Commenting on the Innovation Award to Geeks Ltd in the Best of the Best Business Awards, the Chairman of the judges said:
“Started only nine years ago, Geeks have revolutionised the software development industry by introducing game-changing advances that save time, money and effort while delivering greater reliability and higher levels of accuracy. Their range of innovations has helped the company win major blue chip clients in the public and private sectors, as well as reducing the cost of software development for smaller companies."
"Geeks has used its technological breakthroughs on highly complex projects with great success and has helped reverse the trend of companies looking to the Far East for software development. Many congratulations to Geeks for truly outstanding achievement in a highly competitive global sector.”
Commenting on the award to Active Cheshire, in the Best Employer category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "Active Cheshire is a social enterprise with a mission to get the people of Warrington and Cheshire more active. To achieve its goals, it realised that it needed happy and motivated high performance staff. An office move in 2015, led to an evaluation of the existing workplace environment and a flexible, healthy work/life balance scheme was introduced along with a living-wage policy. All staff now have a laptop, their own training programme and work to a team code. A recent staff survey revealed that 90% of employees felt motivated and empowered. A brilliant result that shows Active Cheshire is in great shape for the future."
Commenting on the award to Jalmeen Lall, founder of Kent Foot and Ankle Clinic, in the Outstanding Entrepreneur category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "Jalmeen Lall (Jay) has successfully made the leap between being a medical clinician and becoming an entrepreneur. She has used her knowledge as an experienced podiatrist and combined it with her talent for spotting business opportunities. By offering a wide range of specialist services, focusing on quality and building up Kent Foot and Ankle using social media, she now has a financially strong business. Working every hour under the sun to earn herself more than 700 clients, Jay is now on a firm footing for a bright and stable future."
Commenting on the award to Kent Foot and Ankle Clinic, in the Best New Product/Service category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "With waiting lists for NHS podiatrists up to a year long, recently launched Kent Foot and Ankle Clinic is filling the gap and providing a much-needed service. The private clinic has differentiated itself with a wide range of specialist services including gait analysis and bespoke insoles. After only 18 months, the clinic has made huge strides and services are in so much demand that it now operates out of eight premises and has 700 clients. Congratulations for spotting a great business opportunity and turning the clinic into a healthy, thriving business."
Commenting on the award to Beeline Data Services, in the Best Innovation category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "Beeline Data Services has invented a brilliant new software system that enables publishing houses to get a single view of all their customer data. Often publishers have a proliferation of data across their organisation but with Beeline’s audience data management software they get one view of their customers, enabling them to better serve and target communications to them. Not surprisingly, customers are buzzing with excitement about the tool especially as it gives them the opportunity to increase income streams. This is a must-have product for all publishing houses."
Commenting on the award to Beeline Data Services, in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "By developing a highly innovative data management software system for publishing houses that gives them a single view of all their customer data, Beeline Data Services has come up with a much-needed product that is helping its clients increase their revenue. Its focus on innovative and service is impressive and has given the company a 100% customer retention rate, which is quite exceptional. The business is now on track to double its customer base and with more products in the pipeline, Beeline is a honey pot destination for publishers."
Commenting on the award to Redeem, in the Best Corporate Social Responsibility category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "By recycling our unwanted laptops and mobile phones and redirecting them to emerging countries, Redeem has to be commended for making a huge difference to the environment and people’s lives in so many different ways. It is reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, decreasing demand for new materials and giving developing nations access to affordable technology. Last year more than one million devices were recycled and Redeem has also raised significant sums for Unicef, the charity for children. Congratulations to Redeem for creating a truly sustainable and socially worthwhile business."
Commenting on the award to Phil Anderson Financial Services Ltd in the Best Customer Service category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "With repeat referrals important to the business, Phil Anderson Financial Services has gone the extra mile to offer its clients the best possible customer service. Financial advisers make a real effort to understand customers' needs and offer appointments in the evenings and at weekends to suit their customers. Thanks to an investment in technology creating a paperless office, mortgage offers are ready in an average of eight days. The high service levels have been noted by customers and feedback received on social media is exceptional."
Commenting on the award to Keen as Mustard Marketing in the Best Marketing category, the Chairman of the Judges said: "Keen as Mustard Marketing has put into practice what it preaches and has grown its business with a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign. With growth in single figures, it set itself a target to increase business by 20% by 2015. Using conferences, email marketing, social media and PR, it harnessed the same tools it uses for its clients and has proved that excellent marketing raises the profile and brings in the business. With the target met, Keen as Mustard is a testament to the power of marketing communications."
