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Anyone for champers?

Dave Harvey | 14:45 UK time, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

You go to a lot of awards bashes in this job. You know the sort of thing: 'Best Call Centre Operative'. 'Van and Truck Champions of the West'. To be honest, if you're not up for a gong yourself, a night in with a reality show on Channel Five is more thrilling.

Champagne anyone?

But in a recession, industry bashes get more interesting. The Wiltshire Business Awards are one of the biggest, and I got an idea how interesting they might be this year at my first click.

On Friday, when I looked for it, the glossy appeal for proud companies was right next to a story for our times : Swindon Bankruptcies on the increase.

They've asked me to host the trophy fest, which is very kind of them, but I'm starting to wonder who'll be there. Five insolvency firms, competing for "Kindest Bailiff Award"? Half a dozen pound shops going for the "Best Deal in Devizes"?

Well, a quick chat with last year's winners suggests there might be a few pleasant surprises.
Rex Harrington and Greta Hodgkinson in Summer,The Four Seasons
The Young Achiever award went, in 2008, to Amy Williams, from Marlborough. Amy set up one of those "why didn't I think of that" businesses. She will teach you to dance, spectacularly, for one night only. Your wedding night. Wedding Day Dance has had a great year, built on the old adage that there are some things people never scrimp on, however tight the budget.

The overall winners on the night were a dynamic team of pharmaceutical number-crunchers. Tucked away in a Trowbridge back street Themis realised they had an advantage over the huge American market they could never lose.

Time.

US pharmaceuticals churn out millions of numbers - every kind of data imaginable. And when the average American chief exec sits down at 7am, they expect a full report on yesterday's numbers. Until Themis came along, this was done by midnight number-crunchers, working through the night. But Trowbridge wakes up five hours before Wall Street, so the directors here spotted an edge. Working hard from 8am till midday, they produce reports for US bosses that have become the gold standard.

Now, they do lots of clever stuff with these numbers I barely understand. There's more to it than just waking earlier in Wiltshire. But they were happy to claim that as their USP, and who am I to argue?

So who will this year's survivors be? I'm reminded of a wise old dairy farmer near Westbury, whose advice to young dairymen could guide pretty much any industry today. "Get big, get niche - or get out".

If you fancy entering the Wiltshire Business Awards, you've got until Friday 20 November. But if you've got an unusual tip for surviving the crunch - which is more than just a gratuitous ad for your company - I'd love to hear it here.

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