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Researched and compiled by

FAST TRACK December 5, 2010

Growth stars keep on shining through the gloom by making the most of opportunities, finding savings and improving efficiency, says Catherine Wheatley

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pending cuts, currency disputes, tax shake-ups and a shortage of bank lending. It’s been a tough and unpredictable year for ambitious firms. Over the past six months, the government has unveiled a swathe of fiscal measures — from corporation-tax holidays and a Vat rise to unprecedented public-spending cuts — to reduce debt while boosting output. Trading tensions have been aggravated by global patterns of recession and growth. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs complain that bank lending remains scarce. This year’s Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 is a snapshot of Britain’s fastestgrowing private companies as they adapt to the changing conditions. The league table, which ranks firms by sales growth over their latest three financial years, covers a volatile period in which rapid expansion was followed by financial crisis, recession and uncertain recovery. As a potential double-dip looms, the 14th annual league table, compiled by Oxfordbased research and networking-events company Fast Track, confirms the extent to which Britain’s enterprise sector has been hurt by the downturn. Average sales

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Gary Robertson

FAST TRACK THE Fast Track 100 league table and events programme is produced by Fast Track, Britain’s leading networking company focusing on top-performing private companies and entrepreneurs. Fast Track researches and publishes seven different annual league tables with The Sunday Times, ranking the fastest-growing to the biggest private companies, and runs invitation-only events and dinners for entrepreneurs to network and meet our sponsors.

growth among this year’s firms was 85%, down 10 percentage points on the 2009 league table. Yet total pre-tax profits rose sharply from the £198m posted by last year’s companies to £280m this time, while average margins were up from 7.7% to 8.3%, suggesting entrepreneurs have found savings and other efficiencies. Discount retailer B&M Retail (No 45) had the highest pre-tax profits, at £32.1m, while pension administrator AJ Bell (No 94) showed the biggest margin, at an impressive 42.7%. A few of the growth stars on this year’s Fast Track 100 have already become household names. Adventure-course operator Go Ape (No 100), making its third successive appearance, is a favourite for corporate team-building events. Fashion retailer Jack Wills (No 37) and homeware chain Cath Kidston (No 69) are established fixtures on the high street. Organic children’s food maker Ella’s Kitchen (No 14) and piemaker Higgidy (No 43) are becoming supermarket staples. Many more league-table firms have made great efforts to develop new ideas and fresh markets, many of which focus on thrift and efficiency. BullionVault.com (No 21) has built a website allowing small retail investors to take advantage of the thriving gold market by acquiring and trading shares in gold ingots. Media barter company Miroma (No 25) purchases advertising space for clients in return for surplus stock such as cars and hotel rooms. Cashback website Quidco (No 66), led by former FriendsReunited.com chief executive Michael Murphy, directs subscribers to retail sites in exchange for a commission. More unusually, it redirects a portion of this sum back to its 1m members. Once again, green companies are prominent on the Fast Track 100. Engineering contractor Subocean Group (No 2) lays seabed cables from off-shore wind farms to shore-based sub-stations for clients including Centrica and Eon. PowerPerfector, at No 10, supplies voltage-optimisation technology that is cutting the power costs and carbon emissions of clients such as Tesco. Meanwhile, a growing demand for cycling gear among men of a certain age

Britain’s fastest growing private companies has helped propel retailers Rapha Racing (No 50), Endura (No 97) and Wiggle (No 91) onto the league table. Encouragingly, of the 16 firms backed by private equity or venture capital, seven have raised funds over the past 12 months, including Cath Kidston (No 69), which received backing from TA Associates, and financial-information provider Markit (No 46), in which General Atlantic acquired a 7.5% stake at a reported value of £155m. At least 13 companies attribute their sales growth to acquisitions, including clothing retailer Joules (No 84) which bought its sourcing partner Klowt in 2006. Entrepreneurs own a further 77 league-table firms. Businesswomen make a strong showing this year, with 27 companies boasting female founders, co-founders

or significant shareholders. Former world champion water-skier Liz Hobbs has started an eponymous events company (No 20) while a husband-and-wife team are the power behind fuel wholesaler State Oil (No 9). Four ventures, including SDK Jewellers (No 16) are family businesses. This year’s No 1 company is online phone group Buymobilephones.net, one of 25 retailers on the table, and among 11 that achieve most or all of their sales online. The 13-year-old business, which offers an extensive range of handsets and tariffs, grew into a chain of 14 shops before founder Paul Sisson saw that his new website drew attention to the relatively high prices his stores were charging. Four years ago he moved the entire operation online, where it has thrived while

