Entries for the UK Xero Awards 2024 are now open for our accounting, bookkeeping and app partners.
Being an award-winning firm isn’t easy, and neither is writing an award-winning entry. So how can you put your best foot forward when crafting your award submission? In season one of Beyond Numbers – our new podcast for accountants and bookkeepers – we spoke to Pam Phillips, founder and managing director of award-winning small firm de Jong Phillips, who shared her advice on not just being an award-winning firm, but how to pull together an award-winning application.
Why enter the Xero Awards?
Since founding de Jong Phillips with her father in 2015, Pam and her team have become experts in their field by focusing their efforts on providing next level accountancy services for creative agencies.
De Jong Phillips was a finalist for Small Firm of the Year at the Xero Awards in 2021, and came back again in 2022 to win the same category. Pam also took home one of Xero’s highest accolades – Most Valuable Professional (MVP).
When asked how it felt to be recognised by the industry through these awards, Pam explains:
“It was exciting to get acknowledged and really reassuring – it gave me comfort that we were on the right path and that other people believed in us.”
This was especially important for Pam, whose practice uses Xero and a host of other apps from the Xero app store to deliver the full suite of services one would expect from an in-house finance function.
The recognition of the awards help to attract talent and win clients, but Pam also highlighted the importance of the award entry process and the opportunity it gave her and her team to really look back at what they’d achieved and improve upon it further.
“Focus on why you’re different and why you deserve to win. It helps to highlight all the things you want to be able to say, but can’t say yet – and this helps to set an agenda for the next year.”
How to write a good awards entry
Crafting a strong awards entry takes time. Pam emphasised the importance of allowing a couple of weeks, from start to finish, to invest in the awards application.
“Gather all the evidence across the team, figure out what message you want to give, and then you have to write it in a way that fits [the word limit] – definitely don’t try and do it in an afternoon!”
When it comes to writing the entry, Pam says it should be a team effort. She also believes the founder or directors should be involved, so they can convey their vision and passion in an authentic way.
“For past awards, we brainstormed as a team, and thought about what it is that we’ve done and want to shout about,” Pam explains. “Involve marketers as well – you might be doing some great stuff, so by having someone that can write your entry and present it in an engaging way is going to help make the entry not only more readable, but more memorable.”
If at first you don’t succeed, try again
Despite being the recipient of a number of awards, there have been times when de Jong Phillips have entered, but not taken home an award. However, Pam takes a glass half-full approach and sees it as a learning experience.
“I think it was the first Xero Award we entered. We couldn’t put any statistics down and I remember reading about the winner, and the winners had pointed to their NPS score – we didn’t even mention Net Promoter Scores (NPS)! This was not just good for our award entry, but good for our business – you can always learn from these things and make your business better,” says Pam.
Advice for firms looking to enter the awards
When asked what advice she would give to firms looking to enter into an awards programme, Pam highlights five key points:
- Keep trying. Even if you’ve not been successful in one, it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in another. Your business – and criteria – will change.
- Facts and figures are an important component of your award entry. Consider leveraging data points such as NPS, marketing results and the firm’s growth.
- Testimonials from clients or staff can support what you’re saying – so it’s not just in your own words.
- Honesty is key. You want to be able to authentically talk about the work you’ve done, especially if you win.
- Have clarity and confidence about what it is that you do differently. Really believe in what you’re doing, communicate it and take the time to write the application.
Pam adds: “I was a judge at the Accounting Excellence Awards one year, so I read a load of applications. And the ones that stood out were the ones that could really talk about what they were doing that was different.”
Get your entries in
Entries for the 2024 UK Xero Awards are now open and will close on Friday 10th November. Start preparing your application today. Finalists will be announced virtually in February, and winners will be announced in April. Dates and details to come.