Commenting on the award to Pixal Marketing Ltd, the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Pixal Marketing has made its mark in Hampshire by helping small businesses better manage their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. Smaller firms tend to be underserved by the large digital agencies and Pixal Marketing has given them access to much-needed PPC expertise. Pixal Marketing has helped many companies, such as Awards Intelligence, cut their digital advertising costs and increase turnover. By getting good results for its clients, Pixal Marketing trebled turnover in its first year of operation, has taken on more staff in line with growth and is heading for a brilliant future."
Commenting on the award to Protrack Solutions, the winner in the Best Product/Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Vehicle tracking company Protrack Solutions has differentiated itself from competitors by listening to its customers to find out exactly what they want and introducing new features and benefits that meet their requirements. It has diversified its range of hardware and software tracking products from vehicle and fleet tracking systems to offering tracking of mobile phones and android tablets useful for parents and for people working alone. For ease of use, all its products work on one software platform, it offers a lifetime guarantee on all hardware and a 24-hour call out service. No wonder Protrack’s customers are extremely loyal."
Commenting on the award to Protrack Solutions, the winner in the Best Innovation category, the Chairman of the judges said: "A 100% retention rate and growth mainly from referrals, just about says it all for Protrack Solutions. It is causing something of a stir across Gloucestershire with its world-beating hardware and software products for real-time tracking of vehicles and fleets, and mobile phones and android tablets, which is useful for parents and lone workers. Protrack listens closely to its customers and develops innovative new products and services that are actually needed. Fasting moving, creative and entrepreneurial, Protrack Solutions is a responsive company that is a leader in the tracking technology race."
Commenting on the award to Butterflies Healthcare Ltd, the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Family-owned business Butterflies Healthcare in just over a decade has seen steady growth by sourcing and bringing to the market high quality niche optical and beauty products. Around two years ago the company outgrew its existing premises and relocated, only to outgrow this fairly quickly and outsource to a packing company. Butterflies Healthcare has achieved success by being selective about the products it sells, developing strong relationships with key suppliers and concentrating on specialist products with high growth potential."
Commenting on the award to Butterflies Healthcare Ltd, the winner in the Best New Product/Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Viteyes 2, an antioxidant and vitamin supplement for people with aged-related macular degeneration (AMD), has quickly become one of Butterflies Healthcare best-selling products. Butterflies Healthcare focuses on distributing high quality optical products and Viteyes 2 is a remarkable product that has been proved to help AMD from worsening. In less than a year sales have leapt by 40% enabling the distributor to negotiate a price reduction with its supplier. A lower price on a product that gives fresh hope to millions of people with AMD is brilliant news."
Commenting on the award to The Chippendale International School of Furniture, the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Attracting students from all over the world, The Chippendale International School of Furniture has built up a strong international reputation for design excellence. It is highly commendable that the school is solely funded by student fees and makes a profit, which is reinvested back into school facilities. It also makes a major contribution of £1 million a year to the local economy. Described by an arts commentator as an ‘inspirational and wonderful institution’, the school teaches students about old and new woodcraft techniques and has helped thousands of people have a career in furniture design."
Commenting on the award to North Surrey Veterinary Emergencies (NSVE), the winner in the Best Product/Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "NSVE is providing a unique and exemplary out-of-hours service to pet owners. Most veterinary services are open for 10-12 hours a day and NSVE covers the hours they are not open and takes on critical cases at its intensive care unit any time of the day or night. NSVE is reasonably priced and only charges an emergency consultation fee on top of the normal day rates. It also provides an emergency service for 37 other veterinary providers giving pet owners across north Surrey one of the best emergency pet services in the UK."
Commenting on the award to North Surrey Veterinary Emergencies (NSVE), the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Running any kind of emergency service and making a profit from it, must be one of the hardest things to do in the world. Yet NSVE has done just this. By offering veterinary staff the opportunity to have two weeks off for every week worked out-of-hours and without charging astronomical high fees, NSVE has successfully provided a much-needed out-of-hours emergency service for its customers and for a staggering 37 other veterinary providers. NSVE has shown great business panache, innovative thinking and has achieved the impossible."
