What does the Inc. 500|5000 list, Ranking Arizona and Arizona Corporate Excellence (ACE) Awards all have in common? They’re a mix of local and national business awards from incredible companies. There are several organizations that extend prestigious business honors to companies every day. So many, in fact, that a simple Google search for business awards yielded more than one billion responses; yes, billion with a “b.”

Some are based solely on growth, financial gain or employee happiness; some on areas or expertise or industry specific. Taking the time to research awards can be a lengthy but worth-the-while process.

Third-party credibility is an excellent way to show your employees, competitors, customers and potential customers that you know what you’re doing and that you’re in it for the long haul. If you work in an industry rattled with criticism and negative expectations, it helps to further set your business apart.

The benefits my business has seen are immense. You feel an instant camaraderie with past winners, and it’s a great way to network. We have had outside consumers, vendors and other companies call for advice as they apply for awards we’ve won. Our customers know the kind of service they’ll receive, and our employees love the recognition for their hard work and dedication. It has been a huge morale boost around the office.

Awards submissions are often a lengthy process that require several hours’, if not days’, worth of work; others take 20 minutes. I’ve found that looking at the requirements for awards such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Awards, or Angie’s List or ASU’s Spirit of Enterprise can be a great business check-up. It allows you the opportunity to look at your business with fresh eyes. How many hours of community service are you giving each month? What are your long term goals? What do you deem as your biggest accomplishment? How have your finances improved over the last three years? What is your customer satisfaction rate?

After combing through the requirements, if you notice your organization doesn’t qualify, ask yourself if this award is important to your business and industry. Would it make a difference to your consumers? If you move forward with applying, have your employees help with the process; make them feel part of the team. It’s important to have their buy-in. Moving forward, you may have to make difficult choices or changes; and if they have an understanding as to why those changes are coming, they’re more likely to embrace said changes.

Being nominated for any award, especially a business award, is a tremendous honor. One of the most important aspects of this process is working with the outside entity that nominated you or your organization.  Maybe it was your PR firm, maybe it was a colleague or a customer — no matter who nominated you, be present for the nomination process. Knowing exactly what they need from you in order to complete the nomination in key. Understanding their needs will help you share the most important successes and challenges your organization has gone through. And, be sure to thank the individual nominating you or your organization.

Being an award-winner is a great way to distinguish yourself and your company from your competitors in a tough market. In my experience, every effort required to complete an application or nomination has been a valuable experience and well worth the time.