Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Winning the WOBA Small Business Award – Expectations, Experiences, Excitement!

As CQR went through the process of attending the WOBA events, completing the application, being judged, attending the celebration event for the finalist announcements it built excitement, doubt and questions of your business as it leads towards the finale – the Awards dinner.  All these were answered when all our staff attended, and we were fortunate to celebrate as we were announced as winners of the Strategic Mentors Small Business Award.  Our congratulation goes to the other finalists and applicants in this category.  They are all wonderfully successful and well-managed businesses.

We are getting ready for the ride of our life as I look to the benefits CQR hopes to experience to drive our continued success through the WOBA program.

We started CQR in the UK based on a shared vision to expand our information security business globally leveraging our existing client relationships.  In essence, we believed that a company who specialised solely in the delivery of information security services could find a niche in the UK and global markets and be successful.  The opportunity was there, the gauntlet thrown down and the challenge accepted.  For the last 3 years, we have lived, and continue to live, that vision.   Now we see our customer base sharing our vision of our independent security services, working as our partners to everyone’s mutual benefit.
Building a successful business from one person is never easy, let alone in a different country which requires sacrifice.  It tends to be our families that pay that price with me based in the UK and my wife and daughter in Australia it is their continuous support, wisdom and loyalty that has contributed to our award.  From a business view we have faced a number of obstacles, establishing our brand, managing our growth, getting the right people, setting up a structure to support them and working globally.  Our biggest challenge was, and continues to be, finding specialists in our field.  We are a professional services company, our people, their skills, characters and commitment are our lifeblood and vital to the success of our business.
I see the benefits of participating in the WOBAs to be many for our business in 2014.  
I recall at the WOBA celebration event it was emphasised at the finalist photo shoot to “shamelessly promote yourself”….  so lesson number one and benefit of being part of the WOBAs is when we have the opportunity we will not to be afraid to promote ourselves. 
The media exposure for us a company will increase and be critical to improve our brand recognition.  It will give us media exposure through papers and websites.  This is publicity at its best and the upside is that doesn’t cost the business any money. 
We aim to further extend the media exposure by utilising the WOBA logos on all our website, sales and marketing collateral.  This reinforces the success of our business with our clients.  We will market our win by sending all our existing and potential clients a news release of our win acknowledging their contribution in supporting us and that they are part of CQR being the small business of the year. 
In the information security marketplace the client relationship and trust is everything.  We deal with risk and many secrets of our clients.  Winning the business award will enable us to further establish or in some cases obtain a key criteria in our industry - credibility.  This helps us as a smaller business compete against our competitors and demonstrates our capability as viewed by industry experts on our business model.  Winning should be able to open doors to immediate business that we have been courting for some time.  Not only is it good for winning new business it can be used by many clients to push up to executive management as a mechanism to support their choice of CQR as a service provider in a changing business environment. 
From a staff and recruitment perspective the benefits will be and have been already great for our business.  We involved our staff through the process as we progressed through the stages.  Where we could we sought their input in our plans so we all had the same vision and understanding where our business was heading.  Staff morale becomes high as they are associated with a business that is interested in their input and ultimately want to be associated with a successful business.  We found that winning the award builds a stronger relationship with our staff and they were just as proud of the achievement and continue to do us proud in working for us.

From a recruitment angle it reinforces with potential candidates that we are successful.  The candidates when they have a choice wish to be part of a successful company that provides a career rather than a job.  The WOBA awards provide this and we have found in a niche services market that this is an important differentiator when recruiting.
The process provides a mechanism for us as a management team to draw breath and take a “reality check”.  Too often we are so involved within our businesses that we fail in getting a holistic view of our progress.  The problem with this is we fail to recognise longer term, or strategic, issues.  The awards process gave us the opportunity to stand back and take a more objective view of our business.  It will also keep us focussed on continuing with these efforts to ensure we adjust when needed.

The process forced us to take a closer look at what we are doing.  This was across all parts of our business, including how we value and reward our people, how effective our systems and processes are, did we really understand what we wanted to achieve with some of the parts of the business.  We had the chance to assess ourselves against what our vision of each of these areas was and also to assess whether we were effective in getting to where we wanted to be.
The awards process allowed us to go back into our business and try to understand where we were failing to hit objectives.  Talking to our staff and clients about specific processes, the benefits and hindrances about how we went about delivering our services, the things we may be able to improve on and what tools might assist them in achieving our shared goals.

The downside to the process is really psychological.  When we take time to examine our business closely, we find some of the weaknesses that have either been there from the start, or have been introduced during the growth of the business.   The issue here is how we respond and measure ourselves this year.   When we realise the problems, we can respond in a negative manner and become defocused, or we can recognise that there is a price to pay for growth and that means that everything is never going to be perfect.   The opportunity must be seized and strategies identified to ensure that all within the business are working to continuously improve all aspects of how we operate and deliver our services.   Omissions and errors are opportunities for improvement.
I strongly recommend businesses to get involved in WOBA, whether you win or lose, the benefits of WOBA for your business are huge, CQR sees them as:

1. Opportunity to shamelessly promote our business
2. Association with recognised brands such as WOBA, Strategic Mentors and benefiting from their products and sponsorship
3. Credibility, status within the business world no matter what size we are!
4. Sales, it generates sales and immediately
5. Marketing and Media, utilising the free media exposure and brand logos within our business.
6. Recruitment, people want to work and belong to a successful company
7. It is a reality check by taking a holistic view of our business and by reviewing our business vision at a more detailed level.
8. It Identified where we were not hitting our business objectives and enabled us to respond
9. The process was a reinforcement from an independent panel that were doing things right

The biggest thrill of the Award is sharing the success with our staff and partners, after all everyone is working towards the same goal – our business success.

Greg Inge
Managing Director CQR UK


Monday, 17 March 2014

Business Continuity Awareness Week

Let me get this right - we have Shrove Tuesday, Mother's day and then Business Continuity Awareness week. I hope I can get the right card from I bet there is one!

Speaking as a man on a mission to sell the positive impact of effective Business Continuity I am going to do my bit. I will be doing it in the Philippines incidentally, with a Business Continuity Awareness week for an offshore provider, but no matter where you are, we in the business need more than a real incident to keep the focus where it should be. We need to channel our efforts to explain, to sell and in some cases to preach the huge benefits of a well-oiled Business Continuity Management system.

Too often a business works on the philosophy of 'it won't happen to us' or 'we don't have the budget this year'. Our message should be one of that it might happen to you and actually we can save you money with a good system in place. We can help drive efficiencies, help identify and minimise risk.

So let's use this awareness week to do just that - to get out there and using really good examples convince where we can, to anyone uncertain or unsure about just what can be achieved in managing a business. I give lectures to some very senior people about Business Continuity and often find the key is to look them straight in the eye and relate it directly to them. Not necessarily about their business, but about their life - how do they manage when something happens at home - do they make changes to avoid it happening again - do they protect and try and minimise the chance of harm to their family. Of course they do. It works as an argument and it is then easy to scale it up to a business. Keep communication paths strong, clear and direct; keep solutions simple and keep re-evaluating the risk.

Now trying to keep the agenda focused is clearly a challenge and when everything is going smoothly complacency can kick in so we must make the interaction constant, always be prepared to enthuse, and drive home the benefits. This shouldn't be Business Continuity Awareness week but rather Business Continuity Awareness Life until such time as it is instinctive in companies to measure their appetite to counter risk against a fully maintained and mature Business Continuity Management system. That may never happen but that doesn't stop us trying. We teach our children road safety, we don't stop that after one little talk, and we are always looking out for them until they can support their own children. In an obscure way it's the same for our profession; our role is to teach, to train and pass on our skills until the next generation of continuity professionals takes over. Blimey I sound like I'm about to retire - well not yet. I still have a mission and I will stoke up the fire and get out there for this week and the next and the next.

Now does anyone have a stamp for my card?

Mike Bourton