Read the tips for success - find out what the judges are looking for in a high quality submission
Read carefully the description of the category you wish to enter
Explain in no more than 3,000 words why you deserve the Award: what you set out to do and what has been achieved
Entries that do not comply will be marked down or rejected
Provide supporting evidence – this is crucial
The completed entry must be submitted by midnight on 23 February 2024
If you have further questions after reading this page please contact Tracey Rushton-Thorpe
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a standard template for an entry?
No. We quite deliberately don’t provide this. We think it is better for people to be given the flexibility to put together an entry in whatever form best suits what they want to say. So, within the word limit (3,000), you have complete freedom to present your entry in whatever format you want. In general the most successful entries are those which have a mixture of text, graphics and pictures but there is no single right answer. Remember that our judges will often have to read through dozens of entries, and it is inevitable that something which is attractively presented will get them thinking positively about the entry even before they get into the detail.
The advice we always give is not to go overboard with the design. We have in the past have received very imaginative entries in the form of blogs, letters, stories and even parodies of Taxation magazine itself. Some judges like these very much – others hate them, so be warned. Larger firms will want to involve their marketing and PR teams in putting together the entry. That is of course fine but sometimes this involvement results in entries which are more about spin than content. Don’t let the marketing teams take over – be guided by their professional input but take control of the final entry yourselves.
Can I put extra material in an appendix?
You can, but you need to think carefully about why you are doing this. If there is a good reason to include some extra detail in an appendix by all means include it, but we would counsel against creating an appendix just for the sake of it. Most entries don’t have appendices. The material in an appendix is highly unlikely to make the difference between an entry being shortlisted or not. If you need to say something important put it in the main body of the entry.
How important are testimonials?
Good testimonials are a very important part of an entry, and it is difficult to imagine an entry without testimonials making the shortlist. But the key word here is ‘good’. Two or three insightful testimonials are worth far more than ten bland client comments.
Sometimes it is obvious that a firm has written to clients to ask for testimonials to support an entry. That rarely works and often leads to very generic comments on the lines of ‘I’ve worked with Freda from Blogs and Co for many years and she has always provided me with excellent tax advice’. No doubt that is true, but a whole list of such comments can make very dull reading.
The best testimonials by far are those which are woven into the narrative, particularly when they are linked to a case study. We’ve had some outstanding examples of this over the years where we get a real sense of what was actually done for the client and how much it was appreciated.
Is it essential to include case studies?
Again it is hard to imagine an entry without case studies getting very far. But be careful here. Less can often be more. There is no need to load up your entry with lots of examples. It is far better to give three or four examples of work which your firm has done and which give us a real insight into the challenges you faced, the work that was done, and the outcome. And don’t think that examples always have to show the most complex and difficult work you have done. Some of the best examples over the years have been on relatively straightforward mainstream issues, where the firm has been able to demonstrate high quality service which has really been appreciated by the client.
Do I need lots of facts and figures?
Some facts and figures are very useful. Information about turnover, staff numbers and client retention can be useful in helping to paint the picture of the business. But there is no need to go overboard with this. Big and complex tables of numbers don’t always help, and it is far better to draw out the key figures in a narrative. We don’t, for example, need (though we sometimes have been given) a list of every member of staff in the team or a month-by-month breakdown of costs.
Can my firm enter for more than one category?
Absolutely. If you have teams working in the appropriate categories by all means put in entries for each category.
But there is an important word of warning here. Each entry must be quite distinct and tailored for the specific category. Sometimes we see examples of people ‘category shopping’, where a firm puts in identical entries in different categories. Almost as bad are cases where several entries from a firm are largely the same but with just a few paragraphs relevant to the particular category. This goes down very badly with the judges, who can understandably get confused and frustrated when they seem to be reading the same entry time and time again. In the end this sort of approach is counterproductive and diminishes rather than enhances the chances of a firm being successful.
If your firm is going to put in multiple entries, I strongly recommend that they are written independently from scratch by separate teams. If you have any doubts about what the appropriate category for an entry is then please get in touch with us via the website.
Do I have to be relentlessly upbeat?
It would be interesting to receive an entry which started: ‘This has been a terrible year. Turnover was down 20%, we lost three major clients and were sued by two more. Four partners left to set up a rival firm and a senior manager was prosecuted for tax fraud.’ Of course nobody is going to put in an entry like that, but sometimes we get entries which are so relentlessly upbeat that they become very tiring to read. Firms, quite rightly, want to paint a positive picture of what they achieved, but often the best entries are those which give insights into problems which were faced or things that didn’t go as well as expected.
