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Thames Valley: 250 list unveiled and 5 winners revealed

By Dan Teuton
6 July 2011

The 2011 update of the Thames Valley 250 was unveiled to an invited audience of 80 business leaders yesterday.

At a reception at Stoke Park, Stoke Poges, companies learned where they featured in the annual listing. The full listing is available in the July/August issue of The Business Magazine.

Publisher David Murray told the audience: "This fantastic grouping of the top 250 companies has a combined turnover of more than £17 billion. So without doubt, your companies make a truly significant contribution to the UK economy. Something to be recognised."

The Thames Valley 250 is sponsored by HSBC bank, Grant Thornton accountants and business advisers, the law firm Blandy & Blandy, and the Thames Valley Innovation & Growth Team.

The audience heard two highly informative presentations. The first, by Stuart Green, chief UK economist of HSBC, updated businesses on the current state of the global economy and the pressures affecting all companies.

The audience was then treated to an insight from one of the top 10 companies in the Thames Valley 250 – Direct Wines - with Glenn Caton, UK managing director, explaining how his company has become a  £350m success story.

The Thames Valley 250 is a listing of unquoted companies. The ranking is based on turnover using Companies House records, through OneSource. The last published accounts have been used – usually 2010 year-ends, sometimes 2011 if available, and sometimes 2009 if that’s the most current.

Multinationals and foreign-owned companies that simply have a UK base in the Thames Valley are excluded. Also ommitted are companies listed on stock exchanges either here or abroad.

The Top 20 is a diverse mix - logistics, IT, engineering, publishing, car manufacturing, car dealers, farming. And for the first time we have included universities – which are more and more being run as commercial operations, engaging with businesses and funding themselves through the private sector.

At the top stands Unipart. The Oxford-based logistics provider, which was born from the parts division of the old British Leyland, employs nearly 8,500 people, works in the automotive, manufacturing and rail sectors, and is a true heavyweight.

This year, for the first time, awards were presented to five companies. These awards were given for what the judges called “Ones to Watch” - companies that have caught the judges’ eye for outstanding performance.

Fast Riser – sponsored by Grant Thornton. This award has been won by a company that has seen trade grow significantly despite the recession, that has a strong reputation for sustainable practice, and is recognised as a great place to work.

Perry Burton, office managing partner of Grant Thornton in the Thames Valley, collected the award on behalf of Westbury Street Holdings, the parent company behind BaxterStorey, Benugo, Caterlink, and Portico.

Unsurprisingly, BaxterStorey’s CFO was recently crowned Young Finance Director of the Year, and the 19% increase in trade last year is testament to his company’s achievements.

The International Business Award, sponsored by HSBC. was presented by Mark Haines, head of corporate banking, HSBC Thames Valley, to Ella's Kitchen.

The company was named by the father after his 11-year-old daughter, and now has 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 United States and Scandinavia.

Operating from an HQ near Henley, the company is now focused on international expansion and is identifying additional markets it wishes to penetrate over the next two years.

An award for Management Team Development, sponsored by the Thames Valley Innovation & Growth Team, was presented by Susan Elliott, Thames Valley IGT CEO.

The winner was Phabrix, one of the companies to feature on a separate Watch List compiled by the IGT. This spotlights fast-growth, smaller companies from across the region that have the potential to innovate and grow significantly.

The award recognises the winning company’s drive to develop its management team. This strategy has allowed the business to develop strong leadership, and has helped to accelerate growth.

The Family Business of the Year, sponsored by Blandy & Blandy solicitors, showcases the region’s most respected family businesses and recognises the achievements of their leaders.

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.

David Few, partner of Blandy & Blandy, accepted the award on behalf of the winner, Grundon Waste Management.

The final award for Sustained Growth was The Business Magazine’s own award.

The winner, Ridgeway Garages, is a Top 10 company in our 250, and a business that has grown to become the 25th Largest Motor Retail Group in the UK.

Located across the south of England, the business began in 1997 in Newbury and Wantage and has grown to a £300m-plus success story, acquiring the Pentagon Group on the way. Its vision is to create a customer-centric culture, delivering operational excellence and being recognised as an employment destination.

Profiles of the winning companies will appear in our September 2011 issue.

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