THE BLOG

All Entrepreneurs Should Aspire to be Award-winning - Here's Why

20/02/2014 13:50 GMT | Updated 22/04/2014 10:59 BST

I've always been competitive. I was a keen sportsperson and loved the feeling winning gave me - even when we played family games around the kitchen table, I hated losing.

I've taken this competitive spirit into my life as an entrepreneur - though in business I see it more as striving for success. I always want my business - neurological care provider PJ Care - and the teams involved with me to be the very best.

And even when I know we are the best, I'm still relentlessly pushing to be that little bit better. It's an important element of my business. We must all constantly improve.

But even self-assured entrepreneurs like me sometimes have a crisis of confidence. So it can be a real affirmation of your talents when a jury of your peers decides you are worthy of an award.

When I picked up the First Women of Business services award last year, it was - as you can imagine - a real honour and quite a boost to my self-esteem. It was an award I desperately wanted to win. It was important to me. And winning was a wonderful affirmation of the impact I had made during my life and, more particularly, during my healthcare career.

I was surprised, actually, how emotional I felt about winning. It was a feeling that stayed with me for a few weeks - through all the media interviews that followed, and when people made the effort to contact me to say 'well done'.

I was also surprised at the difference it made to me personally. I felt more confident. I noticed that people would immediately take me more seriously. I've always been a tough negotiator, mainly because most of the other key players in my field are men, and as a woman I've had to fight hard to hold my ground. I found that after winning the award, I was even more firmly on the front foot.

Things changed after the First Women of Business award, for me and PJ Care. People recognised that PJ Care was a bigger player than they might have previously realised. It helped enhance the company's reputation.

There are, of course, other important business benefits from being connected with winning awards.

In a couple of weeks the film world will gather to applaud those who have won Oscars. Whatever your opinion of awards and the over-the-top ceremonies they are presented at, it's hard to deny that the films, directors and actors receiving a gong will reap instant benefits in terms of kudos and publicity.

Win an award and everyone wants to know you.

It can bring you instant publicity. Depending on the scope of the award, your story will be told nationally, regionally and locally, on Twitter and Facebook, on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. This is useful for improving your SEO and your company's.

I'm not so vain as to Google myself! But I have been told that there are three pages on Google dedicated to me, with a good number of them mentioning the First Women award. They also, of course, mention my company.

I've found that the fact that I am an award-winning healthcare provider has leveraged even more publicity. In the months since I was presented with the First Women prize I have regularly been approached for comment on subjects related to my speciality, neurological care and treatment.

I've also been asked to speak about the challenges of being a woman in business.

Being an award-winning entrepreneur certainly means you gain added respect and recognition as an expert in your field.

After being named British Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008, Barbara Cox, co-founder and CEO of healthy meal delivery service Nutrichef, says she has regularly been asked to give comment or act as a spokesperson on healthy eating and entrepreneurship for many media outlets.

Mentions of you and your company's name and achievement can add up - some winners of the Queen's Award for Enterprise have reported increased turnover of up to 30% after winning.

But even before you make it to the nomination stage, there are advantages to entering for awards. Putting together an awards submission can focus you on what you and your company do really well. It isn't always easy to recognise and celebrate all the positive aspects of your business - putting together an awards entry makes you do just that. You have to shout out loud about what you are good at.

The awards ceremony itself can open up networking opportunities too. There will be hundreds of other like-minded business people and journalists attending. I have made some valuable contacts at awards ceremonies.

So yes, I'm a fan of entering awards. For that reason, PJ Care will be a main sponsor for the Great British Care Awards this year.

I also encourage people I work with to enter awards. My business relationship manager has just won an international Stevie business award. One of my passions is mentoring other women in business - and I am working with two women at the moment who I will be encouraging to enter for prestigious business awards.

I'm also delighted to have been asked to be a judge at this year's First Women Awards. That's quite an honour and responsibility - and having been on the other side of the fence, so to speak, not one I will take lightly.

I know exactly first-hand what winning can mean to an individual and their business.

* Jan Flawn is founder of PJ Care, a leading provider of specialist neurological care and neuro-rehabilitation for people with progressive or acquired neurological conditions.

* The First Women Awards are organised in association with Lloyds Banking Group. Entries are open until Friday, April 4 at http://fwa.realbusiness.co.uk/. This year's awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, June 12, and is hosted by Real Business.