There is never a wrong time to look at your business and ask yourself how you are leading your business towards success.

Businesses are or should be constantly examining how they operate, monitoring their results and modifying their behaviour accordingly.

It is about excellent business leaders with excellent staff delivering excellent products and services to market.

When you're busy and day-to-day stuff gets in the way of you examining these things, then time can slide and another year goes by without you realising your business' true potential.

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All the more reason to enter this year's Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards which are now open for entries.

It allows you to set a timeline that you have to stick to so you can work through the process of examining how your business works and what you need to do to make it even better.

It reinforces that operating a business is a discipline that requires more than just providing a product or service.

An entrant's performance is rigorously tested against several key criteria and that business' vision and strategic plan.

It requires the owner to truly understand how their product or service is delivered to market, how they set their goal and aspirations, and how they establish who their market is and what their market needs.

Of course, this success cannot be measured without a business first having set clear goals. In many cases these are closely aligned to the personal aspirations of the people and families who own these businesses.

Above all else the Business Excellence Awards is a chance to celebrate Northland businesses and acknowledge the benefits they provide to our region's wider communities.

So, this year we have introduced a new category that recognises those businesses which have gone above and beyond business as usual and have become leaders providing employment opportunities for Northland's young people.

Any Northland business can enter the awards free of charge. Many entrants comment that they are initially quite daunted by the process when they read the entry form but soon realise that much of what it contains is things that they do and can be easily answered and the team at the chamber know just what to do to make this as easy as possible for the busy business owner to complete their entry.

That's not to say it will not require some time on behalf of the entrant but that time is rewarded by the insight the entry process provides the owner into their business.

■ Tony Collins is the Northland Chamber of Commerce's chief executive.