up together like that?

 

Neil Skehel  05:17

Well, when I left McDonald's because I wanted to move on in my career, and as I told you, I was in a very sort of what we would now call a customer experience type role. We didn't really call it that at the time, but I was always in customer service. And I learned at McDonald's that it's a privilege to serve actually, and I still think that I really enjoy service. And so not long after we set up Awards International, I then set up the Customer Experience Awards, which really was the first event possibly of its kind anywhere, and it's been, you know, a huge success for us. So one of our most successful events and we now have five all over the world as you know and growing

 

Donna O'Toole  05:59

I love the Customer Experience Awards. So we're going to talk about that in a bit and a bit later because I think there's so much we can go into about those awards. And actually lots of people want to know about them as well. And one of the things that you've said to me before and I really resonate with is one of your favourite quotes is that if there's anything people want more than money, it's positive recognition. Absolutely go along with that it's something so valuable and the credibility that comes with that. So this year 2020, the awards have all been going really well, the last few years have been growing, you've definitely been adding new awards as well to your programmes and expanding internationally, which has been really, really exciting. Obviously 2020 came along and shocked the life out of absolutely, everybody. So, tell us a little bit about your journey so far in 2020, what's been happening this year and how you've overcome any challenges and then what we can look forward to.

 

Neil Skehel  06:58

Okay, cool. Well, you're not wrong. You know, I went to an event in Berlin on the 5th of March 4th or 5th of March, and there was no one there. And the Germans already, it was supposed to be 20,000 people over three days. And the only people that were there were a few full on exhibitors. And I booked the hotel and the flights, everything. So I stayed the whole time, but it was, there was no, there's very few people there. And, you know, shortly after that, everything just fell off a cliff. And, you know, we can see what's happened. And however, so the impact on us has been what was initially terrifying. I have to be perfectly honest, terrifying. I thought we were done for I thought,"What on earth is going to happen?" And I spoke to a few people who I do use as mentors to sort of cheer me up from time to time. They were like, No, no, no, no, you got to do this. You got to make this work. You've got to see a way through this, you can do this. And actually, I attended a CX Midds event, which was hosted by a guy called Naeem Arif, and he held a conference online, and I helped him to make a decision to go online because he was, it was I think it was something like 17th 18th of March or something like that around the middle of March, but he did it online and I thought, there you go, we can do that we could. That's how we can take it even further. And then so we that was it. That's all I needed. The moment. That was it. We were going to do our first event. On the 29th of May, we had it scheduled on the 29th of May. You can imagine we had May, June, July, we had five events scheduled to do live in hotels in various parts of the world. And we just got away with the complaint handling awards that was on the eighth of March. That was on the eighth of March. We got away with it. We had one company pull out. But that was probably the last event you could do. And so I saw this event that Naeem did I thought right that's it. We've been talking about doing a live online event or online awards for a couple of years, now we're going to do it. And with major urgency we got on with it. And on the 29th of May we held the first ever online awards Southeast Europe Customer Experience Awards, live online from start to finish all of the judging panels, the judging panels that were 15 different categories live. We had cx trend talks running in the background, so people who weren't watching the open sessions could come and listen to cx speakers. And we had a a panel discussion, and then we had a live awards ceremony. And we had Kaliopi who was the Eurovision Song Contest entrant for Serbia. In the 90s. Actually she did a live song during the award ceremony from her front room. And it was amazing. So

 

Donna O'Toole  09:56

It was amazing. I was I would say I should say that for anyone who doesn't know how these awards would usually work is that and I've been judging for awards international for many years in all the different awards programmes. And I should say that typically, how the day runs is that we would be judging face to face presentations in multiple rooms very well coordinated, you know, with with multiple presentation teams coming from all these different businesses to come and face us judges, and present their story. And then we you know, we we you already had in place a very robust scoring system for us judges to use, and then we would do that and then after that, we would all enjoy lovely reception and gala dinner and ceremony, however, and I was very fortunate to be part of the process and the judging process for the Southeast Europe Customer Experience Awards you had to then move that entire experience online. And not only move it online from a functional perspective, where we, you know, could still maintain the same robust levels of judging and scoring and interaction, but actually made that experience so positive for all of the entrants and everyone attending on that day, such that they wouldn't feel that this was in any way, taking away from the awards experience they they had expected right from the outset. And I have to say you absolutely smashed it. I thought it was it was incredible. 

