For the first time in 2011, the Thames Valley 250 judges gave awards to five companies who they singled out as ‘Ones to Watch’ – organisations that had caught their eye for outstanding performance
Thames Valley 250 Fast Riser
Taking the Fast Riser award sponsored by Grant Thornton, was Westbury Street Holdings, the parent company behind leading brands in the food services and hospitality sectors such as BaxterStorey, Benugo, Caterlink and Portico.
With its headquarters in Reading, BaxterStorey has a strong reputation for sustainable practice and is recognised as a great place to work. Formed in 2004, the business has gone from strength-to-strength, winning many awards along the way, including Caterer of the Year in 2007 and Best Independent Contract Caterer Employer in 2011, as well as gaining recognition for sustainable practice, recycling and waste management and ethical sourcing.
Last year, BaxterStorey’s chief financial officer was named Young Finance Director of the Year and the company has turned in consistently impressive results.
Over the last year, its trade has grown by 19% despite the recession, putting it into the number eight spot in the Thames Valley 250 with sales of £362.4 million and a workforce of just over 8,500.
Alastair Storey, chairman and chief executive, who was presented with the award by Perry Burton of Grant Thornton, said: “The driving force for all Westbury Street Holdings operating units is to assist our clients in delivering outstanding return on the investment they make in dedicating space to dining and hospitality in their buildings. We achieve this by creating services that are built specifically for each client and every site they operate within. Despite the obvious economic challenges we have continued to grow by remaining true to our core values; quality product and people.
“Caring about ethical sourcing, sustainable practice and using quality fresh ingredients is at the heart of our business. In 2010 we became the first contract caterer to commit to only using free range RSPCA Freedom Farm Assured eggs sourced from a single family owned farm in the UK.
“We also remain passionate about investing in our staff and offering long term careers. In 2010 we actually increased our investment in training. Our Chef Academy saw more than 47 chefs graduate with our Barista Academy celebrating 1,050 graduates.
“By focusing on fresh ingredients, driving forward comprehensive training in our sector and our adherence to sustainable practice is what continues to set us apart from the competition.”
Sister brand Portico focuses on providing front of house services, while Benugo is described as a diverse collection of high street café delis, restaurants and in house cafés, operating in London, Oxford and Scotland. Caterlink operates as a specialist caterer for the education sector, while fellow brand Holroyd Howe Independent is one of the UK’s leading contract caterers, providing fresh food services solely to independent schools and colleges.
Thames Valley 250 International Business
No stranger to the Thames Valley awards scene is Ella’s Kitchen, which was presented with the award for International Business, sponsored by HSBC bank. Finance director Catherine Empringham collected the award from Mark Haines, head of corporate banking at HSBC Thames Valley.
Employing some 15 people, it currently has sales of just over £16m, making it joint 177th in the Thames Valley 250.
The Henley-based organic premium baby food manufacturer has already earned a host of industry and business accolades, including year-on-year listings in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100. Last autumn it took the Dynamic Business title in the Thames Valley Business Awards and parents have given the products plenty of approval rankings, including two golds in the Tesco Mums’ Choice Awards 2011.
Having already established distribution channels through all of the major supermarkets in the UK, Ella’s Kitchen is now expanding globally, with more than a third of revenues coming from export markets, such as the US and Scandinavia.
Paul Lindley, Ella’s Dad and founder of Ella’s Kitchen, said: “We’re thrilled to have won the HSBC International Business Award as at Ella’s Kitchen we build our brand on the clear vision to make a difference to children’s health around the world, with a single-minded focus to become the first global brand of premium food for pre-schoolers by cultivating healthier eating habits that will last a lifetime.
“We take the view that people around the world are more the same than they are different and our kids-first, innovation driven, emotionally connective brand can be adapted for local markets when we have fully understood consumer needs and behaviours on a market by market basis.
“Although our international expansion is consumer driven, our international growth strategy helps ‘self hedge’ our currency exposures and reduces the risk of having few UK (large supermarket) customers.”
The management team is now looking at identifying additional new markets which it aims to break into in the next two years.
