I Won! Now what?

Over the past 10 years, AnswerNet Network has been fortunate enough to win the prestigious Inc. 500 award multiple times. It is an awesome feeling to be the CEO or a senior executive of an Inc. 500 company, and the satisfaction that comes from leading an Inc. 500 company is enormous. But it isn’t all about ego. It’s about leveraging the win to help sustain your business’ growth.

There are many ways to get benefits from your Inc. 500 win, but you have to make them happen. Ideally, you should start planning how you’ll leverage your win when you apply, so you can execute your plan as soon as the announcement is made. If you haven’t thought that far yet, don’t worry, because this article will share some of the things we did when we found out that our company, the AnswerNet Network, was number 21 on the 2003 list. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you get the most out of your Inc. 500 win, or any win, award or other public recognition your company might garner as it grows.

Thanking Your Team
Most successful CEOs (and even some unsuccessful CEOs) will tell you that they could not have the success they have enjoyed without the hard work and support of their employees, friends, family and close advisors. Your win is generally a result of the group of people you have put together to build your company. It certainly was in my case.

That’s why the first thing we did when we found out we won was to send an e-mail (it was a lot more personal than it sounds) to all of our employees, friends, family and close advisers across North America telling them of our induction into the Inc. 500 and thanking them for their part in helping us achieve the honor. While I expected this to have a positive impact on morale, I was amazed to see how proud so many people were to be associated with a “winner” (and I don’t mean me).

Other ways you can thank your team is buying promotional items associated with the event or by having an internal celebration after the announcement. No matter what you do, have fun and be proud of what you accomplished together.

Thanking Your Customers
According to many of today’s business writers, customers like to know that their supplier is having success and that their vendor has many customers. People, by their nature, like to be part of successful groups and your customers are no different.

In order to take advantage of this philosophy, we sent letters to our 35,000 customers thanking them for their help in achieving our Inc. 500 status. The letters not only thanked them for our success, but also told them about some of the newer and different services we were offering. Thus, we were able to build goodwill while marketing our new services to our existing customer base.

Press Releases
When we made the Inc. 500 list, we drafted two press releases to announce our success. One release was written for industry publications to highlight the success we had achieved in acquiring companies within our industry and in servicing the clients that came with those acquisitions and from new sales. We also provide services to many companies within our industry, and we wanted to generate additional goodwill with those companies via the publications. In other words, we used this event to increase our name recognition within the industry and increase sales from our competitors.

The other release was written to get stories placed in the local and regional publications where we have operating centers. One of the great things about the Inc. 500 is that almost every newspaper in the country highlights those listed companies that are headquartered within its circulation area. Our goal was to make sure as many editors as possible knew that we had a local presence in their region, so that when they wrote their annual Inc. 500 article, they would add us to the story.

These are just a few of the ways we leveraged our induction into the Inc. 500. Anyone can use these strategies to promote a company’s recognition for reaching a milestone. Just remember to create a plan that best fits your company’s needs and culture, execute your plan, and enjoy the ride.

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