Finding the right balance

Guest Blog: By Phil Forrest, Chairman of the Judges, European Business Awards

This is the second in a series of articles leading up to the European Business Awards Gala Event on 27 May 2014. RSM is the lead sponsor of the European Business Awards, click here for more information on the programme.

As the European Business Awards 2013/14 reaches its final stage and prepares for the announcement of the winners at the Awards Banquet on 27th May in Athens, it creates the opportunity to reflect on some of the insights into the European business community that the awards have raised.

The cross section of successful businesses in this year’s programme are not a representative sample of the EU business community as a whole. In fact, Jean’s previous blog highlighted that the most successful sectors and businesses in the EBA are actually bucking the trend within their own economies. Yet, they shine an important light onto the challenges of business today and, in particular, the areas on which business leaders are placing greater emphasis. For example, in past years the category attracting the highest number of entries has been Customer Focus. However, this year the highest number of entries is for Innovation (20% of entries). This is significant in that when the economic recession first hit, an EBA white paper identified that successful business leaders saw innovation as one of the keys to recovery. This year’s entries reflect the fact that the innovative processes and products introduced over the past three years are now starting to bear fruit.

These changing circumstances are also having a large impact on confidence levels among budding European entrepreneurs, as shown by the rise in entries for the RSM Entrepreneur of the Year Award, accounting for 14% of entries. This shows that at the entrepreneurial level, confidence continues to grow, and the diverse range of businesses represented is an indicator that the health of the EU business environment continues to improve. A recent survey compiled from the EBA judges emphasised this. One of the judges said:

The key thing about entrepreneurship is to have a balance between great ideas and the necessary correct investment climate for the business. This balance is slowly but surely being achieved.”                                                                              

However, the survey highlighted that when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurialism, every European country differs in what it needs to create that perfect ‘balance’. A judge remarked:

In Turkey, the most important thing needed to encourage entrepreneurship is inexpensive and easy funding for projects.”                                                 

Another said:

“Germany would really benefit from creating a one-stop shop where anyone can access the information necessary to start a company in one day. There are plenty of funds, initiatives and the like for start-ups but less so for later-stage financing.”                                                            

Both the EBA entries and judges’ survey paint a healthy economic picture while promoting cautious optimism for economic recovery in Europe. It is encouraging not only seeing this picture develop but also getting to meet and share the enthusiasm of the many high-calibre businesses leaders that are contributing so much to showcase European business success. Their ability to innovate, not only in terms of product or service creation, but also by entry into new markets, and experimenting with new concepts to achieve sustainable success within an ethical framework deserves great applause. As Chairman of the EBA judges, I look forward to meeting these outstanding business leaders at the Awards Banquet evening in May.