Thames Valley 250 Management Team
The award for Management Team Development was sponsored by Thames Valley Innovation & Growth Team and it was won by Phabrix, a manufacturer of test and analysis equipment for the broadcast television market.
Based in Burghclere, near Newbury, the business employs a staff of 14 and has a turnover of £3.4m. With a strong focus on research and development, it produces leading-edge products that work with signals compatible with almost all standards worldwide. Its USP is that its measurement capability was previously impossible to achieve at a cost-effective price point.
Like a number of others featured at the event, Phabrix has also been an industry award winner, recently achieving its fourth Broadcast Engineering Pick Hit in three years. One of the most prestigious technical awards, it was presented at the NAB show for products which demonstrated innovation and technology.
The Thames Valley 250 award recognised Phabrix’s drive to develop its management team, with strong leadership and a drive towards accelerated growth.
Philip Adams, managing director of Phabrix, who collected the award from Susan Elliott, chief executive officer of Thames Valley IGT, said: “We have worked very hard to establish an excellent management team and attending the Thames Valley Innovation course has been pivotal in showing us best practice in this area.
“Certainly good communication between the team members and sharing information freely has enabled Phabrix to build a high level of trust within the management team which is essential as we continue to grow.”
Although not yet big enough in turnover terms to feature on the Thames Valley 250, Phabrix has also been singled out by the Thames Valley IGT as a fast-growth, smaller business and features on its own Watch List as a company with big potential.
Thames Valley 250 Family Business
The Family Business of the Year, sponsored by law firm Blandy & Blandy, was awarded to Grundon Waste Management, founded in 1929 by Stephen Grundon and today boasting the title of the UK’s largest family-owned waste management company.
From its early beginnings, the company has developed from a local aggregate supply business into a national commercial group in the industrial services sector, with a major focus on waste collection and management, recovery and recycling. It is also involved in areas such as contract and estate management, leisure and amenity services and aggregate extraction, processing and supply.
With depots across the southern region, it has a major commitment to minimising the environmental impact of its operations and services, and also works with schools and colleges to encourage the next generation of consumers to think carefully about the waste they are throwing away.
Judges took into account the history of the business, its growth trajectory, its service and product range, approach to customer service, its values and commitment to quality and innovation. The company’s people development and its commitment to the local community were also considered.
Although the Grundon Waste Management team was unable to attend on the night, David Few, partner of Blandy & Blandy, accepted the award on its behalf.
Speaking after the award was presented at its offices in Colnbrook, near Slough, Neil Grundon, development director, said: “Private companies and family businesses in particular seldom receive much recognition for the work they do driving the engine of the UK economy, which is why it meant so much to us to receive the Family Business of the Year award from the Thames Valley 250.
“Grundon Waste Management celebrated its 80th year in business in 2009 and we now employ over 700 people in the Thames Valley. Over the last 10 years we have invested more than £200 million in waste management infrastructure, without recourse to state aid of any kind.
“This has certainly given us a great boost in these challenging times, and we are so pleased to be recognised by this award.”
Grundon appears at number 46 in the TV250 with sales to year end September 2009 of some £75m and nearly 750 employees.
Thames Valley 250 Sustained Growth
The final presentation of the evening was for the company which has shown Sustained Growth. Sponsored by The Business Magazine, it was presented to Jon Head, group operations director of Ridgeway Garages, a business that has grown to become the 25th largest motor retail group in the UK.
Already a top 10 company in the TV250, Ridgeway Motors began in 1997 in Newbury and Wantage and has grown to a £300m-plus success story. Now with operations across the south of England, along the way it acquired the Pentagon Group and today its brands include Mercedes-Benz and smart, Volkswagen and Audi.
In November 2010, the company expanded still further by opening two vehicle rental locations, and it now employs over 750 staff across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset.
It is dedicated to offering customers the highest levels of quality, both in product and services and its top team’s vision is to be regarded as the best automotive retail group in the UK by its colleagues, partners, customers and industry peers.
More information about the Thames Valley 250 in 2012 can be found here.