Entering the Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland Business Awards can boost staff morale and raise a company's profile, according to economist John Simpson.
The 2010 awards, in association with bmi, were launched last month, and will be awarded at a glittering ceremony at the Ramada Hotel on March 25 next year.
A total of 10 awards, including two new categories - excellence in technology and best small/medium sized business - are up for grabs. Head judge and Belfast Telegraph columnist John Simpson said there are compelling reasons to enter.
"Firstly, for many businesses it is a very useful way of creating team spirit as they put together bids and realise how their work has come together. So, internally it is good for morale," he said.
"Secondly, there is the acknowledgement they will get from customers, suppliers and interested people in the public - ranging from politicians and even appreciation from competitors."
Businesses keen to enter the competition must fufill certain criteria, but Mr Simpson notes they are essentially open to most successful firms in Northern Ireland. "It doesn't matter if you are small or big, if you have a long history or are only a few years in the marketplace. The only test question is do you meet the criteria?" he said.
Chaired by Mr Simpson, the panel of judges includes CBI chair Brian Ambrose; Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton; Professor Rodney McAdam from the University of Ulster; chief executive of the NI Chamber of Commerce Ann McGregor; Brenda Morgan from bmi; Paul Rooney partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and chair of Business in the Community; and Joanne Stuart, chair of the Institute of Directors NI.
"We are very pleased we have judges that represent a broad cross section of expertise and who come from leading business organisations, and therefore whose judgement will be respected by all who enter," said Mr Simpson.
For a full list of the award categories, rationale, criteria and rules go to www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk /business-awards or telephone Kathryn Kirk of JPR on 9076 0066. Application forms can be downloaded from the website.