 

Neil Skehel  11:26

Well, that's very kind of you to say that. And of course, we've held a few more since then we've done the UK Business Awards, and the Digital Experience Awards, and we have the Employee Experience Awards on the 10th of September, we have the Customer Experience Awards, which which is going to be one hell of a challenge, but it's going to be amazing. On the 15th of October then the 19th of November, we have the International Customer Experience Awards, which is in theory in Amsterdam. So those are all going to be online, but it's interesting you talk about the software Donna, we created software which will enable judges to score at our live events, on their computers, they'd actually be able to do it. Because what we have is, as you know, we have runners, going from the judging panels taking the scoresheet to a central room at the fully, you know, physical events and and then somebody puts in hundreds of thousands of scores into the computer on the day and then we're able to produce the results for the ceremony. But for the first time ever, we were able to use the online scoring thing where the judge could sit there and put the scores in from at home. And then the software uploads the scores no big deal. And so we can produce we can we have the results instantly.

 

Donna O'Toole  12:40

That was fantastic. I have to say, obviously I judge at loads of different awards programmes and your software is incredible. And I think what stood out for me as well actually during that process, but this always stands out about your awards is the team as well because on the day, you've got such a vibrant, diverse team. But they are all absolutely fully focused. They knew exactly what they were doing. But really to have taken that whole team, that whole process from offline to online, never been able to do it before. And there's no, because of COVID there's no case studies. There's no like, oh, how did they do it? There's a blueprint for this. Let's just follow that. You literally took it all online yourself. First time ever took your team with you, and, and it was so successful. And so what what would you say about the team behind it? Do you feel like you were able to save time? Do you think there was different things that you had to do? How did it kind of work for you?

 

Neil Skehel  13:41

Well, I mean, we spent a lot of time and effort working together training, you know, we we created a plan as to how it was going to work. And then we train for it. We had about 20 people helping on the day, you know, so that's a that's quite labour intensive. And so we have every single room had a facilitator, one of our staff and the chair, you know, sounds simple. But we trained every we trained, we trained hard until every stone, every T was crossed and every I was dotted So, but thank you for your kind comments kind words.

 

Donna O'Toole  14:17

Okay, I think it's just really important that people understand how this all works. Because the thing with awards processes is traditionally this a bit shrouded in mystery, I think and that's what I spend a lot of time my time trying to do is actually take away the mystery. Yeah, demonstrate that there isn't a mysterious process behind it. It's actually a very logical, methodical process.

 

Neil Skehel  14:40

yeah, I mean, I spend quite a lot of time trying to work out what other people do. Because, and I sometimes I mean, forgive me on it, but I just can't work out how they work. But one of the things that I like to believe is that our awards are really transparent. Now I, I don't know if, if that's the perception, I mean. But I can tell you now, our awards are done based on scores, scores by judges. On average, every entry is scored 10 times for seven and a half hours by on average about five judges. So that's how much time they put into it. And I have every single score. And I can see every single score, and we share every single score, when it comes to we share their scores with the finalists and the judges comments. So for me, transparency has always been a really important part of what we do. But you need a lot of judges as well to do that. So I think that in terms of our own software, our software is completely unique. And, but we're also unique in and in having large panels of independent judges, and I shouldn't knock anyone here but when I look at judging panels, I asked myself how can they give the time the each entry deserves when there's only 20 of them. And there might be two or 300 entries.

