Well folks, the big day is almost upon us. Tomorrow, Sept. 19, is the day we will find out if we’ve won the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Small Business of the Year Awards in the 5-20 employees category. It has been a long process, one that began in March, but it has also been an unbelievably rewarding experience. Through this competition we’ve learned more about our company, our beliefs and our purpose, than ever before.
The theme of this year’s competition was ?The Amazing Race.? Competitors were instructed to incorporate this theme while addressing five judging criteria: history and philosophy, business goals and planning, operational management, innovation and response to competition, adversities, and the economy, and leadership and community contributions. To address both the theme and judging criteria while delivering a good time for the judges, we invited them to participate in ?Nitro?s Amazing Race,? which entailed six ?challenge? stations, a custom-designed mobile app made just for the event, and a celebratory party at the finish line.
Upon arrival, judges were greeted with the gear they would need for their race: orange sweatbands, Nitro sport towels, water and ?Team Nitro? lanyards. The judges were also provided with an iPad to use throughout their race?first to watch the ?trailer? we made for our interview, and then to use a custom-built mobile app to navigate throughout their race. [P.S. You can watch ?Nitro?s Amazing Race? trailer here.]
The first station the judges were led to presented our company?s history and our greatest adversity to-date. Dealing with adversity while starting a small business is like hitting a brick wall, but we were able to overcome the challenges we faced, including any obstacles along the way. To represent our history, one judge was selected to complete the challenge of getting through a brick wall and the obstacles behind it?all in one minute or less.
Challenge Station #2 presented the judges with our company?s philosophy and mission. At Nitro, we empower our clients by mobilizing their products and services while jumping through any hoops necessary to make them happy. Thus, one judge was selected to first empower himself by putting on a muscle man suit and then use a remote control to mobilize a helicopter and fly it through a hanging hoop?all in three minutes or less.
Station #3 covered our business planning and goals. Because we knew we were taking a gamble by starting a business in the middle of a horrible economy, one judge was invited to take a gamble as well. Using custom Nitro playing cards, this judge had two minutes to try his luck at BlackJack. At Station #4, our VP of Administration discussed our operational management practices. Since we have reached out for help from local admin professionals over time, one judge had to complete a puzzle while blindfolded and was instructed to reach out for help from his partner, who was in charge of providing verbal directions.
Judges learned all about our innovation and our response to competition, adversity, and the economy at Station #5. To represent the idea that our products and services continuously change over time due to the nature of our industry, judges were presented with eight technical innovations from throughout the years. In one minute or less, judges worked as a team to identify the correct release dates for each product. Release dates ranged from 1961 to 2014.
?In their last challenge station, judges were presented with our leadership efforts and community contributions. To represent our commitment to serve our community, and to use the competition as an additional way to give back, the team of judges were able to work together to collectively wrap as many gifts and toys as possible in three minutes. At the end of this particular challenge, we tripled the amount of wrapped items and donated everything (including toys used in other stations as well) to The Children?s Home, a local nonprofit.
At the end of Nitro’s Amazing Race, judges made their way through the finish line and into a celebration room, complete with guava and cheese pastries, fresh fruits with whipped cream, and sparkling ciders. They also received gift bags full of Nitro swag, mini bottles of champagne and chocolate truffles. While in the party room, we opened the floor up to questions.
So what do YOU think? Did we prove worthy of being named the 2014 Small Business of the Year? Stay tuned this weekend to find out the results– and good luck to our competitors!