Southampton: Solent 250 winners revealed at annual dinner

The Business Magazine’s annual awards dinner for Solent 250 companies demonstrated the breadth of entrepreneurial businesses in the south, and provided guests with an evening of entertaining speakers.

Over 80 guests attended the dinner and networking event at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, to celebrate top businesses in the Solent and South Coast region. The listing is compiled by The Business Magazine.

The Solent 250 is sponsored by HSBC UK, accountants RSM, law firm Irwin Mitchell and CMA Recruitment Group, who judged 30 finalists across six categories.

Speaking on behalf of the sponsors, Richard Dibden, commercial director, CMA Recruitment Group, said: “What is very apparent about the Solent 250 is there are some exceptional businesses in our region, from the widest possible variety of sectors. We are truly blessed by the businesses, entrepreneurship and talent we have within our region.”

Guest speaker Ben Dowd, who was appointed CEO of Onecom last November, talked about the Fareham-based business telecoms provider’s ambitious expansion plans. Onecom is number 45 in the Solent 250, with sales up from £68.9m to £82.8m.

After 22 years at O2, Dowd chose Onecom partly because he wanted a new job that “offered fun”. Onecom also has the added advantage of no external shareholders, and a ‘can do’ culture that enables quicker decision making.

He said one of his first tasks was to distil Onecom’s business vision down to four key words: independence, partners, customers and people.

“It’s always about our people first,” he emphasised. “That will filter through to how we work with our customers and partners.”

The other guest speakers were RSM’s Simon Hart, the firm’s lead Brexit partner, and its chief economist Joe Brusuelas.

The duo provided a highly entertaining and thought-provoking snapshot of the possible implications of the UK leaving the EU. Earlier on the day of the awards dinner the UK government had added to the ongoing uncertainty by asking the EU for a further extension to the Brexit deadline,

Hart and Brusuelas suggested possible scenarios for how trade deals might be structured and what the UK’s future relationship with the US might look like. The audience shared their views on key Brexit questions via an interactive online Q&A.

And the Solent 250 award winners are….

Ones to Watch
Winner: AT Jones

Judges’ comment:

This new category focused on fast-growing businesses with turnover below £20m. The winner has shown impressive financial growth in the past 12 months, through the delivery of several high profile local contracts, and is led by a strong management team. What gave this company the edge was its eye to the future, and the importance placed on stewardship of the company through the creation of a ‘junior’ management board, mentored by the directors.

Finalists: CPG Logistics, MSP Capital, Redwood Global, The West Group

CSR Award of the Year
Winner: Hobbycraft Group

Judges’ comment:

Our winner demonstrated that its sustainability commitment is woven into its culture and has led to real positive change across the judging criteria. We were impressed with this business’s commitment to reducing waste and its market leading strides towards 100% reusable, recyclable, compostable packaging by 2021. We also liked how the drive to reduce waste is linked to its commitment to up-cycling and making the communities they are in better.

Finalists: Lush Cosmetics, Simplyhealth Group, Siva Group, Trant Engineering

Leaders in Digitalisation
Winner: Trant Engineering

Judges’ comment:

Our winner was in some ways unexpected. It is a large, local family business that for a number of years has seen technology and innovation as a way to set itself apart. A business that has developed a market leading virtual reality offering to enable customers to ‘step into’ a newly designed scheme before even breaking ground, and has transformed and digitalised its project management and document management systems.

Finalists: Ascenti, Lush Cosmetics, RB Sport and Leisure (Ageas Bowl), Simplyhealth Group

Growth Story of the Year
Winner: Charles Trent

Judges’ comment:

Our winner had a great growth story to tell. They are a family-owned business working in a very traditional sector that has radically changed its business model to focus on core areas, which has led to significant growth (up 46% last year). Renowned in the sector for innovation and market leading customer service, they are regarded as a ‘family business with corporate processes and attitude’, completely revolutionising the sector norm.

Finalists: 23.5 Degrees, Hendy Group, Highwood Group of Companies, SHB Hire

International Business of the Year
Winner: Colt Group

Judges’ comment:

The winner’s organisational strategies are built bottom up, with their staff and customers at the centre of everything they do. There was clear collaboration between their international operations. Key to their international success has been defining a group culture, which enables them to build local operating cultures and be seen as ‘local’ businesses in the territories within which they operate.

Finalists: Blakell Europlacer, CT Automotive, Formaplex Group, REIDsteel

Management Team of the Year
Winner: Knights Brown

Judges’ comment:

We were impressed by the way our winning business has developed a culture of collaboration, teamwork and engagement, led from the top. This passionate approach to workplace culture has led to a retention rate significantly under the industry standard. This business develops innovative ways to use certain products in the construction industry, delivering award winning projects and, ultimately, impressive financial growth this year of approximately 30%.  

Finalists: Lucketts Travel, MAATS Tech, Onecom, Shorefield Holidays