 

Donna O'Toole  16:08

I have to say yeah, from a judge's perspective. So obviously, again, I judged and lots and lots of different awards programmes and and the amount of time it takes to judge each entry is a huge amount of time. And I think there's two challenges with that one challenge is that people who are entering perhaps don't realise that judges are doing this voluntarily on top of their own responsibilities and commitments, etc. And that's great. And you know, you learn a lot as a judge, but you do need to be able to commit the time to it. So as you say, you can't judge hundreds of entries because it would take you weeks and weeks to do that. So the reality check is that I was going to say that one of I suppose, a lot of what comes up for awards is challenges and cynicism. And that particularly comes to me as we're an independent agency. So we're completely neutral. And have no reason to not be completely honest about how awards processes work, and how they work for lots of different organisations. I suppose the one the favourite question that I always get, and is, well, if we don't book a table or if we haven't got lots of we haven't booked lots of places does that mean we won't win, that comes up for me constantly, and I suppose I always say to people is I'm judging, I have no idea who's booked a table and who hasn't booked a table. It makes absolutely no difference to me whatsoever. Whether you've got one person at the award, or 20 people at the awards, it's your entry that I'm judging, and the story that you've given is what's happening.

 

Neil Skehel  17:42

I don't know if you mind me mentioning the gold trust the awards trustmark. Yeah, but I we were the first recipients of the gold standard for the trust mark. And one of the standards in that is that the table booking should not Via consideration when the judging and the finalists and shortlisting takes place. So we've ensured that our processes do and gave us an opportunity to distance, ensure that there was no connection between the two. So our shortlisting is moderated independently. And our judging is conducted by independent judges. So yeah, but the exciting thing is that we've had winners of all of our awards, who are big companies, and we've had winners of all of our awards, even our biggest awards, who were like, very small companies. So I remember. I can't remember the name of the company now, but they were two men in the shed is what they called themselves. And they won the digital experience. It was called Google, not Google, something like that. But anyway, yeah, but small companies and big companies alike, have won at all of our awards. That's not to say that there aren't differences between the needs of small companies and what corporations want from it. You know, corporations often want to recognise larger teams of people. So you know, and SMEs, they just want a badge to help them with their marketing, but they want a badge that is credible. So that's an interesting route. Interesting fact. And I think that doing the awards online, you asked about the impact, it doesn't cost as much. there's not as much of a capital outlay. We don't have to put £40,000 deposit on a hotel. Okay, so and so the price prices are cheaper, the prices are less, the prices are more focused on actually what is the value of winning. And we've been on an interesting journey around that. So but doing them online actually made me realise that we can do we could actually do some more awards online which are more tailored to different needs. So that's something that we're going to be exploring over the next year or so maybe I think that online awards will be a permanent feature in our portfolio. There's a place for online awards. And there's a place for fully live awards.

 

Donna O'Toole  20:12

I completely agree with you. Yeah.

 

Neil Skehel  20:14

And we'll be going back to doing fully live awards as soon as we can. But we can also do a lot of live online awards, you know, as well, and we will continue with that. So that's if you like being a learn from this period, which I think was part of your original question, and that there is demand for it. And I think there will continue to be demand for it from customers SMEs in the digital space, perhaps around content, those kinds of things. But there's something even more exciting than that, which means that we can also potentially enter new markets without some of the risks that we've had. I mean, we have a business in Dubai. I've set up a company in Dubai. I think 2014 and, you know, it's really hit us hard. You know, we have done zero revenue since beginning of May, beginning of June. But part of it was that our regional manager got locked out. He left, he left Dubai for holiday, and then he couldn't go back. So he only got back on the 31st of July. So but it's been there's a lot of risks associated with expanding into new markets, but the Customer Experience Awards is in demand in new markets. People are asking me, when are you coming to our country with the Customer Experience Awards? So maybe this offers us a way to begin offering the customer experience awards in new markets, new timezones, new languages, which we didn't have before. So, yeah, it's a silver lining,

 

