How well the health crisis was handled gave the panel new criteria for judging Choosing the winners of the DHL/SCMP Hong Kong Business Awards each year is a serious business for the panel of judges. Exacting and highly specific criteria apply to each award category. The process begins - as it has since the annual awards were inaugurated in 1990 - in June when nominations are called and the forms published in a booklet with the rules. This document is circulated through DHL's customer base, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Junior Chamber. Advertisements are placed in the South China Morning Post, asking people to contact the event secretariat, and nominations close in October. The number of nominees considered for each award varies each year, but the average number per category this year was six. Each category is different; due weight is given to recent performance, and the issues and circumstances of the year are considered. For most organisations, this year was dominated by the many effects of the Sars outbreak, and the performances of each individual and company had to be assessed in that context. The contribution of individuals and companies to the community has traditionally played a part in determining the winners. This was an especially significant consideration in a year when both the business community and the people of Hong Kong had to face severely testing conditions. The judges are often required to make some tough calls. Individuals and companies stand out in some categories, while in others the race can be a photo-finish. All decisions are based on individual merit, rather than a perceived need to ensure that a particular business or industry is represented. It was an exceptional year for Cathay Pacific. Clearly the judges must have been hugely impressed by the way management handled the Sars crisis, because they gave awards to the airline and its chief executive, David Turnbull. Both company and individual would have been a close fit with the guidelines for the International and Executive Awards. Voting involves a process of elimination until a candidate secures a majority. In the case of a tie, a casting vote from the panel chairman - this year Professor Chang Hsien-kang of City University - may be used. The judging panel includes many business community leaders, among them several past award recipients. Last year Esprit Holdings chairman Michael Ying Lee-yuen was chosen as Business Person of the Year; New World First Holdings managing director Adolf Hsu Hsung won the Executive Award; Donald Hay, president of Hayco Manufacturing, won the Owner-Operator Award, and Harilela Strategic Group executive director Raju Harilela won the Young Entrepreneur Award. The International Award and Enterprise Award last year were won by Hutchison Port Holdings and Fujikon Industrial Holdings respectively, and those organisations were represented on this year's panel of judges by Hutchison Port Holdings managing director John Meredith and Fujikon chairman Johnny Yeung. DHL, the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, HSBC, the Hong Kong Junior Chamber and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce were also represented on the panel. When the awards were established, the aims and objectives were clearly defined. The first was 'to create an annual business awards scheme to acknowledge publicly the vital contributions made by individuals and companies in maintaining and expanding the economic viability and international stature of the city'. The second was 'to create an environment through the business awards scheme which will encourage and sustain the Hong Kong entrepreneurial spirit, and highlight and recognise excellent standards of corporate management'. The quality of this year's entries shows that those award objectives have been amply achieved. The business community is the lifeblood of Hong Kong and, by recognising excellence in business performance, the awards continue to spur its members on to new achievements.