Assembly Rooms, 3 March 2022

Note to the Judges + criteria

Each year our panel of independent Judges receive the following guidance to help them with making their decisions on the Winners.

Judging criteria:
Clear evidence of business/organisation excellence 50%
Quality of Nomination 15%
Civic/Charity/Ecological 15%
Distinctiveness of offering 15%
Testimonials 5%
Total / 100%

1. Key criteria:
How well has X company delivered on what it is intending to do in the year? How well has it played its hand – regardless of size? Judge its performance as a business or organisation: these are business awards rewarding excellence. So while their contribution to the city, ecological thinking, civic values, team work and multiple other area smatter, ultimately what matters is how well they have performed.

2. How distinctive is the offering?
Does this company truly stand out? Is it offering something new, possibly innovative?

3. How much better is the offering?
Has the company grown significantly? Has it taken on more staff? Has it won sector Awards? Has it launched new products or services? Has it demonstrated its success to you in the nomination, rather than just asserted it?

4. Nominations:
Please read them closely. This is the key focus for decision making.

5. Websites:
It might useful to check the Finalists’ websites and possibly their social media feeds.

6. Geography:
There is no hard and fast rule but any potential winner should have a direct and clear relationship with the city, even if it isn’t necessarily based in the city itself. That relationship may be where it trades and also where it employs people. As a guide, Finalists will be based within 20 miles of the city.

7. Independents vs national companies or chains:
The Awards are open to all companies. If you are considering a chain or national company, please make sure that you are focusing solely on their local offering.

But note: local does not automatically trump national. How ever much some Judges may instinctively prefer local indies, we ask that the focus is on excellence from whichever type of company. Likewise watch out for the seduction of the brand: national companies have far more resources to place into the promotion of a brand, but your judgement is on how well the particular outlet works locally. So, it’s the quality of the local service offering as explained in the nomination, rather than the perceived national brand or product, of course.

8. Past Winners vs first-timers:
Previous Winners are fully entitled to win again. Some Judges have a preference for spreading the Awards around; others prefer to judge purely on perceived excellence, regardless of prior years. It is up to you.

9. Advertisers vs non-advertisers:
This is 100% not an issue. Any company can win (even competitors!). We do not and would not disclose who has or hasn’t advertised since it is not relevant.

10. Conflicts of interest:
Judges are asked to declare to us in advance and then also at the start of the Judging session if there is any potential conflict of interest. The other Judges then decide whether there is any. If so, the Judge has to recuse him/herself from that category. Definite no-noes are: current or recent directorship of Finalists; being employed by Finalists. Borderline might be if a company has been a significant recent client (for example, of a legal company, or if a property agent has sold a house for a director).

11. New Business:
The definition is that a business must have been incorporated no earlier than July 1st of the year covered by the nomination period. Any business starting later than that can be considered. Judges tend to seek a reasonable length of time for a business to prove itself. So, starting on Dec 24th is clearly too late; starting on Oct 1st may be too soon to give enough evidence of success, but may still be considered by Judges.

12. New vs existing:
Some Judges have a preference for a new entrant in whichever category – someone offering something new or shaking up a sector. Others will cite long term quality being delivered – which can be harder to achieve than a brief early flourish. You should seek to be neutral here and focus on company excellence. Neither the new company nor the established older company is inherently “better”, though note that longer term success is harder to achieve. Typically, newer businesses are better suited to the New Business category, though clearly exceptional companies can be recognised at any stage.

13. Testimonials:
These are taken into consideration though note that they are worth 5% of your decision. Some businesses inherently have more testimonials by dint of having more customers due to their business model (eg, hair-dressers) without necessarily being ‘better’ than more bespoke businesses. Please take care with accrediting too much to a high ranking of Trip Advisor. It may reflect genuine greatness, or it may reflect that some places offer discounts for instant high-approvals on Trip Advisor. By all means read some of the reviews and form your own view.

14. Awards:
These are often a good guide, particularly if they are given by a sector’s trade body or leading magazine/website. Some sectors have multiple Awards (eg, hospitality) so it is likely that most entrants can legitimately claim to have won something. Look out for nationally-accredited (eg, Michelin Stars or The Legal 500). But be careful that Awards are directly related to the city and not awarded to the national company.

15. Personal experience:
While this can be a useful way to inform your discussions on the day, the main emphasis by far should be on the nominations themselves. And also watch out for personal testimonies being outside the year in question (eg, using a professional service).

16. Approach on the day:
It’s remarkable how well the Judges work individually and then collectively to make their decisions each time. The key is not to go too early with definitive and/or strongly expressed opinions. If the first Finalist under consideration is called a “definite winner” or “complete no-hoper” by the very first person to speak, then it is much more difficult to have an open, fair discussion! All Finalists are considered and discussed. All our Judges are senior people within their companies, often bosses (which is part of the reason you have been chosen). Most are used to getting their way, which makes for lively debate!

17. Decisions:
You as a group have to decide these awards (otherwise we’ll never leave the room!). In all cases, we do not seek a straight majority but wish to make sure that the minority voters are fully comfortable with the decision. In some cases, a split vote has swung around in favour of the initial minority because their arguments were more convincing.

18. Thank you:
The Judging sessions are usually absorbing and highly enjoyable. You’ll meet some interesting new contacts as well as experience how people perceive excellence in business. And you’ll also discover a wide range of new business in the city, or clever entrepreneurs figuring out the way to grow their offering.