HomeNews5 reasons for rethinking business awards

5 reasons for rethinking business awards

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THE recent case of an apparently unregistered micro-finance institution (MFI) which won a runner-up award behind two reputable banks in a category titled “Outstanding in Support to SMEs” confirmed my long-held suspicion about business awards in Zimbabwe — they need substantial rethinking.

Own Correspondent

Apparently, for contravening provisions of the Banking Act by accepting deposits and involving itself in money lending activities without proper licensing, the MFI was fined by the courts and barred from taking investors’ deposits after being busted in an undercover regulatory operation.

Barely a month after being fined, it emerged that disgruntled investors were besieging the MFI’s offices demanding their money back and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had moved in to investigate what the Press reports called a “pyramid scheme.” How such an organisation can be said to be supporting SMEs in an outstanding manner, and be awarded for good measure, boggles the mind.

Without mentioning names, several awards have emerged in Zimbabwe in recent times; awarded by local organisations while others are conferred by foreign organisations, sometimes from as far afield as Europe.

Ordinarily, awards are meant to recognise the outstanding quality of existing products and services, while spurring winners and aspiring winners to even greater performances in their chosen areas. However, in Zimbabwe, the question that must now be asked about these awards is whether they are serving any real purpose other than to stroke the egos of those they purport to award and those who purport to award them?

This mushrooming of business awards raises a number of questions which beg for good answers. Maybe you, dear reader, can help me to answer some of these nagging questions:

Can anyone, even from a foreign country and with not much knowledge of the local market, march into territory and gain immediate legitimacy to organise and host awards simply because no such awards exist on the market and that person/organisation has thought of the idea first?

Are there no minimum standards which must be met for the awards to be beyond reproach? Surely, first mover advantage on its own cannot be the moral high ground from which to launch awards for businesses for excellence. Wouldn’t awards mean much more and be beyond reproach if they were either organised or conferred by reputable and impartial industry bodies or at least those commissioned/mandated by them, instead of any interested stakeholder who happens to take the initiative?

Do organisations that are either nominated or win these awards actually do any sort of due diligence on the reputation of the organisers or even co-nominees or winners?

I am amazed when whole organisations, no matter how big and powerful they are, submit themselves — lock, stock and barrel — to any “award” that presents itself, thereby wittingly or unwittingly endorsing it, even if it is unworthy. Business organisations can’t be that desperate for recognition and endorsement!

Usually, when the winners have recovered from the “surprise” of winning and after professing to being “humbled” to receive the award, they usually follow this up with self-congratulatory newspaper supplements/puff pieces that seek to amplify the impact of the award even if the situation on the ground speaks of a different story in terms of the quality of the winner’s products or services.

Assuming that businesses actually carry out some level of due diligence on the organisers and their awards, are any companies in Zimbabwe actually capable of declining a nomination or of declining the award altogether on the basis that they are not satisfied with either the track record of the organisers or the reputation of their co-nominees or winners as the case may be? Or do they just lap everything up due to the hunger for recognition?

Are the winners of these “awards” interested only in filling their trophy cabinets without due regard to the source of the awards? When it comes to awards for business excellence, methinks that the means should justify the end, instead of the end justifying the means.

Are those who purport to confer these awards interested only in blatant self-promotion by riding on the reputations and good names of their nominees and winners, when they themselves (organisers) really have nothing substantial to offer?

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