Over the years we’ve seen some very powerful entries which were honest about these issues, and which showed how a firm became stronger as a result of tackling then. An awards entry is unlikely to be the place where you bare your soul, but some sense that things are not always perfect can add real character to an entry.
What should I avoid?
There are two pieces of advice we always give. The first is not to criticise your competitors. This doesn’t happen very often but when we get entries which do criticise other named firms this goes down very badly. It is much better to be positive about your own achievements. Explaining how you compete in your chosen market place and offer a different approach to the competition is a quite different matter and successful entries will often make a feature of this. That is fine just so long as you don’t make it too personal.
The other advice is to avoid ‘motherhood and apple pie’ statements. When you read for the umpteenth time phrases like ‘ we go the extra mile for our clients’; ‘ours is a partner-led service’; ‘we don’t let the tax tail wag the dog’; or ‘clients are at the heart of everything we do’ your heart sinks. These phrases represent very positive virtues and will be engrained in the ethos of many firms. But an entry will be much stronger when these attributes come through in the narrative, case studies and examples rather than by using bland, almost meaningless, cliches.
Should I include information about non-business activities?
Most of the awards are team awards and therefore the judges like to get a sense of the people in the team: how they work together; what is the ethos; how does career development work for them. But most teams will also have some non-work-related activities and there is certainly a place in an award entry to mention these. It is always good to hear, for example, how the team supports its local community or is involved in charitable work. But don’t go overboard. One or two pictures and a couple of paragraphs about a team-building awayday works well, but don’t devote half the entry to these events: the judges will begin to wonder whether anybody actually does any work.
Can I include confidential information?
All of the judges sign confidentiality undertakings and processes are in place to ensure that only the judges plus an administrator have access to award entries. Any printed copies of entries are destroyed after the judging and access to the electronic versions of the entries is closed down. There has never been any incident of confidential data being inadvertently released. So while you can be entirely comfortable with the security of the judging process it is still a matter for your judgment as to how much information you reveal. In practice if you would prefer not to name clients in your case studies that is perfectly acceptable. So feel free to use phrases such as a ‘major high-street bank’ or ‘a well-known serial entrepreneur’ where appropriate. You will not be disadvantaged by not using client names.
Sometimes entries have a mixture of public domain and private information. Entries often annotate the latter by phrases such as ‘commercially sensitive’ or ‘confidential’. Feel free to use this approach if you wish.
One of the judges works for my firm/works for a competitor firm. Can I still enter?
Yes. In the relatively small world of tax it is inevitable that individual judges will be familiar with some of the firms who have entered. It would also be wrong to stop a firm from entering just because a member of the firm has been asked to be a judge. We do have strong policies in place to deal with conflicts of interest. A judge who is associated in any way with a particular firm will not see the entries in the category which that firm has entered and will leave the room while that category is being discussed. Judges are acutely conscious of the need to avoid conflicts of interests and are always vigilant in drawing my attention to any potential conflicts. We have had instances where a judge works for a firm which has won a trophy, but the first time they know that the firm has won is when it is announced on the night!
What else do I need to know?
Do check the spelling and grammar in your entry – you would be surprised at the number of entries which have obvious mistakes in them. It is very hard to make a good impression on the judges after they have spotted bad typos.
If you are going to include links to articles or videos in your entry make sure that they work – it is very frustrating to click on something and enter an internet black hole.
Make sure you enter the right category – contact us if you have any questions.
Don’t exceed the word limit – we don’t reject entries if they are three words too long, but entries which are obviously far too long tend to get a poor response from the judges. The word limit should be enough for a strong entry.
Do try to get your entries in on time. We don’t like to turn entries away, but judges need time to read them properly and very late entries sometimes just can’t be accommodated.
Do ask somebody who has not been involved with the entry to read your proposed submission before it is finalised. Very often they can point out things which are unclear, or suggest additions or omissions.
Enjoy the process! It is a good way for a firm or team to take stock of where it has got to and what it has achieved.
Share success. If you are shortlisted, make sure that all the members of your team get the credit in your internal communications. Being part of a winning team is such a morale booster.