Thames Valley 250 awards winners impress with outstanding performances
The Thames Valley 250 awards celebrated the region’s leading businesses at a special dinner held at Easthampstead Park, Wokingham. The companies in this year’s listing employ over 122,000 people and generate a turnover of almost £31 billion.
The Thames Valley 250 comprises the top privately-owned businesses (by turnover) headquartered in the region, which is defined as Oxfordshire, Berkshire, West Surrey, North Hampshire and parts of Buckinghamshire.
Guest speaker Alex Tatham made a welcome return to the TV250 community, having re-joined the listing’s number one company, Westcoast, as Executive Director in June 2023 after a year at NSC Global. Alex had previously been with Westcoast for 15 years.
IT distributor Westcoast generated turnover of £3.65 billion in 2022 and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Alex observed that back in 1983, founder Joe Hemani started the business by buying 1,000 laser printers and "selling them before he had to pay for them". Alex praised Joe for “giving his leadership team the space to be entrepreneurs.”
And the winners are…
CEO of the Year (under £50m) – sponsored by Gateley Legal
Winner: Lee Biggins, CV-Library
“Lee wants to grow the business in the next three to five years, particularly with the programmatic offering that we now have following the acquisition of Brilliant Jobs. We want to take these real-time capabilities into the US, through Resume Library, and then consider other international markets. Lee is building a C-suite team to support our expansion, which includes my appointment three months ago. We bring different skills and experience that are going to support business growth. However, our USP is Lee as the company founder – he knows the industry and exactly where to take us.” Lee Almond, Digital Operations Director, CV-Library
Judges’ comments: "Lee has ambitious plans and is creating a business that is investing in both its growth and its people, driving the company into a new and exciting phase of growth and re-investment. He has spent the last year building his leadership team and preparing for the next level of growth. He sourced and led the acquisition of Brilliant Jobs and earmarked over $9 million for acquisitions and platform transformations over the next two years."
• Neil Pizzey, Amazon Filters
• Chris Pritchard, AVK/SEG
International Business Award – sponsored by BDO UK
Winner: Wireless Logic
“We had strong growth over the year, with a lot of it outside Europe. A key thing for us is that this business is about people and relationships. We focus on having the right partnerships and client relationships for growth. We also focus on how we integrate the businesses we acquire around the world. We take time to understand each business, the people in them, and what motivates them. We can then bring them into the company in a way that really adds value. After Covid-19, we saw a lot of growth in vertical markets, particularly food delivery and electric vehicle charging, which we are building out into other regions.” Laurence Hilton, Chief Marketing Officer, Wireless Logic
Judges’ comments: "Our winner has a proven track record in their international markets, demonstrating strong growth and high performance, and showcasing the capabilities of the Thames Valley on the world stage."
• Blue Sky Intermodal
• Lucy Group
• Owen Mumford
• Rebound Technology Group
Climate & Sustainability Award – sponsored by Morgan Lovell
“Appointing a sustainability manager was a pivotal moment for us. We had been talking around the subject for a long time and persuaded the Board to engage a manager dedicated to sustainability and increasing our understanding of our carbon emissions. They joined last November and we now know so much more about our business and how can reduce our impact on the environment. Client expectations are that we should focus on sustainability and we also now have higher expectations of our suppliers in this area. We have reduced travel to work and increased working from home. We use employee forums to understand what concerns people and what we need to change, which has also helped us in our recruitment.” Jayne Morris, Workplace Services Director, and Sara Robinson, People Director, Huntswood
Judges’ comments: "With a huge focus on this hot topic, this organisation has a dedicated sustainability manager recruited. Standout actions include a big focus on reducing travel and a huge move towards home working for key teams. Furthermore, wider company engagement forums have been created to ensure best-in-class ideas come from the teams within to implement."
• Redwood Technologies
• RH Amar
CEO of the Year (over £50m) – sponsored by Gateley Legal
Winner: Bashir Parkar, BAP Pharma
“We have grown a lot in the last year and that is down to the dedication and passion of all our employees for customer service. It is one of my key principles and beliefs. It gives staff a sense of pride to receive recognition from our clients for their excellent service, which is really motivating. I've built a leadership team around me who buy into my vision and principles and have recruited the very best to help me carry out my mission.” Bashir Parkar, Founder and Managing Director, BAP Pharma
Judges’ comments: "This company is currently achieving unbelievable results evidenced by their surge up this year’s listing. There is a very clear strategy centred around excellence, innovation and delivering exceptional customer service. Their success is very much down to the highly skilled and experienced leadership team that this winner recognised was needed and has built around him. His long and varied experiences in the pharmaceutical industry are providing for continued success and continued growth."
