Black Ties nominations: who’s ‘above and beyond’?

It’s time to send in your nominations for excellence in business and customer service.

Yes, the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce is getting ready for its 18th annual Black Tie Awards.

Nominations opened Dec. 5, 2013 and will be accepted until Jan. 31.

The Awards Banquet and Auction take place April 5. The Black Tie Awards is a community event put on by the chamber but both chamber members and non-members are eligible for nomination.

For the first time this year, nominees will be automatically notified that they have received a nomination.

Categories include Customer Service, Volunteer of the Year, Young Entrepreneur Award, Business Achievement (with subsections for businesses of different sizes), Green Award, and Art in Business.

Elizabeth Croft, membership and events manager, Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, said last week that she’s thrilled with the way the celebration has grown.

"It’s something, isn’t it? We have come a long way. It started out with just a few nominations and a few winners and now we’ve got the eight categories, 260 people coming and sellout crowds. It’s been an exciting almost two decades."

The glamorous affair was a little long last year, though, and she and her team are working to remedy that.

"We had a couple of hiccups in the program last year. Basically, we integrated the silent auction and that took up more time during the breaks. We are taking a really, really close look at the script and we are going to make some efficiencies. We want to get everybody home a lot earlier. I’m committed to shaving an hour off. I’m working really hard to do that," she said.

Croft also pointed out that the categories are unchanged from 2013.

"Of course, we always have the most nominations in customer service. I would say about 40 per cent of the nominations are in customer service. People are very passionate about all the places they go to shop and all the people that provide them with services and products. They have very profound relationships there. They feel very strongly."

Of course, she said, that’s what a chamber of commerce is all about as well.

"The Black Tie reminds us that business is people too. You’re not just talking about capitalism you’re talking about relationships and people going above and beyond," she said.

Croft did point out one thing about the Black Tie Awards.

"We’d like to remind people: it’s not a voting situation. It is a nomination. There’s a difference between those two things. Once we receive a nomination, we actually phone the nominator and give them the opportunity to expand on that a little bit."

The chamber uses a form with standardized scoring for the awards.

"That way we’re always comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges when we’re talking to everybody. It’s a good system. From there it goes to the round table panel and they select the three finalists in each category.

"So, just because you’re nominated doesn’t mean you’re in the running to win. The finalists are in the running to win," she said.

Those three finalists have an in-person interview with a pair of judges.

"One judge is a director from our chamber of commerce and the other one is a sponsor. So, they get a chance to participate. It’s a standardized form there, too. Everyone has the same interview," Croft said.

"Then we pack up all the marks and send them to the auditor. The judges don’t actually know. They may think they know but there is always the possibility that the highest score in the interview may not be the highest score in the end," she said.

"The finalists are always so close. They are all fantastic, and that’s why we work so hard to make them feel like a million bucks. That’s my job," Croft said.

So, if you have thought about nominating a person or a business, why not do it now? You can easily start by visiting www.duncancc.bc.ca/pages/BlackTieAwards/and following the directions there.

You can submit your nomination with an online form or download the form and submit it by fax to 250-746-8222 or email to chamber@duncancc.bc.ca or take a hard copy to the chamber office.

It’s located at the new Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre, 2896 Drinkwater Rd., adjacent the BC Forest Discovery Centre so if you haven’t seen that great facility yet, here’s your chance.

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