In 1989 Management Today launched its Business in Europe Awards to identify Britain's most successful participants in the European market. Today, with Britain joining the European exchange rate mechanism and a unified currency on the agenda, Europe is more important than ever.
As an increasing number of firms follow in the footsteps of the Euro-pioneers, it is time to reflect on this continental drift. The 1991 BIE Awards have been revised to focus on innovation as much as participation. There will be three categories in all: the Best Small Company (with turnover of less than £10 million per annum); the Best New Company (with a European strategy adopted during the past five years); and the Best Services/Industrial Company (with turnover of more than £10 million per annum and a strategy of over five years' duration).
Last year's entries demonstrated that there is no single formula for success in Europe. Some companies, such as THORN Lighting, winner of the Best Industrial Company category and overall supremo, chose to keep a strong element of central control over foreign operations. Others, like Courtaulds, which was runner-up in the same category, had bent over backwards to allow regional managers as much autonomy as possible. However, certain features were common to all of the winners. Each had assessed its own strengths and weaknesses in relation to its European competitors; each had formulated and effected a clear strategy; and the efforts of each had paid off in terms of market share and profits.
Hiring local personnel, including managers, also proved a common strand in the strategy of the most successful. The nationals' knowledge of local markets was invaluable, but if anything the policy was still more significant as a vital first step in developing a multi-cultural corporate community.
Finalists in the previous BIE Awards have illustrated the fundamental importance of a coherent and flexible strategy. To cite Sir Denys Henderson, who chaired last year's panel of judges: "It is very important that British companies make the most strenuous efforts to be taken seriously in the EC." This year, as Britain faces major changes in its European role, those efforts should be still more committed.
If you know of, or are employed at, a company which in your view merits a Business in Europe Award, let us know. All applications will be judged by a panel of experts including the editor of Management Today. The results of the contest will be announced in April, when winners will be invited to attend a special lunch in London. Early copies of Management Today's May issue unveiling the winners and telling their stories will be available to all who attend the lunch.
So if you think that your company qualifies as a Euro-pioneer, write to the editor of Management Today at 30 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LP, explaining in not more than 500 words why your candidate is a winner. Please identify at the top of your application the category for which the candidate should be considered, and mark the envelope BIE Awards. Entries must reach the editor by February 15 1991.