Commenting on the award to Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services, the winner in the Best Customer Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Launched only five years ago, Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services has grown into a successful business with more than 60 school clients mainly because of its exceptional customer service. Initiatives such as customer events, client forums and feedback forms are comprehensive and well thought out. Needless to say the feedback received from Minerva’s customers is outstanding with one saying, ‘For me Minerva now sets the benchmark for customer service.’ The fact that half of new business over the past few years comes from client referrals says it all."
Commenting on the award to Equivalency Testing, the winner in the Best Innovation category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Equivalency Testing is a much-needed service that helps people who missed out on education catch up and gain a GCSE-equivalent qualification. The home study correspondence courses and examinations in English, mathematics and science at foundation and higher levels are aimed at launching people into higher education or a job. The founders Roger Freestone and Bridget Coyne deserve top marks for spotting a market, turning it into a viable business and giving thousands of people of all ages another chance in life."
Commenting on the award to Angela's Swim School Ltd, the winner in the Outstanding Entrepreneur category, the Chairman of the judges said: "After spending 20 years running Angela's Swim School for children, Olympic swimmer Angela Wilson took the plunge in 2013 and turned it into a franchise. Soon after the first franchise was sold, six others were snapped up. By selling so many franchises so quickly, it shows it's a great brand and that there is a huge need for professional swimming tuition. Angela Wilson is unusual in that she is an outstanding sportswomen and entrepreneur who has helped thousands of youngsters learn how to swim."
Hub Renewable Energy Ltd, Yorkshire & Overall Winner
Commenting on the award to Hub Renewable Energy Ltd, the overall winner of the Best of the Best Business Awards June 2014, the Chairman of the judges said: "By winning over customers with plain language and an honest approach, Hub Renewable Energy is making strong headway in the market. It recently installed the largest solar power system in West Yorkshire and growth has been so fast that it now plans to move to larger premises and take on more staff. In only two years Hub Renewable Energy has seen spectacular growth that will power it into the future."
Commenting on the award to Mansfield Manor Hotel, the overall winner in the Best Entrepreneur category, the Chairman of the judges said: "When Paul Andrews and Diane Doran first set foot in Mansfield Manor, it was run down, neglected and used as a hostel for the homeless. The entrepreneurs immediately saw the potential of the building as a hotel and venue for events such as weddings. Today it is an elegant, fashionable venue that in its first two years has hosted more than 212 events and is booked up for the next two years. Taking on a project like this is a considerable challenge yet through sheer drive and determination, the owners have brought their vision to life and at the same time given Mansfield a terrific boost."
Commenting on the Best Employer Award in the Best of the Best Business Awards to 4SocialWork, the chairman of the judges said: "Specialist recruitment agency 4SocialWork has experienced phenomenal growth in less than a decade by placing its team at the heart of its operations. Members of staff receive bespoke training and the management have created a strong team spirit. Similarly there is an exceptional range of incentives and benefits including days off for birthdays! Very well done to 4SocialWork who have shown that by looking after their team, they are driving commercial success."
Commenting on the Best Service/Product in the Best of the Best Business Awards to SalesPartners UK, the chairman of the judges said: "Run by dynamic business advisors Kurt Won and Mac Attram, SalesPartners UK is a business consultancy specialising in delivering high level growth strategies. They clearly practice what they preach as their company has grown rapidly becoming globally recognised. Between them the two directors have trained more than 20,000 business owners, winning a number of major awards along the way. Many congratulations to SalesPartners UK for helping companies achieve their full potential."
Commenting on the Best Employer Award in the Best of the Best Business Awards to slicedbread, the chairman of the judges said: "IT consultancy slicedbread has found the recipe for success by creating an outstanding place to work that helps to attract the most talented developers and creative specialists. Achieving growth rates of more than 200% the company has been able to take on 60 new employees - a phenomenal accomplishment for a business that's just over two years old. The founders have created a fun and stimulating environment that challenges the best in the business to develop innovative new solutions. It's hard to avoid saying, but slidedbread are clearly the best thing since, well, sliced bread!"
Commenting on the Best New Product/Service award in the Best of the Best Business Awards to Wow Guest Limited trading as Hotelier Circle, the chairman of the judges said: "Adam Hamadache's Hotelier Circle is a fast-growing membership organisation for owners and proprietors of small independent hotels. They benefit from an extensive range of practical marketing services including access to top consultants, a newsletter, TV videos, and one-to-ones with a leading figure in hospitality marketing. With glowing testimonials from many hoteliers who have seen their business soar thanks to implementing nuggets of advice from the Hotelier Circle, Adam Hamadache deserves full credit for coming up with an innovative service to boost an important part of the economy - hospitality."
