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Surrey, Kent and Sussex business successes recognised at first SKS 250 awards

By Tim Wickham
1 July 2022
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Companies from the construction, life sciences, retail and technology sectors were voted the region’s best at the inaugural Surrey Kent Sussex (SKS) 250 awards.

The SKS 250 is a new annual listing compiled by The Business Magazine of the top-performing (by annual sales turnover) privately-owned businesses headquartered in the region.

The awards recognised the significant contribution they make both locally and to the UK economy. Camberley's Evergreen Garden Care was a double winner.

Held at the prestigious RAC Club at Woodcote Park, Epsom, the informal prize-giving evening and networking event highlighted the key role the SKS250 business community plays.

Richard Thompson, Managing Director of The Business Magazine, said: “It’s great to see so many successful and growing companies represented in the awards – a reflection of the vibrant region that we live and work in.”

The SKS 250 is sponsored by BDO, CMA Recruitment, HSBC UK, Irwin Mitchell and Zeus.

Guest speaker Dee Mathieson, Senior Vice President at Elekta, outlined her role in helping to develop innovative new technologies involving linear accelerators in radiation treament. These have helped to make complex treatment more accurate, safer and personalised to individual patients. The Redhill-headquartered company has a 50-year track record in precision radiation therapy solutions for treating cancer.

Speaker at the SKS 250 – Dee Mathieson Senior VP of Elekta

And the winners are…

CEO of the Year

Winner: Chris Yates – FFX Tools & Fixings

"I'm humbled to win. I'm where I got today because someone looked after me when I was younger and helped me develop my career. As leaders, we owe it to ourselves to help others because you don't always know what skills your business will need next. Our company has tripled in size over the last 10 years and we have the same people in the same jobs but doing more, so we have invested in management development as well as training and coaching our people to be successful. When we underwent a management buy-out two years ago I made sure it included an employee share incentive scheme for all 250 people that will make a real difference to their lives when the company is sold again. We haven't lost a manager or senior director since then." Chris Yates, CEO, FFX Tools & Fittings, Folkestone-headquartered independent tools, fixings and building materials supplier

L-R: Richard D'Rosario, Associate at Zeus presenting trophy to Chris Yates, CEO at FFX Tools & Fixings

Finalists:

• Andrew Klimcke – SIAN Wholesale

Finance Director of the Year

Winner: Sarah Beaumont – Evergreen Garden Care

“An important element in my role has been upskilling our finance team following a private equity investment in 2018 after which our speed of growth picked up. We also made sure finance had more of a voice at the table and could add value when business decisions are being made. The old school approach of letting the finance department know only at the end what decisions have been made has gone. Now, we advise at the beginning and ensure finance is aligned with the company’s goals and strategies. I'm passionate about my team getting involved in understanding the business outside their roles – you can't forecast from a spreadsheet alone. We also introduced new off-the-shelf SAP technology that we had to make fit our requirements.” Sarah Beaumont, Finance Director, Evergreen Garden Care, Camberley-headquartered garden care products company with brands that include Miracle-Gro, Levingtons and Roundup

Richard Dibden, Commercial Director at CMA Recruitment Group presenting trophy to Sarah Beaumont, Finance Director at Evergreen Garden Care

Finalists:

• David Jackson – James Walker

• Tracy Hall – SIAN Wholesale

• Jackie Arnold – Vision Engineering

Innovation & Technology Award

Winner: Scitech

“Innovation is embedded in what we do. Our projects can be research only or a blend of research and manufacturing. We come up with unique solutions for clients who handle dangerous and sensitive pharmaceutical and healthcare materials. Our role is to interpret clients’ requirements. They know what they want to do but they don’t know how to get there. We take a traditional project management approach and apply it to complicated pharmaceutical products, along with our engineering and other disciplines. One highlight of the year for us was taking nuclear waste for a US client and helping them to develop a process to create an end product for treating cancer. We developed the techniques, process and equipment they needed. The project began as a sketch on paper in 2019 and has now reached the mock-up and testing phase.” Lewis White, Lead Mechanical Engineer, Scitech Engineering, Godalming-based design, engineering and consultancy specialists for the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector

Paul Lavercombe, Tax Partner at BDO (far right) presenting trophy to Scitech. (L-R: Richard Cogan, Lewis White, Greg Kiernan and Nicky Hale)

Finalists:

• Blue Motor Finance

• Brigade Electronics

• Newport Industries

• Technetix

• Vision Engineering

International Business Award

Winner: Paxton

“Our business was impacted quite badly at first by the Covid-19 pandemic but we bounced back in 2021. When Covid-19 struck I was on a two-week roadshow in France promoting our new product and had to return in a hurry. We quickly adapted to using Microsoft Teams instead of meeting with our international customers and socially-distanced working continued at our factory. I’m very proud to work for a British company that makes and exports. In many overseas markets, being British designed and manufactured counts really strongly. There’s a lot of good talent in the UK and Paxton is proud to be helping the country perform internationally.” Nick Lawden, International Sales Team, Paxton, Brighton-headquartered building security solutions provider

Graeme Alston, Deputy Area Manager at HSBC UK (right) presenting award to Nick Lawden from Paxton

Finalists

• Ampito Group

• Brigade Electronics

• Technetix

• Vision Engineering

Growth & Resilience Award

Winner: Evergreen Garden Care

“One of the major factors behind our growth and resilience has been the transition of our leadership team. That involved a culture change to be more performance led. We also had to make changes to the team due to Covid-19, where the emphasis was on inspiring and motivating people. And it all had to be done on Zoom. We did a lot of training on using Zoom and learned new skills on how best to communicate with staff by bringing in a more human touch, which was important in being empathetic with colleagues who struggled during the pandemic. In March 2020, we didn’t know what to expect and we had a lot of capital tied up in inventory ready for our main season. Suddenly our field-based sales team had no one to sell to. But then we started seeing customers looking for our gardening products online and demand picked up, so we reopened our factories and brought staff back from furlough. We ran factories on a three-shift pattern, six days a week to meet demand. We also maintained our marketing investment during the pandemic and that has paid off.” Mark Portman, Managing Director, Evergreen Garden Care

Jo Gilbey, Tax Partner at BDO (right) presenting trophy to Evergreen Garden Care. (L-R: Wendy Baines, HR Director, Mark Portman, CEO and Sarah Beaumont, FInance Director)

Finalists:

• Barfoots

• BJF Group

• Global 4 Communications

Management Team of the Year

Winner: BJF Group

“Our product is our people. We sell the services of our staff, engineers, apprentices and management teams to run client projects. They are the talent we need to retain so a key focus for our management team is investing in our people to train and develop them. We are fortunate because we attract clients who want us to work for them, so we put a lot of emphasis on marketing the company as somewhere that people want to come and work. We have also invested in new technology to be more efficient and to give our teams the best opportunity to succeed. In particular, we increased the use of 3D scanning of buildings so during the pandemic it was easier for people to continue working on projects from home without needing to visit sites.” Barry Foster, Managing Director, BJF Group, Maidstone-based mechanical and electrical, facilities management and project services company

Sponsors Faye Bargery (far left) and Katie Byrne (far right) Partners at Irwin Mitchell presenting trophy to BJF Group (L-R: Carl Lincoln, Steve Chapman, Managing Director Barry Foster and Gemma Smythe)

Finalists:

• Barfoots

• MenKind

• Paxton