A buccaneering spirit, building on our heritage and breaking the mould are hallmarks of the businesses applauded at last night’s Solent Business Awards.
An audience of nearly 300 business people attended the fourth annual awards, held at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl. The event was sponsored by NatWest, KPMG, Pitmans Law, James Cowper Kreston, Taylor Made Computer Solutions and Vail Williams.
David Murray, publisher of award organiser The Business Magazine, said: “The judges have been out and about visiting businesses and learning that – despite all you may hear from politicians – there’s still lots of positivity out there.”
He added: “It’s that buccaneering spirit, that entrepreneurialism and corporate achievement that we can see in this room tonight.”
Sally Taylor, a familiar face presenting BBC South Today for over three decades, arrived to host the awards straight from Highclere Castle, where she’d been interviewing cast members of TV drama Downton Abbey.
She encouraged guests to dig deep into their pockets and donate to Myeloma UK, the only UK charity focused on the discovery, development and treatment of the blood cancer, myeloma. £2,200 was raised for the charity on the evening.
Emsworth-born guest speaker Alastair Stewart presents a range of ITV news and current affairs programmes. He said he was “seriously delighted” to be back in his neck of the woods.
“The Solent means a great deal to me,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be here tonight as this is where my career started in 1976 with Southern Television.”
He recalled the diversity of companies he covered as Southern Television’s industrial correspondent and noted how the Solent area’s commercial landscape has changed over the decades.
“Things that we still do we still do quite brilliantly,” he said. “We build on heritage, breaking the mould and breaking down barriers. There’s an army of vibrant businesses in the region. That is what we are celebrating tonight.”
Stewart referenced transformative changes he had reported on, from the Thatcher years, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf war and now Brexit.
He told the audience: “It will be the wealth creators, the employers, who will call the politicians to order over Brexit. If we eventually leave the EU, and I suspect that that will be the outcome, it will be down to people like you – the men and women celebrated here tonight who will take us forward.”
And the winners are…
Best Use of Technology Award
Winner: L3 ASV
Judges said: “Our winner was a runner-up in this category last year and after entering for a 2nd time has blown us away with their application.
“Using technology in an innovative, challenging and inspiring way, the team at this company are a market leader when it comes to unmanned and autonomous marine power systems.
“They are the only business in this field that cover the complete cycle from platform concept design, build, commissioning, delivery and maintenance.
“It was obvious that whilst their marine systems featured in their submission, technology was used throughout the organisation wherever possible to improve services and efficiencies, including their impressive demo room, making it a desirable place to work for engineering and sailing enthusiasts.
“They demonstrated that their technology can save time, money, help the environment and ultimately save lives. We were also particularly impressed that they had a 50-year technology improvement plan.
“A truly worthy winner!”
TJ Waste & Recycling
Corporate Social Responsibility Award
Winner: Southampton International Airport
Judges said: “Our CSR winner stood out for its outstanding commitment to corporate and social responsibility. It strives for social and environmental good in the community in which it operates – and is focused on reductions in its carbon footprint, creating a sustainable supply chain, and engaging with its neighbours and local community.
“It sends 65% of its waste to recycling with the remaining being used to generate electricity which is then fed back into the national grid.
“And through the use of solar power and LED, it is at the forefront of energy reduction technology for its sector…”
Grant Thornton UK
The Churchill Foundation
The Green House Hotel
SME of the Year
Winner: Diametric Technical
Judges said: “Our winner this year displays all the characteristics of a successful SME.
“The business strives not only for growth but improvement in the products it makes through innovation whilst retaining the superior quality of its products synonymous with the brand.
“Customers remain at the forefront of all growth resulting in glowing testimonials as a direct result of their heavy investment in people as well as technology.
“They are also a significant contributor to the local community giving back to local people, business and institutions as well as consciously reducing their carbon footprint and the impact they have on the environment.
With a passion for business and an ability to shape their future in the Solent region we are delighted to award SME of the Year 2018 to Diametric Technical.”
Berry Telecom Group
TJ Waste & Recycling
CEO of the Year Award
Winner: Mark Hepburn, 23.5 Degrees
Judges said: “This person has demonstrated his success as a CEO in many ways, and is certainly a most deserving winner. Among other achievements, he has set a particularly positive growth trajectory for the company, which has included securing significant recent investment in the business.
“He particularly stands out by virtue of his personable attitude. One of his strongest attributes is his tremendous visibility amongst 700-plus employees, which he has achieved through his use of social media and by being a supportive presence at restaurant openings and the like.
“Our winner has also cultivated an excellent company culture at 23.5 degrees. Staff are happy and confident with clear career development plans drawn up for them – another key signifier of great leadership.
“Overall, it’s clear that he is a deserving winner of this award and a talented CEO – we are excited to see his development in future endeavours.”
Tony Lockwood, BOFA International
Andrew Powell, The Training Room
Best Company to Work For
Winner: Marwell Wildlife
Judges said: “Our winner is already a well-known and well-loved attraction in the Solent region which many of us have visited; however we have probably not thought of it as an important local business that employs over 300 people.
“The judging panel were particularly impressed with the diversity of their employees from the younger staff gaining valuable experience, to the highly-qualified specialists and the vast group of willing volunteers in-between.
“An employee has to have the right attitude and behaviour, but is rewarded with a close, honest family culture, a well-trained management team, and a fully engaged chief executive with his weekly blog and a clear sense of fun.
“The environment helps of course and we must mention the Wellbeing Wheelbarrow, a great innovative way to communicate and shared key messages with its diverse workforce!”
Finalists: Berry Telecom Group
Blue Badge Mobility Insurance
Churchill Retirement Living
Management Team of the Year Award
Winner: The Training Room
Judges said: “The quality of entrants into this year’s competition was outstanding. Our winning management team stood out by demonstrating great skill, and some notable achievements, in each of the key categories assessed by the panel of judges.
“The panel was particularly impressed with the sheer extent of strategic progress made over the last 18-24 months, especially given that within that period, the winning team has had to adapt and face off to some significant challenges
“Their positive and unrelenting focus on developing their people, their product proposition and their channels to market, shone through – as did, above all, their passion for seeing their customers – predominantly individuals seeking to gain new skills – thrive and succeed.”
The Natural Travel Collection
Company of the Year
Winner: Colten Care
“The judges were hugely impressed with all the entries and in particular had a tough time selecting the winner from the seven finalists.
“The winner impressed the judges in the following ways:
“This is a carefully run business with a strong management team and with business metrics to match – strong profitability and growth alongside low debt; it delivers a quality product to its customers which is recognised in particular by its regulator and customers alike; and this is a business that cares about its staff, community and environment – for example, it has an innovation committee representing the staff voice and the removal of plastics from their business.”
Churchill Retirement Living