How the Telstra Business Awards helped my business

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Jason Wyatt (left) and Sam Salter, founders of BikeExchange.com.au

Winning an award is great for business, especially as you get temporary bragging rights to help customers distinguish between your business and your rivals. However, once the euphoria and hype subsides, some awards may end up as decorative shelf pieces or  footnotes in your portfolio.

But for Jason Wyatt and Sam Salter, winning the 2012 Telstra Australian Business Awards gave them more than visibility. Their BikeExchange website, a place for cyclists and retailers to buy and sell bicycles, saw site traffic increase 30% to 40% in the last 12 months. Traffic also surpassed the 1 million mark last year, since the site launched in 2007. They are now working on their next project, a site where people can easily source for home accessories for DIY projects called RenoExchange.

The Telstra Australian Business Awards is one of the longest running awards for small and medium businesses, founded over 2 decades ago. Awards are given at state, territory and national level. All participants receive a free 70-page Business Health Check report, to help them evaluate their business performance. Finalist and winners get a share of $500,000 in cash and prizes on top of media coverage.

MYOB has been sponsoring the Small Business Award since winning it in 1996. We caught up with BikeExchange MD Jason Wyatt, to talk about his journey last year and what winning the award meant to his business.

What does a day in the life of Jason Wyatt look like?

When the weather is good it usually starts around 5:30 am with a ride. If I don’t ride, I will go for a walk with my wife and our 2 dogs. Once I get into the office around 7-7:30 am, my routine kicks in. I have 1 hour to analyse the sites and review our daily KPIs before our daily agile stand up meeting begins at 8:30. These [meetings] are critical. They are short and sharp and set the team up to achieve goals for that day.

Post the stand ups, no two days are the same for me. I might be meeting with the development team to talk about site structure, visiting customers or sitting in on meetings with our sales and marketing teams.

I like to be involved in the day to day across all our sites. I have always had that ‘all team members on deck’ attitude. That said a solid portion of my day is often attending our weekly and monthly meetings which are structured around our KPIs. I try to always keep a solid section of the day for devising the next big idea for the business and our team development processes.

Was participating in the Telstra Business Awards a spur of the moment act, or was it part of a plan?

The great thing about our business is that we thrive on spur of the moment [actions]. We’re not scared to consider opportunities that present themselves out of the blue or late in the piece. However, our application to the Telstra Business Awards was entirely planned. I am not convinced you can submit a considered and thorough application for an awards programme of this calibre without significant planning.

 Hypothetically, if you didn’t win, are there other benefits you derive from just participating?

Your application and subsequent interview of course determines just how fully you might be able to benefit from these awards. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t maximise all other benefits. Make the most of materials sent to you – it’s designed to help businesses like yours. Look at the awards evenings as an opportunity to extend your knowledge and your networks. Research who else is short listed, find out what sponsors will be present and make sure you introduce yourself to those most relevant to you and vice versa.

What do you think of the Business Health Check report given to every participant?

I think it’s a great tool and an illustration that these awards are not just a glamorous announcement. There is integrity behind what they are trying to do for Australian businesses and how they can help in a myriad of ways. It’s also a terrific opportunity to just step outside your business box and look in with a fresh perspective.

When you’re running a SME you don’t always have time for these health checks. They can sometimes be regarded as the action item you’ll get to next. In fact, these checks are the very sort of steps we as business operators should be taking regularly. The awards can be a gentle reminder of this fact!

What are the biggest misconceptions people have when they think about running a business?

That all of a sudden they will have more time than they did when they were employed. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Specifically for an online business, I would say there can be a misconception that the customer is once removed; that perhaps the rules that applied in the real world can be blurred a bit in a virtual environment. If anything, rules are under the microscope [more] when it comes to a virtual business! Operating with integrity, honesty and transparency are paramount.

 Is there a motto/quote you live by as an entrepreneur?

Do what you love and love what you do!

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Nominations for this year have closed. If you want to nominate yourself for 2014, or know someone who should be nominated, head to Telstra Business Awards today.