PREPARING an entry for The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards provides an opportunity for a business-owner to review strategic performance, according to a businesswoman whose company has won awards in three successive years. Maxine Lester, who runs the eponymous residential lettings company in St Ives, was named Business Person of the Year 2008 in last November's awards. Her company, founded in 2005, won the New Business award in 2006 and the Business Development Awards for the two following years, as the firm continued to flourish and expand. "The great thing about the business awards is that they provide expert, external, peer review of how you manage your business, which helps you refocus on what you want to achieve" said Maxine Lester. "When we opened for business, my vision was to provide a high quality residential property lettings management service for private landlords and through that be able to contribute to those in need in the community. This vision remains unchanged and both parts are definitely being achieved. "Even in the last year we have grown by just under 10 per cent, despite huge challenges in the property market, and we continue to make charitable donations. "This clarity of vision guided our original business plan, and the decisions we take in managing the business every day. This is where the awards are helpful, as they remind you to review the big picture. As a business owner you need to continually make sure you focus on working 'on' the business, as opposed to working 'in' it, where it is not always possible to see the wood for the trees.. Mrs Lester said she was convinced that the preparation for each award submission, combined with the judges' interviews, were hugely effective at taking an objective and strategic review of performance against plan. However the main benefit to the company had been the fantastic boost it gave to the team at Maxine Lester's. "These are the people who ensure we provide consistently high levels of customer satisfaction, and give us such a positive story to tell the judges. "One part of the presentation given to the judges showed how we invest in the team's training and development. We now have a third of the delivery team well on their way to qualification for the National Federation of Property Professionals Technical Award, and senior members are set for the Diploma in September. This training has paid dividends." The business of property management is made up of two parts - marketing to ensure the property has a tenant, and then looking after the assets of landlords during the tenancy, Mrs Lester said. That required more than just making sure visits took place and the tenants were looked after. "There is a huge minefield of legislation and case law involved in letting a property, which can mean a problem tenant can be almost impossible to remove. We wanted to ensure every member of our team is able to understand these complexities, giving them the confidence to advise our landlords properly. "We certainly intend to continue to have external accreditation of the management of our business, and the business awards will certainly be part of this essential tool in providing clarity of business planning and decisions.