Now, the judges want to hear from top companies
There's just one month left to enter the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards, so get ready
As one of the judges for this year's Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards, one of the things that I find most enjoyable is the variety in the businesses that enter across all eight categories. From small firms just starting out to long established local businesses that export around the world, there are many compelling stories - as a bank, it's certainly useful for us as it gives us a real finger on the pulse for the business community, meaning that we can be more agile in adapting our products and services to suit our customers.
Previous winners at the awards, like Almac and CDE Global, have strong business propositions and strategies that made them worthy winners - coming out on top as provincial winners and again as winners in the all-island awards. The strong track record of Northern Ireland companies in the all-island finals makes me feel enthusiastic about seeing this year's entries.
For those thinking about entering, there are some compelling reasons to do so. Winning a Business Achievers Award is a signal of quality, an opportunity to market your business to new customers and provides significant profile on a local and national level - the overall competition winner will receive a £35,000 publishing bursary with the Belfast Telegraph, business mentoring from Enterprise Ireland and a full-service communications workshop. This can be a strong support for the profile of a business, especially if used to access new markets or spark new ideas for product development.
However, more than just celebrating our individual winners, at Ulster Bank we believe it is the right thing to do to contribute to a positive, entrepreneur-friendly culture that talks up the positives of business success, is welcoming of new ideas, and is positive about local enterprise.
We recognise that this is a two-way street - to create a culture that's business-friendly, we have to ensure that business is done in a responsible and sustainable way. That's why a range of sustainable objectives are hard-wired in to the judging of the awards. Some of the criteria used include financial performance, company milestones and achievements, future strategy for business people and the business and the development of innovative products and services - all of which is looking at performance in a way that goes beyond the bottom line. These are all important to us as they show that Ulster Bank Business Achiever Awards aren't simply a reflection of past glories, or showing off certain sets of numbers. It celebrates those who are planning great things for the future and allying vision with tenacity to do great things. The calibre of the previous winners that have been chosen suggests that this process is working well.
With £1.5bn available to lend to businesses in 2015, Ulster Bank has the ability and the appetite to get behind entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. We look forward to working with great local companies to continue developing business achievers of the future. You can follow all the action through our Twitter feed @ulsterbank and #businessachievers - the very best of luck to everyone entering.
Closing date for entries is Friday, September 25, 2015. You can enter a maximum of two categories per business. All this information, and more, is available at businessachieversaward.com