Commenting on the Best Innovation award in the Best of the Best Business Awards to Wow Guest Limited trading as Hotelier Circle, the chairman of the judges said: "Adam Hamadache is breathing a breath of fresh air into the hotel industry by developing innovative solutions to boost their marketing. His book Give Your Guest A WOW! became a No1 best seller as hoteliers flocked to discover more about his 21 ways to super-impress guests. Adam has followed this by establishing a fast-growing membership organisation for owners and proprietors to benefit from practical marketing tips and advice. Adam Hamadache's company is a most worthy winner of this award to recognise his resounding success in helping to revitalise our hotel industry."
Commenting on the award to Future Foundations, the winner in the Best Employer category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Just as you would expect for an organisation that was set up to inspire young people to reach their full potential, Future Foundations is a forward thinking, inspirational employer that includes its staff in the organisation's decision-making process. Staff members are encouraged to be creative, take responsibility for their actions and be empowered. Anyone can put forward an idea to the company's project board and see it turn into something worthwhile. Its flat management structure encourages creativity and is the key to its success."
Commenting on the award to Amanda Hamilton of Drink Me, the winner in the Best Entrepreneur category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Amanda Hamilton has singlehandedly changed the drinking habits of the nation and introduced us to the delights of chai latte. Inspired by a love of tea and determined to find new beverages, she developed a range of instant chai latte flavours under the Drink Me brand that are based on the tea, milk and spice infusions formerly served by the Chai Wallahs in India. In only a decade, Amanda has turned a niche product into a mainstream product that is sold in the high street and from major supermarkets, and enjoyed by millions every day."
Commenting on the award to First Choice Recruitment, the winner in the Best Corporate Social Responsibility category, the Chairman of the judges said: "First Choice Recruitment was a clear winner for responding quickly to the growing problem of rising unemployment among the under 25s. To help get jobs for young people, it launched the Wakefield Works campaign in 2012. All it asks employers to do is sign up to the campaign and offer a minimum of one week's work for one person. To date the imaginative and practical campaign has helped 30 youngsters gain work experience and nine find full-time employment with more to follow. Overall, a really worthwhile and timely initiative."
Commenting on the award to First Choice Recruitment, the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "With 21 years of experience behind it, First Choice Recruitment coped brilliantly with the challenges of the recent recession. By focusing on providing a quality recruitment solution and building up long-term relationships with its clients in Yorkshire, it has managed to beat the downturn. Turnover has been on the up and up over the past few years rising by an amazing 10.3% in 2012/2013 and staff numbers have grown too. Once again, good old fashioned dazzling customer service has proved itself to be a winner."
Commenting on the award to Protract Solutions Ltd, the winner in the Best Customer Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Coupling an easy-to-use product that produces tangible results with excellent customer service is the winning formula for Protract Solutions. Turnover has been doubling year-on-year during the past three years but it was the launch of a new web-based platform for tracking vehicles and people that has really boosted business. Since the platform's launch, the company has converted 100% of tenders into wins and won more than 90% of quotations, which is incredible. Feedback from clients is outstanding and they are genuinely bowled over by the company's customer support, and the reliability and performance of the tracking device."
Commenting on the award to Sleeping Giant Media Ltd, the winner in the Best Business category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Since launching five years ago, digital services agency Sleeping Giant has seen stupendous success by delivering great results to clients. Growth has been incredibly rapid with turnover just about doubling nearly every year and it's making a healthy profit too. Accelerating at this rate in a competitive market, means you have to get it right and with an average customer service rating of 94%, Sleeping Giant is an emerging force set to become a supergiant in its field."
Commenting on the award to Yoyo Design, the winner in the Best Employer category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Built on a flat management structure where staff are treated more like a family than employees, Yoyo Design has established itself in the marketplace in only five years as a highly successful creative design agency. By getting staff involved in the direction of the company, giving them responsibilities right from the start and opportunities to get involved in other activities outside of their role such as writing blogs and running induction courses, Yoyo Design has created a strong, cohesive team that produces results and is highly motivated."
Commenting on the award to Hidden Technology Systems International Ltd (Hiddentec), the winner in the Best Business Essex 2013 category, the Chairman of the judges said: "For a small company with a staff of only nine people in the UK, Hiddentec's achievements in the global marketplace are quite incredible. Used in 40 countries by police forces, military intelligence agents and governments, its world-class GPS tracking system protects people, goods, cash and other valuables, thereby playing a major part in the fight against crime and terrorism. While Hiddentec operates at a covert level, its business success is something that must be openly celebrated."
