Christopher Bear, president of the Texas School of Bartenders, in Houston, initially thought quality awards were for big companies, not for a small company like his with six employees and $430,000 in revenues. Now he knows that competing for quality awards provides a focal point for sustaining a commitment to quality and customer service.

"Once you get past the fear of being under the microscope, the application and award process is incredibly educational--you see the good, bad, and ugly in your business," says Bear. The Texas School of Bartending has received recognition in three of the six competitions it has entered, including the Inc. Positive Performer Awards and a local Houston award program modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Time spent preparing an application is well spent, according to Bear. Involving staff in the process was key: It generated a positive attitude shift. The application questions forced Bear to examine the entire organization and look for evidence to support his assumptions. As a result, the company has made strides in implementing database technology, cross-training, and other customer-service improvements. "By placing ourselves in competitions, we challenged our goals and each other to rise to the task," says Bear. Winning recognition also boosted morale and generated publicity for the school.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing