Belfast Telegraph Business Awards: Are you up for the challenge?
Year by year, more Northern Ireland based businesses have demonstrated that they have achievements that should be better known.
There is an impressive diversity of products, skills, techniques and impacts on world markets.
Recognition and wider publicity brings an unquantifiable bonus.
A year ago, in early 2011, the Belfast Telegraph, in association with bmi, invited businesses to submit key headlines about their activities as part of the annual Business Awards competition. The response, despite real concerns about the impact of an economy in recession, was an answer to the pessimists and doubters who wondered if the ambitious spirit of leading firms was weakening. It wasn't.
The 2011 Business Awards attracted more entries and greater publicity than ever. They were the best, until then, of the annual series.
Now the challenge is renewed. Are businesses ready for the challenge, with even better achievements, in 2012, sometimes against the strains of recession?
Of course, looking for entries which demonstrate achievements is much more than a search for expansion or profitability, although no-one would deny that expansion or satisfactory profits are reassuring. They can be signs that the strategies and technologies have been well chosen and offer reassurance of continuing viability.
Critically, the awards are more subtle. Different categories open the door to allow a range of diverse achievements to be recognised. Tackling and overcoming adversity may be as much an achievement as bigger order books.
The Belfast Telegraph and bmi have invited a distinguished group of people to act as judges.
Kate Barker, key economic adviser to Arlene Foster, brings international experience to the table. Since serving on the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, she has been learning about the local economy and has played a major part in advising on the Programme for Government which will soon be finalised. Currently, Kate Barker is an adviser in the Treasury appointed Office of Budget Responsibility.
Joanne Stuart is an influential business leader who, following a period as chairwoman of the Institute of Directors when she also wrote an influential report on university fees, is now serving on the board of the Northern Ireland Science Park as well as chairing Arts and Business.
Brenda Morgan, bmi's Ireland sales manager, has agreed to serve again as a judge. For a number of years, she has acquired an expertise in the needs of business people in national and international travel as the senior representative of bmi on this island.
Joining the influential group of female judges, Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, brings a wealth of knowledge to the table from his career in industry and more recently in that public agency.
John Heaslip, chief executive, Business in the Community has extensive experience of the impact of businesses in the local communities.
The pragmatic skills of the judges are supplemented by the analytical and progressive academic experience of Professor Rodney McAdam, from the Business School of the University of Ulster.
Last into the team, the Belfast Telegraph has invited me to chair the panel.
This experience adds to my knowledge of what is happening on the local business scene. This is both a challenge and a stimulus.
With this talented team of judges, all that is now needed to make the awards an unequalled opportunity to showcase local business is that the business leaders should use this unrivalled platform to enhance their reputation.
Follow the advice and read the details for the awards at www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business-awards