The Phonebox millionaire on why judging the awards matter to him
Judging any event can be a daunting task when taken seriously. The futures of the competitors can rest on our shoulders which is why it it is vitally important to get it right.
All the contestants matter greatly to me as they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t among the best in their field. Judging the winners takes time, effort and consideration and is not taken lightly by any of the judges I have worked with in the past.
At London Loves Business the whole matter of judging entrepreneurs and the businesses they represent is taken very seriously indeed which is why I agreed to be a judge for them.
Everyone within the organisation is very professional and friendly and want the best people and businesses to win which in itself is inspirational to us judges.
I remember during the judging round at LondonlovesExcellence Awards 2013 under the brilliant chairmanship of BA chief Willie Walsh when all of us judges sat for over an hour debating why a certain business should or shouldn’t get the award. Some of us favoured one person and some another and we all had our say before making, what was in my opinion. the right decision.
This is the essence of being a judge. Thinking through what and why a certain business or person should get that particular award. Sometimes the hurdles they have had to overcome in life mean that they are worthy winners despite not having quite achieved the financial success associated with others.
I always prefer to encourage everyone because getting to the point where someone is being judged on excellence is something unusual and inspiring to people who later read or hear of those achievements.
Perhaps selfishly I also enjoy meeting up with old friends and making new ones which is all part of the judging process. People like Willie Walsh from British Airways, Karren Brady from West Ham United and of course the ebullient Tim Campbell MBE who has become a role model to many young aspirational entrepreneurs, is all part of what makes the day interesting for me.
Due to time constrictions I am not always available to judge every event I am invited to but I do try to contribute at the really important ones where possible. I consider the award categories carefully before accepting because in the end it is what these businesses and exceptional people can deliver to the rest of society that matters. Taxes from successful people and businesses are what in part helps to keep tax rates lower for people less fortunate so ethical businesses where the entrepreneurs accept their wider responsibility is important in my judging decision.
Another thing I take into account is confidence as opposed to arrogance. They are in my opinion two sides of the same coin. Dr Jekle & Mr Hyde.
Confidence in ones ability is to be admired. Arrogance, especially when displayed to people lower down the economic or intellectual food chain, is to be pitied.
Businesses that display confidence in their product or service and who treat their customers and staff as people to be respected usually survive and prosper whereas businesses which display arrogance or nasty undertones usually end their days sooner than they might.
I have worked with some great judges including those mentioned above and every single one has taken his or her task seriously. Great thought has gone into every decision with much debate over coffee and sandwiches on judging day.
Judging day is usually followed by a Gala Dinner later in the month at some posh hotel where an uplifting and aspirational atmosphere is always the norm. I love to see the expectation on the faces of the family and friends of the contestants who, whether win or lose, are always magnanimous to their competitors.
Chatting over a final glass of wine with friends, celebrities and contestants when all the hype has died down and the bow ties removed is always nice.
I always try to make a point of speaking with the families and friends of the contestants because it is also their night. A night when they can bask in the reflected glory of their friend or loved one or when the employees of the contestants can let their hair down and reward themselves for being part of a successful enterprise.
Win or lose its always a great night and don’t forget-there’s always next year.
Stephen Fear DBA is an English entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist and author with over 40 years international business experience. Today Fear has an established property empire and interests in a number of industries, including green technology, hotels, residential care and manufacturing. Often referred to as ‘The Phonebox Millionaire’, Fear is also notable for being Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library; a position formerly held by the late Dame Anita Roddick. In July 2013, Fear was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from UWE Bristol for his continued service to Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship.