(First published on May 5, 2018)
I was recently asked to do some due diligence on an association that was giving out Business Excellence Awards. My client was advised that they had been nominated by their industry peers and experts for the award, or at least to be considered for the award. The catch, winning the award had a minimum $10,000 price tag. For this you got a certificate and one seat at the awards dinner. For $100,000 you got your somewhat more elegant glass carved award from a member of “a” royal family. Lets not dwell on which alleged royal family or which country or region this might be in as these sham/scam awards happen everywhere. There were also awards being given by “Ministers” of certain governments and alleged business leaders from all over the place, most of whom seems to have some ongoing connection with the organisation.
The $100,000 also included your own table with an eminent person on it and up to 10 seats at the table. Of course there were other options (sorry I mean prices) for things like a “mock interview” by a professional journalist that you could host on your own website, the organizers website or even on YouTube if you felt that way inclined. There was quite a laundry list.
So our client had done exactly what to earn this award. As far as the client could work out and as far as we could work out they had done nothing but have a website and an email address and links on sites like this one, LinkedIn. That seems to qualify you for pretty much everything.
Our due diligence found that this organisation had been in business for about 10 years and that most of the “winners” were quite small businesses who were looking for a way to impress potential clients with the award. I have to say that none of the previous winners were names I had ever heard of and none of them had ever won the award twice, maybe once bitten twice shy. We also noted that the head of the organisation seemed to have no real business acumen of his own and had not been at any time to leader of any successful businesses, indeed he did a good job of hiding his own professional history. Some background checks suggested some bumps in the financial road but nothing that would cause major alarm bells to ring.
So I guess the question is, how impressed are you when you see a potential business partner with an “X” or “Y” Business Award? For me I’d want to take a look at the background of the awarding organisation and wonder how much the company paid for their award. There are of course many very legitimate business awards and these are very easy to spot, but it seems there are no shortage of people/companies happy to pay $10,000 or $20,000 or $100,000 for their own special award of excellence, a great dinner and getting a photo for the reception and webpage with a “royal” or a ‘Minister”.
If it looks like duck, and sounds like a duck and waddles like a duck, there is a good chance it's a duck and not a goose, or just maybe…….
Here is just one example of an award being questioned, well worth a read seeing at it was published in the Straits Times: Sham or Scam