WINNING the Hunts Post Huntingdonshire New Business Award last year helped business grow by nearly 250 per cent in the past 12 months at St Ives-based Maxine Lester Residential Lettings. "We certainly achieved a boost in enquiries after the awards," Maxine said. "I believe it brought us to the attention of a wider market, justifying the effort we put into preparing for the awards. The questions we had to answer were obviously challenging, but we found the answers were readily available within our annual business plan, operational processes and market information kept by any professional company. "They helped highlight areas where we were not as strong as we could be, so these were obviously the first targets for improvement. "The award ceremony was brilliant, particularly going as a finalist in two categories. It was a real honour actually to win the New Business Award, and a great boost to everyone in the team, recognising their efforts and commitment to servicing our customers." A former customer service director at Peterborough-based Home Entertainment Corporation and a former landlord, Maxine reckoned she had spotted a gap in the lettings market. "When we opened the doors in October 2005, I was absolutely clear what was needed to differentiate us from the competition based entirely upon performance and customer service," she said. "There were two main areas on which to focus, which remain today. First is the marketing to communicate clearly and connect with landlords and tenants. We talk to around 50 potential new tenants a week. We take time to understand what is important to them so we are able to meet their needs. "This means we increase the chances of quickly matching a tenant to a landlord's property, reducing void periods - the fastest we have completed a deal is 19 hours from the landlord's instruction. "The second is appropriate management of the property, and caring for the tenants. We visit all new tenants every three months starting four weeks after they have moved into their new home - we want to make sure they have settled in and they are no issues which may become problems. "This focus on service has meant we have enjoyed phenomenal growth and are a real force in the market." INFORMATION: Maxine Lester Residential Lettings is at 12 Station Road, St Ives, PE27 5BH; telephone 01480 494939; fax 01480 494959.