One of the best things about the business I am in is that it has a strategy to increase its social footprint to improve Whanganui and, more directly, groups of people in the community who need assistance. This comes in many forms and we will always encourage our staff to give their time and effort for good causes but, more importantly, contribute to strengthening our community.

For example, we are proud of our association and support of the Cancer Society. Cancer is a personal thing for many of us and our 'work family' is not immune – this will be an ongoing health challenge until a cure is found. Our team put in fabulous effort to support the Society via a number of events throughout the year.

Our Partners also sit on Boards which provide support and strength to the business community and 'not for profits' like schools and clubs.

I believe that this is crucial as it positively builds the culture of our business internally but also provides an avenue so that we can give back, even in a small way.

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Last week marked the beginning of something new in this regard which has been in development over the last year. In partnership with Atihau Whanganui Incorporation and Deloitte, Balance offered a scholarship for aspiring accounting students. There is some satisfaction from getting this off the ground because it offers an opportunity for local and regional Maori commerce students to get support and the experience of working with us and the world leading 'Big 4' firm Deloitte. It is also a reflection of the deep and longstanding relationship we have with Atihau Whanganui Incorporation.

So you can imagine that I was very keen to establish the scholarship and receive applications over the last 12 months!

There was one application which was outstanding. That of Aaron McGregor who is currently studying at UCOL. Aaron's is a story of determination and a desire to make change and better himself and his whanau. As one of the selection panel, it was clear that his academic record ticked all the boxes – but what I was more impressed by was the supporting material which spoke to his character and how he has applied himself to the task of gaining his degree and, later, becoming a Chartered Accountant.

I am looking forward to working with him on projects coming up in 2018, should he choose to utilise the opportunity to gain experience in consulting (that is, fields that don't involve "number crunching"!)

Finally, and as Christmas approaches, next week's article will be the last of 2017. In keeping with today's theme talking about awards, and continuing with the tradition started last year, I will be announcing the 'Business Zen' award for 2017's outstanding business. The finalists include last year's winner Air Chathams, Monaghan's Barber shop, Noel Leeming Victoria Ave, Gatshack and Riverview 4 Square. All of these businesses exemplify the best in customer service and a unique and local offering.

Business, social enterprise and just giving time – all of these contribute to making Whanganui and its community the best there is.