A B2B platform that helps SMEs source suppliers and clients was crowned Business of the Year for 2018 at the Optus My Business Awards. Here's what its founder has to say about gaining market credibility, entering industry awards and what the win means for her business.
In front of a full house of 800 business leaders, their teams and supporters at Sydney’s The Star on Friday night (9 November), online B2B platform Matchboard took out the coveted Business of the Year Award.
The supplier matching service, founded in 2012 by Sharon Melamed, also took out the Professional Services Business of the Year category.
“It feels surreal,” Ms Melamed said.
“It was a big weekend of celebrations, and I think the party will continue this week. My husband arrives back from overseas tonight, so I have the champagne on ice.”
Size does not automatically equal success
Ms Melamed passionately defended the role that small businesses have to play in the broader marketplace and that growing into a large corporation should not be the definition of success.
“This is really, I think, a redefinition of what success means in business, because we are very small and it just shows that people often think ‘to be successful, you have to be big’. But that’s not necessarily the only definition,” she said.
Ms Melamed adopted an “agile” approach to launching and growing her business from humble beginnings, in a bid to avoid the overheads associated with a large, centralised office.
“I have what I would call the new paradigm of working for a small business,” she explained.
“I have people in several locations… who are like an agile workforce. They’ve been with me for years.
“[But] I’ve got all these people who allow me to be very nimble.”
Charitable works and donations are relatively common among SMEs, as part of their efforts to engage with and support their local communities and causes close to their hearts.
But for many businesses, particularly when struggling with temporary cash-flow constraints or tying over the holiday shutdowns over Christmas/New Year, providing regular financial donations to charities can be difficult.
Ms Melamed revealed that Matchboard launched a charitable initiative called Small Business for Small Charities, in a bid to give back in a meaningful way without adversely impacting the health of the business.
The program, launched earlier in 2018, provides pro bono marketing for charities, with the recipients rotated on a monthly basis.
“And because it’s World Diabetes Day this week, we partnered with ADEA Diabetes Research to help them fundraise,” she said.
Using awards for market credibility
Leveraging recognisable awards programs like the Optus My Business Awards – and the corporate brands supporting them – is an ideal way for smaller businesses to gain credibility in the marketplace, Ms Melamed said.
But there are two parts to this – not just pitching for business with consumers and other SMEs, but also getting a foot in the door with potential corporate customers and partners.
“The big brands attached to them, like Optus, carry incredible credibility and can open up many doors that a small business otherwise wouldn’t access,” she said.
“I think it’s that ongoing PR value, being able to say on your email signature and on your website and in all your marketing that you’ve won this, that people will suddenly take you very seriously and show you respect.”
Matchboard’s win comes just weeks after the business won Suncorp’s Innovator of the Year title, which has already opened up new opportunities.
“Already I’ve had a meeting with Suncorp execs… they are putting me in their company newsletter, they are asking me to speak in front of their diversity and inclusion group,” Ms Melamed said.
“We’re in this era where a lot of big corporates want to work with small business and start-ups that are innovative and nimble and they’re looking for opportunities to collaborate.
“There’s so much a big company can offer a small business, and in return, there’s lots that a small business can offer a big business in terms of new approaches, new ideas and innovation, so it’s definitely a two-way street.”
Advice on entering business awards
When asked for any tips she could give to other business leaders about entering industry awards, Ms Melamed said that, like everything in business, invest your time wisely.
“I think there’s no point going into these awards if you don’t take full advantage,” said Ms Melamed.
“Only put in an application if you’ve got the time to do it properly – there is no point in just slapping it together. Think of all the boxes you need to tick and then re-read your application and make sure you’ve ticked them.
“It also doesn’t hurt to have interesting personal story to bring the business to life in your application.
“Really articulate your uniqueness – not just another this or that – that makes you stand out.”
The full list of winners can be found be found here: https://www.mybusiness.com.au/management/5159-winners-announced-for-optus-my-business-awards-2018
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.