As the official media partner of MKBAA, All Things Business recently interviewed Nicholas Mann, Chair of MKBLP, about the awards, the 10th anniversary, and his aspirations for 2024……
The Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards (MKBAA) is back for 2024 and is proudly celebrating its 10th anniversary. As a prominent place holder in the city’s business calendar, the awards celebrate the business community by shining a light on the charities, sole traders, SMEs and blue-chip companies that make up the wide and varied business landscape across the region.
Over the past 10 years, these organisations have been given a welcoming platform to prove they are the best within their chosen categories through the awards, and many past winners have gone on to thrive within the city, expanding their businesses and maximising the opportunities winning a Milton Keynes Business Achievement award has given them.
The coveted awards were initially launched in 2013, with the first ceremony held the following year, as a collaboration between Interdirect Managing Director and now Chair of MKBAA organisers, Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP), Nicholas Mann, and former MKBLP Chair, Dr Philip Smith MBE.
Fast forward 10 years and every year the launch of the awards marks the countdown to the prestigious ceremony, which will be held next year on 21st March, at Stadium MK.
We spoke to Nick recently and, reflecting on the last decade, he said: “When the Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce closed there wasn’t an awards ceremony for two or three years and I thought that was harmful to the business sector in Milton Keynes.
“Around the same time, I joined MKBLP as a member and spoke to Philip Smith about it. As it transpired, he was having the same idea as I was, so we decided to join forces and create something together.”
So, after 10 years at the helm, what’s is Nick’s favourite part of the awards? “I enjoy meeting up with business owners and businesspeople that I may only get to see once or twice a year. I love to see the social media storm a few days afterwards as well. It’s then amazing when you see someone a couple of months later, after they have won, and they comment that the win has been transformational for their business.”
With an awards ceremony of this size, regularly MKBAA attracts over 700 people, a considerable amount of work goes on behind the scenes: “We get the wheels in motion for the following year’s event just a few weeks after the previous one finishes, there’s not a lot of time to sit around and revel in the success,” Nick continues; however, he acknowledges that some areas of organising the awards are harder than others.
“Traditionally the hardest part for us is getting sponsorship. The generosity of businesses and people across Milton Keynes makes these awards possible and, while we do have a supportive group of sponsors who sign up year after year, we do need to bring new sponsors in as there is always a new category or detail which needs support. On top of that, I’m fanatical about detail, and I think that shows in the event, there’s just a myriad of different plates to keep spinning but our organisational team are just fantastic.”
Each year, the awards have a central theme, and following on this year’s Celebrating Diversity, in 2024, MKBAA will be acknowledging the city’s technical strengths with Forever Innovative: Milton Keynes Leading the UK’s High-tech Future.
The city’s status as a powerhouse for technology and innovation was recently confirmed in a recent report by Whitecap Consulting, which found that one-third of all people in the city worked in and around technology, and that approximately one-fifth of our 12,675 businesses were technology-related. On top of that, £3.4bn of our total £14.7bn GVA is related to technology, which is higher than much larger cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. So, no wonder the awards this year are keen to celebrate innovation and technology.
However, those who don’t exhibit the characteristics of the theme should NOT be discouraged from entering. Nick said: “The theme should not be an inhibition to entry. We do try and keep the themes as generic as possible, and everyone in their business is likely to use some form of technology and we encourage everyone to make sure they read the entry questions; they won’t all be about technology.”
The awards have always been about embracing and encouraging all types of businesses to enter, regardless of size, and adopts a level playing field when it comes to entrants, with categories to suit all types of organisations from sole traders to huge multi-national businesses.
The fact that the awards are independently judged, has also given them a huge amount of credibility throughout the last decade.
Nick commented: “The impartiality of the judges has always been fundamental to me, so it’s good to hear that past entrants feel that the entire judging process is done fairly, that’s rule number one as far as I’m concerned. It’s also the reason why sponsors can’t enter because I don’t want people to think they’ve bought their award. The judging panel is fully independent, with no direction from MKBLP.”