• Sean Taylor, Redwood Technologies
• Simon Thake, Rebound Technology Group
Tech Company of the Year – sponsored by EvolutionCBS
Winner: Sapphire Balconies
“The judges said we have technology in our DNA and this comes from our founder and his two sons. They like to invent and never stand still, which keeps us all on our toes. We came up with a lot of ideas during Covid-19 and realised there were bottlenecks in turning ideas into solutions. So, we set up a company within the company, with its own P&L, to deliver the ideas. They have an ‘ideas hopper’ where anyone can stick in ideas and the whole company votes on which to develop. Technology breakthroughs include the latest evolution of our balcony system and our recently launched curved balcony system, which is a game changer for us.” Kevin Bonner, Global Network Manager, and Zdravka Petrova, Marketing Campaign Manager, Sapphire Balconies
Judges’ comments: "This winner took the definition of ‘technology’ to a new level. It extends beyond digital hardware, software and cloud systems. What stood out to us was the extent to which their definition of technology had extended beyond that and into their very DNA. Their seemingly endless pursuit of innovation sits at the heart of everything they do and could be seen and heard in the way that they talk, the way that they think, and in the way that we could see people are encouraged to share and explore new ideas and opportunities."
• ESP Global
Employer of the Year – sponsored by Morgan Lovell
“We have done a lot of work over the last 12 months listening to what employees want, especially different generations. We introduced new benefits in areas like maternity and paternity breaks, as well as a fertility benefit for people undergoing IVF treatment and family National Trust membership to encourage staff to spend time with their families. We have a benefits platform to promote what is available and are doing more to make sure people understand about all the things we offer. Our wellbeing programme has a quarterly focus on different areas, such as financial wellbeing during the cost-of-living crisis.” Claire Williams, Chief People Officer, Ciphr
Judges’ comments: "This company has demonstrated how its people are central to their business goals as an employee-focused organisation. Attention to employee benefits, wellbeing-centric and a company that really wants to listen to their people. In their words, they 'try really hard'."
• RH Amar
Fast Riser Award – sponsored by Gateley Legal
Winner: BAP Pharma
“A key part of our approach to business is to have respect for customers, suppliers and staff. I passionately believe in having a harmonious environment. People have got to enjoy coming to work and they wouldn't if we didn't respect for one another. The business is at the cutting edge and works hard to stay there by getting medicines to patients with unmet clinical needs. We distribute all around the world and go the extra mile to get medicines to people who need them.” Bashir Parkar, Founder and Managing Director, BAP Pharma
Judges’ comments: "This winner has achieved impressive growth fuelled by its visionary approach, which encompasses innovation, quality, and accessibility, as it strives to develop cutting-edge medications that address unmet medical needs. With a steadfast commitment to improving global healthcare, the company has expanded its product offerings and geographical presence. By continuously adapting to industry trends and customer demands, it remains at the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation, dedicated to making a positive impact on human health."
• Elivia Homes
• Rebound Technology Group
• Rectory Homes
Growth & Resilience Award – sponsored by BDO UK
Winner: Blue Sky Intermodal
“The Covid-19 pandemic was very good for us and we were helped in this respect by having strong foundations in place that have been built over the last 20 years. We have invested in our systems and have got very good people who know their stuff intimately – we don’t have any staff turnover. After two-and-a-half outstanding years, things are now getting back to normal, which brings its own challenges with a lot of market issues now unwinding. Container prices that had doubled have now halved. But we are a very dynamic business that can adapt quickly to market changes.” Chris Langley, Treasurer, Blue Sky Intermodal
Judges’ comments: "Our winner scored strongly in all judging areas, including a track record of growth and a clear strategy for growth in the future. This company demonstrated a solid business strategy, growth in recent years and potential for the future."
• BAP Pharma
• Lucy Group
• Rebound Technology Group
Leadership Team of the Year – sponsored by Verlingue
Winner: Rectory Homes
“We are led by owner Simon Vickers with a small Board team who have all been promoted from within. We communicate daily and involve all the team in decision making. We encourage staff to take ownership of our projects, which helps to motivate people, and we celebrate our success with everyone. Another key side to the business was setting up the Rectory Foundation charity to give back to the communities in which we build, so we are seen as being a responsible developer.” Charlie Bethell-Vickers, Development Director, Rectory Homes
Judges’ comments: "It was clear that this business has been led by really good people who want their employees to take ownership and to be proud of their work and then for their teams to share in the success of the company moving forward. The leaders have made careful choices in every aspect of their business and take great pride in the amazing work they do, not just in building wonderful new houses but also by their work in the charity sector, which means they give so much back to their community which, in turn, leads to wonderful results in all aspects of the business."
• BAP Pharma
• Elivia Homes
• Thomas Homes
One to Watch – sponsored by EvolutionCBS
“The judges described a ‘paradigm shift’ in the business. This is primarily the adoption of machine learning and AI, particularly around how we deliver advertising programmatically, using a machine to make ever more efficient decisions about where we distribute advertising to be most effective for our clients. If you solve a problem for the end user – the candidate – then everything else hangs off that success because the recruiter will find the best candidate. One of the biggest levers we have to pull when it comes to how we bring about a paradigm shift is by establishing a new leadership team, who will now find the right people to bring in to execute change.” Mark Tavender, Senior Product Director, CV-Library
Judges’ comments: "In common with other businesses in this category, our winner has enjoyed impressive growth and has built a strong and committed team. But their innovation and vision for the future in their sector could be truly game-changing – leveraging new technologies and shifting the paradigm of how their industry interacts with both job candidates and business."
• Amazon Filters
• AND Digital