Donna O'Toole  21:49

I can completely agree with you actually. And and so just reflecting on what you were saying a moment ago about the value of awards. This is something else that's come up during this whole lockdown period and 2020 for us, is people always ask, you know, what our awards worth? Yeah. And of course, it's worth something different to every single company, you know, and they have different motivations, different needs. I was reading some research yesterday, actually. And we've done some market research recently about the value of awards, and what the impact that is on businesses, and we're going to be releasing that later on. But it was really interesting because the research that I was reading was saying that in their findings was that companies that won awards were generally higher, had higher share value, higher overall business value and higher overall performance for five years following each award, they won, which is tremendous, you know, it shows the impact it has on morale and driving the team forward on marketing on, on, you know, all kinds of different aspects. But another thing that I've really noticed over the last few years in awards is different trends that come and go. And like you, you said a little while back, you know, customer experience awards was something a few years ago, no one had ever heard of customer experience. We talked about customer service. And that was about it. But now everybody wants to demonstrate that they've got and they're giving the best customer experience because it just makes sense. It's exactly does what it says on the tin, doesn't it? So I'm not surprised at all that your customer experience awards are so so popular. And and they've become such a kind of flagship award for you. And I, you know, I know everyone I talked to wants to get involved with them completely. So talk us through the customer experience awards then so where they are now and and what we can expect from the UK customer experience awards this year. Because we know we know we'd like to have a big old party at the customer experience awards don't we.

 

Neil Skehel  23:56

Yes. So just imagine what you Get up to live online. So that's our that's that's our that's our thinking for the customer experience awards. So, at the moment we're doing, we're having some conversations with customers about what we're going to do, because it's going to be all day. And in the evening, we're going to have the award ceremony. So I've been trying to get hold of Craig Charles, but he won't answer me. So I was thinking of having a DJ set, I think having a DJ set after the awards and having zoom parties. And so and we found out we can get, we're looking at, as I said, we're talking through these ideas with customers, so we'll land on something. So we we're going to have a Mad Hatter's Tea Party and we're going to give prizes out for people with the best hats. Okay, but we need to talk to people to find out how they want to party. Do they want to go back to the office? Are they going to party from home with their families, and then we're going to offer people the ability to buy refreshments, order a hamper, that sort of thing before the awards, and then arranged to have that follow on party after the event award ceremony, but we're going to have the award ceremony, from seven o'clock to nine o'clock in the evening, we're going to have the award ceremony, Ian Goulding is going to host it. He's absolutely amazing at hosting these awards, because he knows everybody. And he'll be able to reference everybody. He knows the companies. He knows the judges. So he's the perfect cx awards host. But at the moment, we're looking at how we can make sure we have that party element.

 

Donna O'Toole  25:31

Is this the opportunity to ask the audience then?

 

Neil Skehel  25:33

yes, yes. Oh, yes.

 

Donna O'Toole  25:40

Well, I'll be there.

 

Neil Skehel  25:42

We've got two weeks. We've got two weeks when we got to we got to make the announcement in two weeks. So we've been doing all this investigating. Yeah. 

 

Donna O'Toole  25:49

is going to be super exciting. And I think and you know, to be fair, it's going to give people the opportunity to be there to share it with other people amongst them as well, their families and their friends. And people who are around them, but tell us a bit more about the actual, the actual customer experience awards as a whole. So what kind of entrants do you normally have? Who, can you think of any great winners that you've had, any examples?

 

Neil Skehel  26:16

It's a long answer that one, I mean, because the Customer Experience Awards was was founded in 2010. So it's actually the biggest awards. It's the biggest customer experience celebration in the world. And it's, we have normally have about 275 companies represented on the day. We have up to 200 presentations of the finalists throughout the day at the awards. For those people who never entered them. I mean, the entry process is that you write an entry online, and that's 50% of the score. And the other 50% is from the presentations at the life finals, there'll be judging panels or 5 or 6 or 7 judges for each presentation, and there'll be up to eight presentations each day in the finalists in each category. So the judges will be entering the scores online live during the day. And then those scores instantly add up, tell us who the winners are. And we announce the winners in a live award ceremony in the evening. All of the people who attend will have passed and will be able to be invited to the zoom environment. Our zoom environment is behind our own website. So there's layers of security there. And from a security perspective, nobody who we don't know who they are will be allowed in. So you have to have your name on the screen, because I think, you know, zoom bombing is a concern and the last thing anybody wants, is that a compromise. And so in terms of who's won well, who hasn't won, you know, in terms of the great and the good, everybody from Samsung, Sony, Sky, Blue Sky, Capita, BT have all been winners, but we've also had people like The Holly Private Hospital, you know, so pharma companies and hospitals have entered Care Planner. They're a local care company. The thing about customer experience is that it's not sector specific. And our awards are not sector specific. We're very much focused on a cross sector thing. I remember once the CEO of Affinity Water once said, she doesn't just want to be the best Water Company. She wants them to be the best customer experience, you know, so that's very much the mantra we take. And we all know these days companies are learning banking's learning from you know, retail and food services, learning from banking, everyone's borrowing ideas and technology can enable that as well. In terms of Solus Accident Repair was a big winner last year, you know, so and small Companies as well, many small companies,

 

Donna O'Toole  29:01

I agree with you from from judging the awards, we see so many different types of companies and partnerships as well. Coming into the awards is really nice as well actually where you've got suppliers, and then bigger names, working together on projects and actually then bringing that into the award. I think that's always a really nice thing. And the teams and obviously the leaders, I mean, I've been I've been awards where they're present, you know, the, the teams have come along and presented and I've been close to tears with what they've been telling me they've been doing. It's fantastic. So what about this year then? So have you made any changes to any of the categories or additions or anything based on on the 2020 situation?

 

Neil Skehel  29:41

Yeah, well in May for the Southeast European Awards, and in and at the UK Business Awards In July, we asked people to nominate their above and beyond heroes, so all the finalists could nominate their above and beyond heroes and we recognise them of course. Call them out in the ceremony, and we send them a letter, they give us a reason they gave us a reason why they want. And so we wrote that up into a letter. And we sent it to them with a medal, recognising them on the behalf of their companies. And we had enough time for the customer experience awards, and for the international customer experience awards to add two or three categories, which were about recognising things people did from a customer experience perspective, during this time. So we've got that built in and we just launched relaunched the Complaint Handling Awards. The complaint handling awards will be about the sixth of March in 2021. That's going to be live online from start to finish. But you know, the world has changed. There is no going back. Yeah, you know we will have the good the conversation will all be about now what are we doing? So you have to change you have to change the categories. And, you know, contact centres or people who deal with complaints in companies are going to be have been so important to their, their companies during this time. You know, if it's not a complaint, it will be supporting somebody who's got a difficulty. So it's not necessarily always about complaining. But so you have to recognise them. So we've got, you know, best COVID team, best complaint handling team during Coronavirus and so on. You know, and, and we also be doing a mini conference alongside the customer experience awards. The International Customer Experience Awards the Employee Experience Awards in September, we have a conference running in the background, because our customers asked us to get some specialists in to talk about subjects. And of course, you know, we're focusing in those conferences, on those on the focusing on you know, what's important now, you know, how is what's going on that's affecting us and so of course, this is all part of it. You know, who has been affected who hasn't been affected? What can people learn from each other? So the future of work is the title of the conference. The Employee Experience Awards on September the 10th. Cx trend talks is what we've got at the Customer Experience Awards and the International Customer Experience Awards, the Gulf Customer Experience Awards in February, we'll have something like that as well. Although we might move it to two days. And, but in terms of cx trend talks we've got IPSOS, Kantar and CXPA, presenting about what's going on in CX, case studies in what's happening now. It's also going to present some research they've just done with us. We've done a big research project with Ipsos into, you know, businesses affected by coronavirus, how they're affected, they're going to present that research. Kantar does all of our research from our awards, follow up with our customers, so they're doing a presentation about what they've also done in that case. So fantastic.

 

Donna O'Toole  33:00

So you've got a lot of value going on there. Yeah, a lot. Okay. So thank you, Neil. This has been really, really helpful. And I think just really helping people to understand how the how the awards are working, you know, that awards are absolutely trooping on through this year. And have actually got some really exciting changes happening. And some things will change again next year, some things will stay the same. Some things we've learned, and we've adapted, haven't we, and we've moved forward. So what would be your sort of final message to a company thinking of entering awards this year?

