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Inspiration, awareness, food for thought

Why do businesses spend thousands on sponsorship deals with local awards? What is in it for them and do they really see a good return on their investment?

www.businessmk.co.uk spoke to Karen Winrow, business development manager at chartered accountants Hillier Hopkins to find out why the firm has chosen to sponsor the Business of the Year Award at Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards 2020.

Tell us a bit about Hillier Hopkins and your role within the Milton Keynes business community?

Hillier Hopkins is an accountancy firm that’s been around since 1933 so we’re a long-established business. 

We originally started in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, but have since expanded and now have offices in London, Watford and Milton Keynes, which is the newest office we’ve opened. We’re about 200 people altogether across the three offices, so we’re quite a significant local firm, within the Top 50 UK wide, in terms of size.

Basically, we support SMEs with audit, taxation and business advisory services. The bulk of our clients are owner managed businesses and we pride ourselves on providing them with friendly expertise and a high level of personal attention and offering good value for money.

You first became sponsors of MKBAA in 2019. How and why did you choose to get involved?

For quite a number of years, we’ve been headline sponsor of the Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards, so when we opened the Milton Keynes office, we were looking for something similar to be involved in. 

I was told about MKBAA and when I looked into it, it seemed to have such a good following and high profile, that we were really keen to get involved.

MKBAA gives us an opportunity to connect with the business community and we like to encourage our own clients to enter. There are so many great businesses among our clients that we’d really like to see them get recognition and it’s great when we’re there on the awards night to be cheering on the work of businesses that we have a personal connection with.

Karen Winrow

What are your thoughts on the Health and Wellbeing theme for MKBAA2020?

It’s something that businesses are talking more and more about, and at Hillier Hopkins, like other businesses, we’ve been putting greater focus on the health and wellbeing of our people but also looking at the health of our community. 

We have initiatives that we support across all of our offices that benefit the local area and I think it’s something that increasingly businesses are looking at on a corporate level.

It’s great that awards like MKBAA are using their platform to help raise awareness of it and are including questions in the entry process to find out how businesses are having an impact on the wider community, as well as within their own business and industry.

We all have first aiders within a company, but this new focus on mental and emotional wellbeing has prompted Hillier Hopkins to train and assign staff as mental health first aiders, with a responsibility for offering both mental and wellbeing support.

How do you feel that MKBAA benefits local businesses?

There are so many inspirational businesses and individuals out there. It’s great to give people the opportunity to get recognition for all of that hard work and endeavour.

One of the big benefits of the awards is that when businesses start going through the process of entering awards, it gives them an opportunity to reflect on all the great work they’ve been doing. 

It’s very rare, as a business owner, that you get a chance to sit back and take stock of your achievements, and it’s actually the businesses that involve their staff in the awards process that get a real boost in morale within the business. 

If you get shortlisted or win an award, it’s a real pat on the back and the PR potential is amazing. Everyone’s looking for news to share and winning an award gives you months of stories to tell just off the back of an award.

What do you think of the two-stage entry process?

It is something that really captured my attention and I thought was quite different when looking into the awards last year. 

From my experience, one of the things that people often say about entering awards is that “it’s such a lot of work to put together an application, and it might all be a waste of time if I don’t even make the shortlist.” 

With MKBAA’s two-stage process, it breaks down that initial barrier to entry and encourages more people to put their businesses forward. I think that gives MKBAA an edge over a lot of other awards out there.

What do you get out of sponsoring MKBAA?

In terms of sponsorship, I would definitely say that you get out of it what you put in. 

One of the unexpected benefits of sponsoring an awards is the amount of information you get on the night and being involved in the judging process,. You hear the stories and there’s so many amazing ideas that you’re suddenly getting an insight into, 

It is incredibly inspiring and gives you food for thought for what you’re doing yourself within your own organisation.

What’s your favourite part of the glittering awards ceremony?

Last year’s speaker Martha Lane Fox, who gave such an inspiring speech. It was my highlight of the awards. It was just such a great way to kick the awards off and I can’t wait to see who will be speaking this year.