Mid-sized businesses are often referred to as the unsung heroes of the UK economy. Though comparatively small in number, they punch above their weight, making up four per cent of UK businesses but contributing 17 per cent of productivity.
That’s why, at the end of last year, LDC embarked on a mission partnering with the Daily Telegraph to identify 35 of Britain’s most ambitious medium sized firms, in celebration of our own 35-year milestone.
The campaign saw us travel through the entrepreneurial heartlands of England, Scotland and Wales, unearthing some outstanding success stories. Here, we capture some of the characteristics which demonstrate their ambition – whether it’s about leadership in their chosen markets, innovation with new products and services, growing exports or driving sales growth.
Andy Grove, Head of New Business at LDC, explains: “The teams behind each of these businesses are building strong, scalable firms and deserve recognition for their inspiring belief, drive and commitment.”
Mark Williams at Midlothian based waste management and construction services company NWH Group is a born entrepreneur, joining the family firm at 15 before leading a management buyout with his brother in 2004. In scaling his business, he pioneered an in-house apprenticeship scheme to tackle a growing shortage of skilled drivers which threatened to put the brakes on its expansion.
In Wales, Paul Ragan turned a tiny taxi company into consolidator Veezu, growing turnover from £1m to more than £20m in two years and launching an app to take on industry disruptor Uber. “Uber only affects companies that don’t invest in technology,” he says
Cardiff-based Vista Retail Support provides point of sale IT support and maintenance to the retail, hospitality and leisure industries. It has innovated to stay ahead, developing a complex management system that tracks its engineers and inventory of specialist parts in real time. Commercial Director Lucy Humphreys said: “Vista keeps shops open. One of our strengths is that we can support any hardware.”
High-end security firm Banham is also innovating for growth. The firm, which protects wealthy people’s homes, spent a year developing a sophisticated app that enables customers to control alarms and check video links from their smartphone.
“We didn’t want to compromise on anything,” Director Lucie Banham says. Vacuum cleaner brand Gtech’s innovation credentials are unsurpassed, helping it achieve annual revenues of £90m in just 15 years.
Founder Nick Grey said: “We follow technology push rather than market pull. We ask where we can make things better.”
Now, it’s securing export opportunities for its growing product range, including an electric bike.
IT outsourcing firm Essensys is generating double-digit growth by expanding into the US and making acquisitions to expand its offering. Co-founder Mark Furness insists that product has always come first. He said: “We have 50 people in research and product development.”
Innovation is also key for Manchester technology firm ANS Group.
In the fast-moving world of tech no company can afford to stay still, and innovations such as the private cloud have helped ANS Group to win long-term contracts with the likes of Odeon Cinemas, Euro Car Parts and the NHS.
For a business that started in a bedroom with just three people, it now turns over almost £60m and employs 250 people.
CEO Paul Sweeney says: “This means we can invest in the future, take more risks and put more into innovation.”
Finally, travel business Holiday Extras is spreading risk by offering a variety of products, from parking to insurance. It doubled in size between 2008 and 2013, and is set to double again by 2018.
“When one part of the business is quieter, another is doing really well,” says Chief Executive Matthew Pack.
Historic drinks brand Fentimans, meanwhile, trades on its heritage to great effect overseas. It exports to 68 countries, contributing a third of turnover, and recently entered Germany, which Founder Elson Robson believes could outperform the UK.
“The Asian and South American markets are also great opportunities,” he said. Meanwhile, Grayson Thermal Systems makes cooling systems used on buses across the world, and has innovated technologies to cool batteries in electric vehicles. Managing Director Stuart Hateley explains: “Companies from Berlin to China want our technology.”