I always look forward to this time of year as I prepare to judge the entries for the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank. For the last few years that I have been part of the judging panel, I have always been impressed by the quality of the entries and the great stories of company success and innovation across all parts of the businesses.
Year on year there has been an increase in entries across the categories, which is great to see although it doesn't make the judging any easier.
All the judges take their responsibility seriously and there have been many robust debates around the table.
For me, the importance of the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards is the platform that it provides to companies to tell their stories of success, growth and development.
Every year there are always companies that I don't know about and it is inspiring to read how they are innovating within their businesses and the success that this is bringing.
At Catalyst Inc we are all about innovation and the growth of the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland.
We recently published the latest progress report and Northern Ireland is again the second-fastest growing region in the UK.
But we can't afford to be complacent as growth has slowed and we are facing into one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century - the impact of automation. This will require everybody to think more innovatively to embrace the opportunities from automation in order for us to thrive as a modern economy.
The Belfast Telegraph Business Awards are an indicator of the forward-thinking nature of those who are leading businesses in Northern Ireland.
Every year the quality of the entries increases and this gives me confidence that Northern Ireland businesses are creating an exciting future for all of us.
The prestige of the awards is acknowledged by all and is a great opportunity for companies to boost their profiles and the stories of their success is a real inspiration for other companies.
So what are you waiting for? There are 13 categories, ranging from Excellence in Exporting to Excellence in Management and Leadership, and from Excellence in Innovation to Emerging Business/Start-up of the Year.
Included are additional categories for Retailer of the Year and SME Healthcare of the Year as well as one for Excellence in Workplace Health and Well-being.
The diversity of the awards provides an opportunity for those earlier on their journey and those more established companies to be recognised.
It is an honour to be part of judging panel, and one I look forward to every year.
Will I be reading your story this year?
÷ Full details on categories and criteria and how to enter are available at www.belfast telegraph.co.uk/business/news/business-awards.
÷ The closing date for entries is Thursday, March 8 at noon.
÷ The gala awards dinner takes place on Thursday, April 26 at the Crowne Plaza, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast.
÷ A table of 10 costs £1,400 plus Vat, while individual places are available at £150 plus Vat.
÷ To book, please contact Karen McGarvey at Belfast Telegraph on tel: 028 9026 4345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full list of categories
1. Excellence in Marketing
2. Excellence in Exporting
3. Excellence in the Development of Management and Leadership
4. Excellence in Innovation
5. Best Use of Digital and/or Social Media
6. Young Businessperson of the Year
7. IT Company or Team of the Year
8. Retailer of the Year
9. Excellence in Workplace Health and Well-being
10. Best Established Small/Medium Business
11. Emerging Business/Start-up of the Year
12. Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility
13. SME Healthcare Business of Year
Two special judges' awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award and Overall Business of the Year, sponsored by Ulster Bank, will also be awarded