Commenting on the award to Flavour, winner in the Best Customer Service category in Sussex, the Chairman of the judges said: "There is often little differentiation between Indian restaurants with the food, décor and service being largely indistinguishable from one to another. Flavour stands out not only in terms of the cuisine but also the attention to detail and quality of service delivered to customers. The overall customer experience is positive from the moment a customer walks through the door in terms of a warm welcome, inviting décor and a willingness to go that extra mile. The level of repeat business is testament to this and the power of positive word of mouth. Flavour proves that it is possible to stand out in the crowded local Indian restaurant scene.
Commenting on the award to Inclusion.Me Ltd, the winner in the Best Customer Service category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Inclusion.Me, a private provider of occupational therapy services and disability access auditing, has built up a strong business in less than four years by focusing on quality and providing an exceptional level of customer service. The feedback from all clients is outstanding with many voluntarily awarding the company 10 out of 10 for service. Clients are clearly impressed and happy with the service. Now it is well established in the marketplace, the company plans to expand its range of services and is on track for even greater success."
Commenting on the award to Matthew Box of Inclusion.Me, the winner in the Outstanding Entrepreneur category, the Chairman of the judges said: "Originally an occupational therapist, Matthew Box has opened the entrepreneurial doors, and in only four years Inclusion.Me has attracted a wide spread of customers in the public and private sectors. Achieving commercial success in the area of occupational therapy is tough going but Matthew Box has proved he has the drive, ambition and determination to turn Inclusion.Me into a great business that provides a vital service in the community. It's still early days for Matthew so watch this space for more brilliant achievements."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to Empra (Education, Marketing & PR Agency), Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Empra is a dynamic and innovative PR and communications agency that has built a highly enviable reputation in the education sector, by exemplary customer service and by breaking new ground in developing new services to help schools, colleges and universities connect with the their students, the education community and the public. The fact that Empra was selected as the only UK finalist in a major international awards speaks volumes about the excellent work they are doing. Top marks to Empra for outstanding achievement in growing their business in a tough economic climate, particularly in the public sector."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to Technica Solutions, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Technica Solutions have excelled in meeting and exceeding their customer needs, resulting in exceptional growth including a doubling in their turnover. It is highly impressive to hear of a company that is more than paying lip service to customer service, but which believes in going the extra mile on a daily basis. Congratulations to Technica Solutions for recognising that the way to stay ahead is by listening to customers, investing in technology and offering excellent value."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to Vision Independent Financial Planning Ltd, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Vision Independent Financial Planning has enjoyed truly spectacular growth since the financial advice firm was launched five years ago. What's more, Vision has been able to do this without borrowing and purely on its own highly effective business plan - a fantastic example to set for the company's own clients. With satisfaction rates that would be the envy of any company, Vision Independent Financial Planning are worthy winners of the Best of the Best with a very exciting future ahead of them."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to Lamont Pridmore chartered accountants, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Lamont Pridmore were recently described as 'world-class' as they became the first accountancy firm in Cumbria to achieve Investor in People status. It is an assessment we fully agree with - and not just for being an excellent employer. The company has been commercial super successful with a 100% increase in fee revenue, and has client retention and efficiency rates that are truly exceptional. The family-run firm, which dates back 120 years, is also fully up to date with the latest technology, again further improving efficiency and giving greater flexibility to staff. Congratulations to Lamont Pridmore for setting an outstanding example for others to follow."
Commenting on the award to Elix-IRR Partners LLP in the Outstanding Achievement category, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Only four years old, Elix-IRR has positioned itself in the market as a strategic advisory firm in a class of its own that offers new innovative ways of doing things. In no time at all, it has attracted many blue chip clients and seen turnover soar to £7.5 million. Its only aim is to provide clients with exceptional quality and achieve sales through effective delivery. It's a strategy that is keeping clients happy because 80% of this year's projects was repeat business. Elix-IRR is on track for a brilliant future."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to Setfords Solicitors, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Setfords Solicitors are revolutionising the legal market in the UK by introducing an exciting new business model that is improving service to customers. The law firm has seen huge growth in four years, expanding to 125 lawyers in 50 locations. The difference is that most are self-employed operating under the Setfords name with access to a highly efficient and streamlined head office providing full support in every area from marketing to IT. The model represents a major step change in the traditional legal market and means solicitors are more flexible about where they meet clients and the service they offer. Many congratulations to Setfords for transforming a traditional profession and making it more customer-focused."
