04 Mar Ryan Westwood discusses Entrepreneur of the Year Award
It’s a lonely road for most entrepreneurs.
The journey from vision to fruition is often fraught with casual skeptics, critical in-laws, spotty cash flow, and a constant uncertainty casting doubt on whether or not you should cut bait or see this journey through until the end–whatever THAT looks like.
The only people who understand this life are other entrepreneurs, and for the past 36 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the visionary achievements of this exclusive community with its Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program.
Simplus CEO Ryan Westwood, 2021 recipient of the Utah EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award and a national award finalist, recently sat down with Shawn Goff, managing partner at the SLC Ernst and Young office and Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program director, and Meat & Potatoes podcast host Garrett Clark, to discuss the recent award program name change and why this award is so meaningful to the entrepreneurial community.
Now known as the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Mountain West Award, this program is open primarily to entrants in Utah, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and the surrounding states. “That’s a new opportunity for entrepreneurs here in Utah to network a little bit broader,” explains Goff. “Certainly we think the program gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with our local entrepreneurs, but also give them an opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and learn about companies outside of Utah. That will be the biggest change. We look forward to the 2022 program.”
Although it’s not in an entrepreneur’s nature to revel much in the past, Westwood found the application process almost cathartic.
“The application process made me think through and reflect on the journey,” says Westwood. “It made me think about what the last eight years have been like.” He admits that the role of CEO or entrepreneur forces you to focus on the future. “It’s almost against our jobs, to be thinking too much about the past. You want to learn from it and then just move forward,” Westwood says.
Backed by the enduring reputation of Ernst and Young, this award program is respected within the business community, but it also celebrates the tradition shared among past winners.
“We see it as a celebration of entrepreneurship. That’s really what it’s about,” says Goff. “And it’s about telling these amazing stories from 24 entrepreneurs or companies, and then recognizing seven or eight of those companies every year.”
Goff says the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award is different from other recognition awards. In addition to completing an application, entrants are interviewed by a judging panel. “Ernst and Young doesn’t decide the winners of the entrepreneur,” he says. “Winning entrepreneurs are decided by an independent panel of judges that is made up of other entrepreneurs, most of them former winners of the program, and CEOs and some VC representation from Utah and the other markets that are involved in our program.”
Prestigious recognition from the business and entrepreneurial community certainly has its benefits from a recruiting standpoint. With the tech market leaning in the job seekers’ favor, leadership recognition is a boon for attracting talent.
“There’s no question when you’ve been recognized like that what it says to a future employee: ‘Okay, this entrepreneur has been through some of these storms. They’ve been successful. They’ve had a certain amount of success. I can hitch my wagon to this organization and feel more comfortable.’ So I think it does help with talent and really recruiting talent to your organization,” Westwood says. “And I also think as it’s recognized in we’re focused on enterprise customers, and even those customers recognize it, like you would expect the entrepreneurial community.”