It’s that time of year again when the tension mounts in North Oxfordshire. That’s nothing to do with the tourist season, global warming or the price of fish. It’s the build-up to the annual Cherwell Business Awards. For the second time in the past three years, Nina & Co is delighted to be a finalist.
This year, the award categories are different and that’s something we applaud. For the first time, the award organisers have recognised that the region’s ‘micro businesses’ deserve to have their own category.
There are more than 5 million businesses in the UK and over 95% of those are classed as micro businesses – all 4.75 million of them. Trying to compare a micro enterprise to a ‘small’ business is like comparing the proverbial apples and pears.
What is a micro business?
Our friends in the European Parliament have come up with this rather broad assessment of a micro business. The EU states a micro business has less than 10 employees and a turnover of no more than £1.7 million. That, in my opinion is too wide a spectrum, and does little to recognise the hundreds and thousands of one or two man bands who are the backbone of the UK’s economy. But we won’t get into that because it’s another story for another day.
I’m pleased to say the Cherwell Business Awards’ micro category is more focussed and open to businesses with less than five employees. And guess what? That fits Nina & Co like a glove.
What’s a small business?
I won’t bore you with any more EU definitions, but the Cherwell Awards small business award category is open to companies with up to 25 employees. In the past, micro businesses have had no alternative but to enter the small business category and frankly, have been out of their depth.
In 2014, we were finalists in the new business category. That was open to businesses of all sizes providing they hadn’t been trading more than two years. In 2015, we were shortlisted in the small business category but sadly didn’t make the final three. Getting shortlisted and to the finals was a tremendous achievement when we were competing with so many larger and longer established businesses.
Why does it matter?
For a company to win an award, or to be a finalist or semi-finalist adds prestige. Everyone likes success. We like to work with successful companies and successful people. So awards are potent marketing tools. Finalists benefit from increased exposure, awareness and publicity.
Entering an award takes time and that’s a resource many micro business owners don’t have. They often work excessively long hours – in and on their businesses. According to the Social Market Foundation (SMF) research, 1.7 million of them earn less than the minimum wage for the hours they put in.
For a micro marketing consultancy like Nina & Co., self-promotion is always at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Our priority is making sure our clients are the ones making the shakes and getting noticed; not ourselves.
You see, to enter an award, you first have to write your application. It involves answering many complex questions. That’s several hours’ work… or more. The application is normally supported with a business plan. Getting that ready for submission takes more time. You have to prepare and take time out to be interviewed by the judges, and you have to attend the events.
Another reason why many micro business owners haven’t bothered entering awards in the past is because they feel they can’t compete. There’s no point in wasting their valuable time. How can you compare a self-employed sole trader, perhaps someone working from home, with a prestigious law practice or a cutting-edge technology company in their equally cutting-edge offices? You can’t.
That’s why having a micro business category is so important. It’s levelled the playing field and is recognition of the vital role these smallest of businesses are playing in the UK’s economic development.
Here at Nina & Co. we’re looking forward to Micro Business Awards being adopted widely across the UK. And in the meantime, we’ll be putting on our posh togs for the Awards Dinner on 20th May. But more than anything, we’re looking forward to another fabulous night that celebrates our local businesses and communities.
In the micro business category, we’ll be up against Oxford IT Solutions and Burgess Reclamation. We wish them the very best of luck… just not quite as much as we’re wishing ourselves! May the best (wo)man win!