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You do good work for clients, they appreciate and benefit from it, so why shouldn’t you get some wider recognition, asks Mick James.
It should have been you
   “See one, feel one,
touch one, See one, feel
one, win an award.” So
went the lyrics of I
wanna be a winner
Brown Sauce from 1981:
not so much a one-hit
wonder as a crime
against humanity.
Apologies if this horror
is now playing in your
head, but at least you
know what I’ve been
going through since
inadvertently tuning
into Radio 2 a couple of
weeks ago.
   But for all the
awfulness of its
lyrics, the song
expresses a noble
sentiment. You should
win an award. You do
good work for clients;
they appreciate it and
benefit from it. Why
shouldn’t you get some
wider recognition?
   One excuse might be
that there’s really no
point entering something
like the MCA Awards
because they are
dominated by the Big
Four. And at first sight
that seems to be true:
the Big Four proper make
up 20 of the shortlisted
places for firm awards,
and there’s a similar
story in the individual
awards. Add in the other
“Big” firms and that’s
 half the shortlist.
   But what about the
other half of the list?
There are plenty of
smaller MCA members
there, but not
necessarily unfamiliar
ones – particularly
because they are always
in the running for
awards. Moorhouse and
Boxwood, for example,
have both had
considerable success in
the past: they clearly
believe that the work
they do will stand up
against anyone else’s
and aren’t afraid to put
it on display.
   Big firms have one or
two advantages: they
have large and
well-resourced PR and
marketing departments,
and a large number of
projects to choose from.
But it’s easy to
overestimate this
advantage. For a start,
working in marketing for
a big consultancy firm
isn’t always the walk in
the park you might
think: you’re a long way
from the action and
without psychic powers
it’s impossible to know
which projects really
are the best. In fact,
awards can be a major
boon to marketing teams
to get their fee-earners
to cough up the
ammunition they need.
   By contrast, in a
smaller firm it’s much
easier to keep your
finger on the pulse:
also much easier to get
closer to the clients,
whose cooperation the
MCA has wisely made so
central to winning.
   But why bother with
awards at all? Isn’t it
all just a massive
   I suppose the answer
is yes, but why is that
a bad thing? Let’s be
honest, awards are a bit
of an industry, and done
right they can be a bit
of a money-spinner. That
is also a good thing:
otherwise many of the
associations and
magazines you know and
love might find it
harder to survive.
   But awards also play
an important part in the
cohesion and morale of
an industry, and I think
that’s why consultancy
needs them more than
most. There aren’t too
many opportunities in
our world to actually
come together as an
industry, and even fewer
to put across an upbeat
image of consultancy.
How many of the positive
stories about
 consultancy that appear
elsewhere in the UK
press have their genesis
in a MCA award entry?
   For the smaller
consultancies as a group
the awards are a perfect
opportunity to underline
the point that
high-quality, complex
and challenging
consultancy projects are
not the exclusive domain
of the big firms. That
may be what you tell
clients all the time,
but it’s easy to say
things like that: every
time a smaller firms
walks off with an award,
though, it’s proof that
it’s true. Many smaller
firms are in two minds
as to the benefits of
joining the MCA: surely
the chance of winning an
accolade that puts you
on a par with the
biggest names in the
industry would be a
major incentive? If you
can beat the big boys in
the marketplace, surely
you can see them off at
a black-tie do?
   Finally, any award
needs to be seen in the
wider context of how
consultancy is purchased
and managed in its
entirety. All sorts of
interesting things are
coming out of my
involvement with the
Consultancy Buyers
 Forum, but one theme in
particular that is
emerging is the vexed
question of What Good
Looks Like. In the
absence of hard-and-fast
performance measurement,
managing expectations
during consultancy
projects is a tough ask.
The case studies that
underpin MCA awards may
be broad brush, but this
is what excellence in
consulting looks like:
if your project looks
nothing like them, you
may want to have a word
with your consultants.
   Awards play so many
important roles, but one
area where they may fall
short is in reflecting
one of the consultancy
industry’s greatest
attributes: its
incredible diversity.
And that shortcoming
cannot be laid at the
feet of the organisers
but those who, while
eligible to enter, fail
to do so.
   In April you’ll be
able to see who has
triumphed in the MCA
Awards this year. I urge
everyone to follow them
carefully and think: “It
should have been me!”– a
much better song to end
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