Many of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs and business people were welcomed to a sun-drenched Stoke Park for the official launch of the 2013 Thames Valley 250 listing on July 15.
Compiled by The Business Magazine and sponsored by HSBC, business advisers Grant Thornton and law firm Blandy & Blandy, the listing highlights those private companies whose hard work and expertise goes into creating a combined turnover of some £23 billion.
Opening the event, David Murray, publisher of The Business Magazine, said: “We’re here to showcase the great independent businesses in the Thames Valley. Companies that are growing sales and helping UK plc to punch its way out of recession. This event is all about celebrating that success.”
The evening saw two guest speakers – Mark Berrisford-Smith, head of economics at HSBC, and Alex Tatham, sales and marketing director of billion pound turnover company, Westcoast.
From Berrisford-Smith any sense of optimism in the economy was tempered by a view that “we aren’t out of the woods yet” as he said he couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be further periods of negative growth.
He described 2012 as an “absolute shocker” for exporters and said the economy had come to rely on the British consumer to spend more money, when what was needed was a marked improvement in exports.
“For the first quarter of the year the consumer was prepared to see another drop in income in the hope of respite down the line, they maintained or increased spending and saved less, hoping for better times,” he said. “If those better times don’t come, the recovery will run out of steam.”
With inflation rising faster than incomes, he said people are getting poorer, a situation only made bearable because interest rates are so low. Only when income starts to rise will people take to the shops and he made the case for employees to be paid more in the hope they will spend again.
Predicting a Eurozone recovery by late 2013 or early 2014, he said the slowdown in economies such as China would also impact on export opportunities, describing it as a “long, difficult path” to follow as the global economy slowly heals.
“Firms still don’t feel confident enough about investing in their business, optimism is only as good as the demand that businesses generate for their goods and services,” he added. “Investment will depend on firms feeling more confident and deciding to take the plunge.”
Berrisford-Smith forecast that it will be 2015 before the economy sees a return to a longer term rate of growth and 2015/16 before it gets back to where it was in 2008.
“Those of you here today who have achieved excellent results should be aware of just how astonishing they are,” he concluded.
Providing a snapshot of how one successful business has gone from strength to strength was Westcoast’s Tatham. The Theale-based IT products supplier has seen its sales increase to £1047.3m for year ending December 2012, up from £1007.8m the previous year.
Tatham talked about its passion for success, service ethics and business agility as well as giving an insight into IT trends of the future.
With the presentations complete, it was time for Murray to reveal the recipients of four awards – each given by the sponsors to companies that stand out through growth and achievement as Ones to Watch.
Taking the International Business Award, sponsored by HSBC, was Practicus, which provides consultancy services to help major international FTSE names and leading public sector bodies to manage change programmes.
A strategic decision in 2010 to expand internationally to offset a challenging UK market saw international revenues grow 62% over the past 12 months, contributing to an overall sales increase of 20%.
The second award for Fast Riser, sponsored by Grant Thornton, went to Hungerford-based computer software company Kerridge Commercial Systems. It has seen sales grow from £19m to over £25m, providing support for over 700 customers at more than 3,500 locations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australasia.
Sponsored by Blandy & Blandy, the award for the Owner-Managed Business to watch went to a company which made the TV250 for the first time in 2013. Langland Advertising Design has grown to become a leader in its field of healthcare advertising, scooping many industry awards including The Global Awards’ “Healthcare Agency of the Year” for the second year running.
The final award, sponsored by The Business Magazine, was for Sustained Growth and Murray said the winner – GCS Recruitment – truly embodies the title. Having begun as a two-man operation, it has grown in the past two decades to become one of the UK’s leading businesses in its field, regularly featuring among the Best Companies to Work For and for the fourth consecutive year has recorded an increase in both turnover and gross profit.
Full details of the TV250 appeared in the July/August issue of The Business Magazine.