Mid-sized businesses (MSBs), typically employing 50-500 people, are the hidden success story of the UK economy, said Grant Thornton assurance partner Norman Armstrong, as he presented an International Business Growth Award, as part of the Solent 250 dinner
“Mid-sized businesses in Britain in the past 12 months have outstripped all other sectors in terms of growth, employment and economic success. Those are the companies that you people in this room and the Solent 250 listings represent.
“That success is down to the leadership of those companies taking bold and brave decisions over the past few years since the recession, taking the long-term view, investing when required, seeking new markets both in the UK and internationally.
“Our research* suggests that the MSB sector is actually the area where the focus, support and attention should go in order to really make a difference.
“Companies in this MSB space are expected to grow by at least 4% and create over 60,000 jobs.“
Norman Armstrong (Grant Thornton), David Murray (The Business Magazine), Dame Wendy Hall, Andrew Heathcock (Paris Smith), Alex Fuller (Santander)
Noting recent headlines made by Ford’s proposed closure of its Ford Transit production site at Swaythling, he added: “I would bet that Solent 250 companies have created more new jobs in the past 12 months than that factory will lose.
“You are the unsung heroes of British business in this region and it’s one of the reasons that Grant Thornton, Paris Smith, Santander and The Business Magazine collaborated three years ago to create the Solent 250 in order to raise the profile of what we see as the leading businesses in our economic region.“
David Murray, managing director and publisher of The Business Magazine, said this year’s Solent 250 listings showed that the 250 companies together employed 83,500 people and had a combined turnover of £11.1billion – up from £10.9b last year.
“These companies make a significant contribution to the economy of the south,“ he said.
He announced more feature page profiles of successful businesses, plans for a roundtable discussion in the New Year, and a business breakfast briefing. A special Solent 250 portal will be created on The Business Magazine website, and a refreshed Solent 250 LinkedIn group will also be launched.
* Agents of Growth – ’How mid-sized businesses are beating the market’ is a research report published by Grant Thornton and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
“The Solent 250 is not a pecking order. It is a grouping of talented and successful companies, many involved on a global stage, and all helping to put the Solent region firmly on the business map.“
You can read a report of the address by Dame Wendy Hall here.
Family Owned & Managed Company of the Year: Churchill Retirement Group
(Sponsored by Paris Smith)
Based in Ringwood, Churchill Retirement (Solent 250 No 67) is the second-largest developer in the retirement sector and specialises in developing attractive, purpose-built retirement properties in the UK. “They have maintained their position as one of the fastest growing privately-owned companies in the retirement sector and significantly increased their turnover, in what can only be described as ’challenging times’ for developers,“ said Paris Smith partner James McNeil.
Paris Smith partner James McNeil (left) and Dean Marlow of Churchill Retirement Group
Ethical Investor of the Year: Ahmad Tea
(Sponsored by Paris Smith)
Begun in 1986, the family business of Ahmad Tea (Solent 250 No 122), has grown steadily through its commitment to selling the finest teas for ’an enjoyable, memorable and satisfying tea-drinking experience.’ Ahmad Tea, based in Chandlers Ford, now exports to more than 70 countries on six continents. “It wasn’t just the growing turnover and management skills of this family-run company that brought it to our attention, but its contribution and mission to putting back into communities a lot of that turnover and profit that it takes out,“ explained Paris Smith managing partner Andrew Heathcock. Ahmad Tea regularly donates to charitable organisations in Britain and specific emergencies worldwide, while maintaining its sponsorship of orphanages in Mali, Russia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.
Paris Smith Managing Partner Andrew Heathcock (left) and Dr Ali Afshar of Ahmad Tea
Best ’Breakthrough’ Business: New Earth Solutions Group
(Sponsored by Santander Corporate Banking)
New Earth Solutions (Solent 250 No 108) is based in Verwood and employs over 160 people at five UK facilities. New Earth has positioned itself to benefit from the increased need to divert waste from landfill and use more sustainable waste treatment methods. “It doubled in size last year and has tripled in size over the past two years and is a hugely topical and relevant company providing waste treatment and renewable energy services,“ said Santander regional director Alex Fuller.
The Santander Breakthrough programme aims to help Britain’s fastest growing SMEs with funding and financial advice, meetings with leading entrepreneurs, and visits to successful companies.
Santander regional director Alex Fuller (left) and Stephen Bates of New Earth Solutions Group
Exporter Award: R&M Electrical Group
(Sponsored by Grant Thornton)
Formed in 1987, Sholing-based R&M Electrical (Solent 250 No 37) is one of the UK’s largest independent electrical distributors, exporting products and services to nearly 60 countries worldwide. Alongside its specialist UK branches and divisions, R&M established international operations in 1996 and began to gain internationally significant contracts and projects. It now has overseas branches in the Caspian and Middle East regions (offices in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Dubai), supplying industry sectors including oil, gas, petrochemical, and marine.
Grant Thornton tax director Kerry McKeown (left) and Brian Robinson of R&M Electrical Group
International Business Growth: Lakesmere
(Sponsored by Grant Thornton)
Winchester-based Lakesmere (Solent 250 No 69) is widely regarded as a leading roofing and cladding specialist the UK (it helped build the Olympic Aquatic Centre) but it also has four offices in the Middle East, having established its International Division in 2009. Lakesmere is now well placed to undertake contracts across the whole of the Middle East, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states, North Africa and other emerging markets. “The big difference over the past few years is that despite having a vast pipeline of work in the UK, they have invested time in seeking out new opportunities overseas,“ said Grant Thornton partner Norman Armstrong.
Grant Thornton partner Norman Armstrong (left) and Ed McKenzie of Lakesmere
Sustained Growth: Kondor
(Sponsored by The Business Magazine)
Consumer electronics accessory specialist Kondor (Solent 250 No 49) employs 120 people in its 60,000 sq ft premises at Christchurch Business Park. It is a former Dorset Business Awards ’Company of the Year’ and has maintained high standards while growing its annual turnover from £36.5 million in 2009 to £41.8m to in excess of £52.3m. Kondor provides a one-stop shop of services from product creation to retail sales-point (either instore or online) for its B2B customers throughout the UK, many of them major high-street names. It processes hundreds of thousands of accessories every month – from headphones to handsets, batteries to Bluetooth connectors, chargers to car kits – and distributes them purchase-ready packed complete with point-of-sale materials.
David Murray managing editor and publisher of The Business Magazine (left) and Malcolm Bartlett of Kondor