Commenting on the Best of the Best Business Award to The Theatre Workshop, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Now in its tenth year, The Theatre Workshop has shown itself to be ahead of the competition in providing performing arts training to young people. With many of the students going on to secure roles in the West End, TV and films, the training provided by The Theatre Workshop is clearly second to none - with fantastic opportunities for the young people to perform abroad and at events such as The Edinburgh Festival. Many congratulations to The Theatre Workshop and owner Lora Munro for having the vision, business and creative skills, and sheer determination to succeed in a fiercely competitive market."
Commenting on the award to Simulation Systems Limited, Andrew Areoff, Chairman of the Judges, said: "Simulation Systems Ltd are an outstanding example of a company that has not rested on its laurels but is always looking to push the boundaries of technology to improve its range of products and services for customers.
"The company specialises in highway control systems aimed at improving traffic flow and management. One of their innovative systems helped keep London moving during the Olympics - and SSL deserve a gold medal themselves for harnessing the very latest digital technology to better serve their customers and millions of motorists every day."
Rainbow Tours’ philosophy of responsible travel and protecting places of natural beauty from tourism is not only good for the environment, it’s good for business. The company has beat its competitors hands down by achieved staggering customer satisfaction rates of up to 99.5% from clients taking part in surveys run by the Guardian/Observer Travel Awards. It is also keen on putting something back into the community and it has helped a school in Madagascar buy desks for pupils and teachers. This is a business that has realised that reputation is everything and it is having the desired effect.
CN Creative is an innovative, exciting company that is doing a brilliant job at stamping out smoking. It invented the Intellicig electronic cigarette, which works on a EU-compliant liquid nicotine preparation called ECOpure. The e-cigarette is now sold through 5,000 outlets in the UK and in 26 countries all over the world - a fantastic result for a company that is only three years’ old. CN Creative is now hoping to have ECOpure classified as medicine so it can be used in other devices. In a short time, its success has been quite phenomenal; bad news of cigarette manufacturers but great news for those who really want to give up smoking.
With a staff of only three people and another part timer, The Transaction Advisory Service Learning & Development (L&D) Team at Ernst & Young LLP has transformed training for 1,400 staff across 15 locations in only a couple of years. Through the Ernst & Young and You (EYU) programme, all individuals have a competency framework, which is used to identify gaps in skills and competencies. By keeping their skills up to date, EYU enables staff to develop their career and it helps the company meet the needs of clients. What is impressive is the way this top-class programme has produced glowing feedback from staff surveys.
Although it only moved into the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) market in 2004, Türk Ekonomi Bankasi (TEB) has quickly become a market leader in Turkey because it did its homework. It found out that SMEs lacked business knowledge in a number of areas including market information, IT and business planning. To support them, in addition to banking services, it introduced a wide range of educational services including the SME Academy, SME Consultants, SME Support Line and SME TV. Attracted by the support services, by 2011 TEB had won 700,000 SME clients from 20,000 in 2005 and 44% of the SME loan market from 25% in 2006.
By introducing new courses in cleaning from the British Institute in Cleaning Science, The Vocational Science Directorate at Birmingham Metropolitan College, has changed the perception of cleaning into a respected science and helped relieve the skills shortage problem. Cleaning is one of the fastest growing industries in the country in need of more qualified staff. Often workers in the cleaning sector have fewer qualifications than other employees and the cleaning science courses has given them a great opportunity to polish up their skills. Around 30% of those attending a cleaning science course go on to take more advanced training, which is a brilliant result.
Only three years old, Insight with Passion, a business transformation company, has got the cash tills ringing again for many businesses including furniture retailer Frank Hudson and the Co-operative Group. The company also gives back 20% of its time and resources to support local charities; community projects; social enterprises and start up entrepreneurs. This is a great way to provide business advisory services to the local community and get the boarding down from local shopping malls. By producing such great results for its clients, growth at Insight with Passion is exceptional. Launched by two individuals, it now has a staff of 10 and provides work for 20 freelancers.
While the re-cycling of left-over paint and the restoring of furniture sounds easy, the trick Waltham Forest Council pulled off with its Furnishing the Future initiative was working across agencies, partners and the third sector – never an easy task. By rethinking the process-chain, the council got contractors to clear out empty homes and recycle useful items rather than send them to a landfill pit. The overall result is it has got more for less. Furnishing the Future has helped improve the quality of life for those in economic need and it is a brilliant scheme that should be used in other places all over the country.