 

Neil Skehel  33:33

Make no mistake, No, doubt about it, do it. I mean, awards have got a really important part to play in the recovery. You know, awards can make a huge difference to business performance. One of the examples I sometimes give is that if I see a bottle of wine on a shelf in an off licence, and it's got a even a bronze award, I buy that rather than the other one, you know, And so, you know, consumer behaviour is influenced by awards. And I know that SMEs, they love getting awards that they see as a really important part of building their business. And there couldn't be a better time now for SMEs to enter awards, they're a bit more accessible. Because they're online, you don't have to necessarily go and book a hotel the night before to go and save that stay in hotel. So now there couldn't be a better time, they're probably a little bit less expensive, because the organisers don't have to pay for the venue, you'd have to pay for the meal. So there couldn't be a better time as you look to regenerate your business as an SME or even if you're new new company, and there's been a record number of new companies registered with Companies House lately. I don't know if you know that. But there couldn't be a better time for SMEs and there couldn't be a better time for corporations, your teams, the people you know, there will have been huge change in your business, whether it be because people working from home remotely, trust is under threat. You know, it's been difficult times, maybe you're having to reassemble a team, bring people back together, you know, and not just physically but metaphorically, because the challenges that the coronavirus has brought us entering your team for an award can be just so powerful in terms of their own performance, in terms of reward, in terms of fun in terms of development, and all of those things are really important now as important now as ever, so, again, you know, corporations or SMEs might might like also to take advantage of international awards. So for example, the International Business Excellence Awards normally takes place in Dubai. In fact, it is taking place in Dubai this November, but it will be online. So you, if you're in South Shields, Cleethorpes, you know, in Paisley in Glasgow, you could enter International Business Excellence Awards this year, you could participate in the finals with people from all over the world, from the Middle East, from Africa, from Europe. And you never know. You might just win.

 

Donna O'Toole  36:24

Oh, fantastic. I completely agree with you. No, I think what we've been saying as well absolutely is that awards are here to strengthen your brand as you come out of lockdown and as you move into whatever your new normal is and celebrate your brand and actually keep keep going and changing and adapting and adopting and, and everything. I think this year there's more awards opportunities available to companies than there has ever been. It's just about understanding how they work like you say about the international awards, understanding where the opportunities are understanding how they work and then understanding how to utilise them and actually use them to grow your profile, and and promote your team and recruit and do all of the great things that you need to do. Just to end on saying this one thing somebody said to me this week. So one of our clients we've been working with who's got some great results coming through and awards. And you know, he actually phoned up and said to me, I wish everyone else could feel how I feel right now. Because he said, This isn't just having an impact on my business. This is actually changing everything for me, my personal life, he said, I feel so much better than I felt six months ago going into this horrible, you know, situation that we've all had to deal with. He said, I actually now feel like I can do it. I can get through this and I can get out the other side. And it was it was so wonderful to hear. Because it was you know, it's not people I think sometimes think awards are just some shiny badge to have on your website. They're not they're there to say you're doing a great job, keep going, keep working hard, and you're absolutely worth it and you're going to get there. And so that was, you know, that was a really nice moment for me this week, and I'm sure you're gonna have, you're gonna have so many of these moments with all the awards you've got coming up, you know, some great results.

 

Neil Skehel  38:11

I used to say that you could tell someone who's won an award in the office, because they walk around smiling. Yeah. And you're like, well, do they look so cheerful? I was hoping you could get t shirts made with I've just won an award. 

 

Donna O'Toole  38:26

Absolutely no, it does. It shines, it shines from you. But thank you very much. Now it's been great talking to you really looking forward to your awards coming up this year and being part of the journey again for so many people and all the exciting changes and and more awards for next year as well. So thank you very much, really appreciate all your honesty, as well about how you've got through this year.

 

Neil Skehel  38:48

My pleasure. My pleasure. As always.

Donna O'Toole  38:51

Thank you.  Thank you for listening to this episode of my winning awards podcast if you enjoyed it or found it helpful. Please share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you have any questions please head over to crafted by Auguste comm where you can find out more about winning awards and contact me. On the website. You can also take our free awards test, which will identify your award strength and tell you how likely you are to win. I really hope you've been able to take away some ideas today so that you can go ahead and win awards have an even bigger impact on the world and achieve your dreams.