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Harpers Awards celebrates the trade's industry leaders

Published:  20 April, 2012

I've had a fascinating experience in the last two weeks helping to judge our new Harpers Awards. Trying to cast judgement over drinks businesses of all shapes and sizes has not been an easy task, particularly when there is often no more than a hair's breadth between them.

What makes the winners and finalists stand out is the willingness to step above what has become a very high norm and really offer something if not completely unique in going that extra infamous mile in everything they do.

The companies that caught the judges' eye (s) were those that really understand the needs of their customers or their consumers and have based their strategy entirely around that. But that is easier said than done.

They are the kinds of companies that are involving their customers in their buying decisions, inviting them to taste wines, for example, they are looking to stock.

They are also often increasingly taking ideas tried and developed by bigger organisations or generic bodies and giving them a twist of their own. Be it wine and spirit dinners, masterclasses, promotional tasting initiatives, even customer study tours.

Rob Lawson

The stand out drinks businesses are also getting involved in public affairs, working with local community business groups, raising money for local charities, getting to know their local MP and key business related figures on the local council.

They are putting business procedures in place that demonstrate they take their corporate, social and employer responsibilities seriously.

Individual elements that when assessed as a whole make up a successful company's business armoury.

What they are not are simply businesses buying or selling wine and spirits. The genuine market leaders are becoming true multi channel operators that have as strong an online business as they do in bricks and mortar. They are also companies and individuals we can all learn.

Rob Lawson