As a supplier of natural slate for roofing, this is a company that has to be admired for the way it has pulled itself around to beat the downturn in the construction industry. As its order book took a battering, it developed a wide range of strategies to reverse the trend. It appointed a new MD to import new products and find new markets particularly in Scotland; and it focused on getting to know its customers and developed a new customer relationship management system. It also invested in training for its people and most important of all, it developed a new marketing strategy. JRC has the right approach and a bright future.
Charitable housing association Amicus Horizon really does have something to shout about from the rooftops. Since it launched its ‘giving customers a great experience’ strategy, its response centre has a set of shiny new figures to boast about. Customer satisfaction leapt to 97% in February 2012, up by almost 10% from April 2011 and the number of calls dealt with first time round rose to 93% in February from 85.8% in April 2011. By January 2012 complaints had tumbled to 49 from 691 in April 2010 – now that is something to shout about. And it has all come about through empowering staff, training and having a happy atmosphere to work in.
At Reach, a Birmingham-based charity for people with learning difficulties, customers really do come first. It is only two years’ old and despite funding being in short supply, it has forged ahead and is really making a difference and improving the lives of its customers. By putting them in control and helping them set goals for themselves, it has given many vulnerable people a new outlook. Some who were self-harming are now living independently; while others are running their own businesses; learning new skills and getting qualifications. It just shows you that by giving people confidence in themselves; it’s amazing what they can achieve.
With more than 20 years of experience behind it, when hit by the worst recession to affect the commercial property market in living memory, Paragon Interiors Group, a commercial interior design company, proved itself indestructible and a great survivor. The secret of its survival is its modus operandi - it puts the practicalities of the build before the design. It is also carefully and prudently run; and has built up an excellent reputation. Consequently, most of its business is repeat business or comes from a referral. While others were failing, it managed to increase turnover by 55%. It goes to show that a good reputation goes a long, long way.
The Creation Station, a franchised children’s arts and crafts business, is designed to inspire children’s imagination but it’s an inspiration in itself from a business point of view. Set up by a mum of three children to give herself a job that was flexible and would fit around her family life, in under five years Sarah Cressall has turned it into a grown up business with national coverage and 48 franchise owners - more than double from a year ago. Franchises are a great way to help others share in the success of a branded business and to ensure it continues to thrive, Sarah puts a huge amount of effort and resources into supporting and building relationships with franchise owners.
Operating in the murky world of fraud, multi-million Ponzi schemes, money laundering and counterfeiting, Kessler International conducts covert investigations into irregularities in businesses, government departments and institutions all over the world. Through its excellent investigative methodologies, which cannot be revealed, it has exposed some large-scale frauds in government departments and a massive $400 million Ponzi scheme in the US. The problem is Kessler can’t always talk about its successes but it can boast about its excellent evidence gathering capabilities that back up the prosecution in court proceedings. Its speciality is digital forensics of all types of technologies such as hard drives, mobile phones and other digital devices. Criminals had better watch out!
When it comes to taking advantage of marketing via emerging technologies, Solihull College of Further Education in the West Midlands wins top marks. After undergoing a £31 million redevelopment with state-of-the-art teaching facilities and degree-level courses, it opted to use digital technology to tell the world about its new amenities. The approach was highly innovative and effective. Rather than using the usual leaflet/prospectus/advert type of promotion, the communications campaign focused on an online presence. It was also the first college to use an interactive DigiMag. The digital communications campaign was not only cost effective, it was highly effective. In 2011, it brought in record cash income and exceeded its target for new students.
You might wonder what Deloitte, a tax firm, and the Royal Opera House (ROH) have in common. Well, the answer is a desire to communicate with a younger professional audience. They certainly both raised the bar and no doubt a few eyebrows with their three-day Deloitte Ignite Just Tell the Truth arts festival, hosted by ROH in Covent Garden, which included the world’s first opera on Twitter. No matter how odd the couple might seem, it turned out to be a beautiful arrangement that worked for both parties. It put Deloitte on the map as a major arts sponsor and helped ROH increase ticket sales.
