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The PABAs: A new kind of agent award


At the first Premier Agency Business Awards (PABA) in Toronto in May, three agencies won Best Agency, Best New Agency and Best Small Agency, along with CAD10,000 to spend on advertising their agency and study in Canada. The force behind the awards is Aly Rajab, owner of IALC member CLLC. We caught up with Aly recently to find out more about the PABAs.

Why did you launch these awards?
The Premier Agency Business Awards (PABA) were launched as a way of differentiating those agents who genuinely help and care for their clients from those who don’t maintain the same high standards. The PABAs were conceived about five years ago during an overseas trip to promote CLLC. I noticed there was a large gap between agents and their clients and it was from there that I began to wonder how the quality of services could be improved across the industry.

I spent seven years attending worldwide conferences, workshops, and agency fairs, talking to industry professionals trying unsuccessfully to sell this idea. In 2012, I made the decision that if I wanted to see change, then I would have to make it happen myself. I brought the idea to my CLLC team and received unanimous support.

How do you ensure their objectivity and integrity?
This was one of the most important aspects of organizing such an event because this is where the credibility and integrity of the PABA lies. Although these awards were a CLLC innovation, the judging panel is third-party and independent from the PABA organizing committee. Before reviewing each applicant the judges signed a non-disclosure agreement, ensuring confidentiality between the applicants and judges.

This past year we had four judges, who are members of the legal, financial and marketing sectors. They will also be serving a two year term on the PABA judging panel:

2012 PABA Chair: Joseph McDonald (Partner, McInnis Cooper)
2012 PABA Judges: Harry Cook (Senior Manager, Business Development Bank of Canada), Mike Bishop (Manager: Group Risk Management, RBC), Chris Merrick (Regional Process and Operations Manager, Sears)

They bring with them their wisdom and experience from combined decades working within the business sector, as well as proven track records of honest and ethical business practices. With such an incredible group of individuals on the PABA judging panel I feel the integrity of the system is sound.

What are the categories and prizes ?
When we were developing the categories and prizes, we wanted to ensure there was a category that most educational agencies in the industry could fit into. As such, there are three primary categories:

- New Agency of the Year (2-5 years in business)
- Small Agency of the Year (1-9 educational consultants)
- Agency of the Year (10 or more educational consultants)

There are Bronze, Silver and Gold prizes awarded in each of these categories. CLLC sponsored this year’s gala and the prizes are as follows:

Gold: An advertising campaign in their region valued at $10,000.00 CAD + 10 week General English tuition scholarship
Silver: 10 week General English tuition scholarship
Bronze: 5 week General English tuition scholarship

In addition to the above prizes, winners will also benefit from exposure during the 2013/2014 PABA marketing campaign to be held worldwide at all major industry events.

On what criteria are the agents judged?
Agents are judged on five criteria that measure all aspects of their business operations as well as their impact on their local community. In their handbook, the judging panel has a detailed breakdown of each of these categories. Each aspect of the business is analyzed and and scored accordingly. The criteria are as follows:
1. Strategic Plan and Vision
2. Community Involvement
3. Organizational Culture
4. Business Innovation
5. Facts and Figures
6. Customer Service

Do agents have to send students to Canada to have a chance of winning?
No. The award is actually open to any and all agencies that would like to apply and isn’t just open to agencies that have previously sent students to Canada. We see the awards as a chance for any agency to highlight their strengths. This is important to us as it means there aren’t any limiting factors on the applicants and it gives anyone from the industry a chance to participate. This type of system allows us to receive a diverse cross-section of the industry which enhances the competition and the overall quality of the applicants.

How did the first year go -good and bad!?
Quite honestly, the entire process and the gala night more than exceeded my expectations. When starting any organization and hosting a large event, little issues arise, but that’s to be expected. Overall, I was very happy with the end product, which means, with only a few minor changes here and there, the process and event will be even better next year.

For the 2014 awards, what changes are you planning?
The second year will mirror the first year with some minor improvements. People have already started to purchase tickets for the 2014 Gala dinner, which will be held at the same venue, Casa Loma, Canada’s "Majestic" Castle, on Sunday, May 11, 2014. The 2013 winners will be announced at this event. There are some new benefits to the winners that they can learn about by visiting the website (www.pabawards.com).

How do agents get on the 2014 shortlist?
Very simple, they just need to complete and submit the application before July 15th, 2013. The 2013 nominees will be announced by mid October.

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