Most small and medium business owners who have survived those first few years from start-up can remember the times when, in their minds, they had more good ideas than others and more passion than those who had gone before them. They dreamed more than most thought was safe and were prepared to risk more than their mentors thought was advisable.

Their sense of urgency kept their dreams alive and their blinkers to failure meant that success was the only acceptable result.

Today those start-ups that have survived are employing our youth and building the teams of talent that will be the base of Auckland's new business sectors - some which were not even in existence when today's graduates began their education.

These businesses are in growth phase and a part of their expansion is the review of the pathway they have already taken - and having a plan for where they intend to go.

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Business awards provide a great platform on which to undertake this review process - but only if you are brave enough.

Most of our finalists this year admitted that the process of entering the awards meant returning to the 'why' they went into business and 'what' they wanted to achieve. It was not only a good reviewing process but a rewarding one.

To then see your best processes compared to other entries and to be benchmarked and compared took courage but for each of them it was rewarding.

One significant reward entrants referred to was the relationship they established with the team of judges who are business leaders at the top of their game in Innovation, Marketing, Customer Service, Strategy and Planning, International Trade and Employment.

Without fail entrants spoke of the benefit of talking to an independent advisor who was able to add value or, through the Chamber or ATEED network, provide some advice that will make the next growth phase of their business a successful one.

There is no cost to entry in the Westpac Auckland Business Excellence Awards. In addition, businesses receive enormous value from free facilitation, access to mentoring, the opportunity to attend workshops and awards events and judges' site visits.