Chiswick Park Enjoy-Work (CPEW), an award-winning office development, wants its guests (tenants) to enjoy the work experience. To keep guests happy and encourage work-life balance, Enjoy-Work offers a huge range of activities including sports, entertainment and opportunities for personal & professional development. All CPEW team members are chosen because they have an aptitude for customer service. Service standards are high and consequently the occupancy rate is 97% and the customer churn rate of 5% is low. It isn’t just guests who are impressed. Service partner JPC Cleaning Services Ltd believes that CPEW is such an outstanding pioneer in its field that it actually submitted the entry on its behalf. That’s about the best compliment a business can get.
Committed to staff development and great service, chartered accountant Lamont Pridmore is another great survivor. It has moved with the times and taken advantage of cloud technology and is now offering an outsourced finance director (FD) service. Through cloud, the staff of 60 accountants access client files and their own desktop online; and provide virtual services to clients, such as, monthly management information and accounts; profit improvement advisory services and monthly meetings by phone or face-to-face. It’s a flexible service that cuts out the need to travel and offers clients the advantage that they only pay for the services they use. Not even a year old, the FD service already has 56 customers and Lamont Pridmore expects this to grow to 100 fairly soon.
With the high street hit by the economic downturn, it’s good to see a champion for local businesses. Often local firms do not have the resources to set up their own website but by joining their local version of thebestof, a franchised online directory of local businesses, they can get an online profile and increase their chance of winning new customers. According to thebestof some firms totally rely on it for all their custom. By franchising thebestof and creating local directories, such as www.thebestofrichmond.co.uk, it is also generating another business opportunity in local areas. It really is the best of the bunch.
Model of Insight Project, undertaken by NHS North Staffordshire, is an innovative customer service approach that was extremely well executed and a step in the right direction for improving quality. By collating all patient feedback from the Patient Advice and Liaison service, complaints, consultations, focus groups and workshops into one real-time database, a primary care trust can immediately identify any problems areas. With the focus now on involving patients in making decision about future healthcare services, it also gets their opinion noted and enables them to influence commissioning decisions. Already data extracted from the database has led to direct service improvements for patients.
Redseven have spotted a niche market and exploited it very well. They have developed a hassle free solution for hen and stag party goers and delivered it with a healthy sprinkling of customer service, great use of technology and value for money. Their on-going staff training programme ensures that the team continuously develops and thrives which has played a significant part in the business achieving impressive financials. Redseven has ambitious expansion plans that have already seen it move in to other areas of the travel market such as business travel and holidays. Under the continued leadership of Ian Lucas this niche player is one to watch in the travel market.
It’s amazing how far one can get by listening to customers. Comtact are flying high as the Fastest Growing Managed Service Provider in the UK in the 2010 Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100. They focus on tailoring their IT solutions to their customers’ needs starting with, as they put it ‘an empty toolkit’. This focus on the customer is enhanced with a healthy sprinkling of innovation and a desire to hire the best people to deliver their refreshing vision under the watchful eye of founder and ‘secret millionaire’ Dominic List.
The property maintenance sector is not synonymous with great customer service, if anything it suffers an image problem. Aspect are changing all that. They are the Eddie Stobart of the property maintenance sector and get the job done on time and on budget.
Aspect are a breath of fresh air with impressive financials to show for it. Well done to founders William Davies and Nick Bizley for setting the sector standards and steering the business from strength to strength.
With a turnover in excess of £50 million, a growth of 80% over the last two years and an increase in operating profit of almost 300% over the same period, XLN telecom is delivering outstanding performance. Not to mention an increase in market share of 50% over the last two years. This is Christian Nellemann's fourth successful venture having been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 and in 2010 he was recognised as Entrepreneur of the Year in the London regional finals. Christian demonstrates an ability not only to identify substantial new business opportunities, but also to follow through and deliver relentlessly on the initial vision..
When it comes to staff welfare Luminus Group should be extremely proud of their achievements. They really do believe that their staff are their greatest asset and as a result of this commitment reap the benefits in terms of delivering outstanding customer service. With 20 award wins since 2008 of which seven have been won in 2010 so far, the organisation is clearly leading the way in terms of business excellence, which is particularly highlighted by their second place in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. A well deserved addition to the Crème de la Crème Hall of Fame.
Brunel University has done more than most to forge relationships between academia and UK industry. The University’s collaborations typify their commitment to business excellence thanks to significant financial investments in business-facing activities and infrastructures, and their vision has been rewarded with groundbreaking industrial initiatives and world-leading R & D projects. Brunel are a shining example of how public/private sector partnerships can add value for all concerned.