In association with

THE 10 BIGGEST EMPLOYERS Rank Company

Activity

45

B&M Retail

Discount retailer

4,831

6

54

AllSaints

Clothing retailer

1,961

6

70

Danbro

Payroll services provider

1,488

7

46

Markit

Financial information provider

1,389

6

90

Tangerine Confectionery Confectionery manufacturer

1,343

9

37

Jack Wills

1,286

53

Global Energy Group

Energy services provider

772

6

82

eXPD8

Retail services provider

723

8

76

Catering Academy

Contract caterer

668

8

92

Balhousie Care Group

Care home operator

636

9

Clothing retailer

Staff

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some overextended rivals have gone bust. Sales have grown an impressive average of 340% a year, from £288,000 in 2006 to £24.5m in 2009. Overall, this year’s sector breakdown of the Fast Track 100 suggests Britain remains a service-based economy. Concierge group Ten Lifestyle Management (No 98) and business consultancy McKinney Rogers (No 67) are among 54 service businesses on the table. For these firms and others, customer service remains vital for growth. For the past three years, Fast Track 100 companies have demonstrated a remarkable ability to build sales and create wealth and jobs (see table). Together, they now employ 22,633 staff. Their mission will be to stay nimble and adapt to whatever fresh challenges the new year brings.


2

FAST TRACK 100

The 100 fastest-growing UK private companies 10 09 y an 20 20 nk nk mp Ra Ra Co 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100

15

19 33

9 16 22 35

49

23

47 31

69

18 66

25 46 48 97

12 29

75 57 3 53 72 79 86 40 62 37

10

76

65

88

55 64

82

Buymobilephones.net Subocean Group Vadition High Tech Health Planet Cruise Your Golf Travel Pathology Group Staysure.co.uk State Oil Power Perfector Adey Heating Solutions Badger Office Supplies Global Personals Ella’s Kitchen Team24 SDK Jewellers Moonpig.com Directline Holidays Green Park Liz Hobbs Group BullionVault.com SFC (Wholesale) TorFX UK Flooring Direct Miroma Ramsdens International Applications LNT Group Fjord Onepost Ship Shape Resources MPM products Lifetime Oak Furniture Land Natural Products Alliance Surgical Jack Wills Mayday Healthcare Intamarque LOC Consulting Nexus Vehicle Management Next Ventures Higgidy Joseph Joseph B&M Retail Markit Black Tomato Box Limited Knowledge To Action Rapha Racing Getting Personal Grand Union Global Energy Group AllSaints Marlin Financial Group 4th Dimension Innovation AV Promotions Nicoll Curtin Technology Wilton Group Post-Switch Timothy James Consulting Lois Jewellery Amber Taverns Empiric Solutions World First Quidco McKinney Rogers Sprue Aegis Cath Kidston Danbro Transmission Only Richmond Group JJ Fox Wow! Stuff Goodman Associates Catering Academy Direct Traveller Redfern Travel MenKind Henleys Clothing M8 Group EXPD8 SHP Solutions Joules PPF GO Outdoors Morgan Law Recruitment Opti-cal Survey Equipment Trojan Electronics Tangerine Confectionery Wiggle Balhousie Care Group Getabed.co.uk AJ Bell The Book Depository BLU 3 (UK) Endura Ten Lifestyle Management Pieminister Go Ape

ity tiv Ac Online phone retailer Subsea construction provider Hardware/software distributor Health product marketer Cruise and tour holidays operator Golf travel agency Healthcare recruitment consultancy Over 50s insurance provider Fuel wholesaler Energy-saving device distributor Heating filter manufacturer Office products supplier Online dating agency Baby food producer Medical recruitment consultancy Online watch retailer Online greeting card retailer Online travel operator Recruitment consultancy Events producer Gold dealer Fried chicken wholesaler Foreign exchange provider Online flooring retailer Media barter company Pawnbroker and jeweller Multi product distributor Care home developer Digital design consultancy Postal management adviser Construction services provider Natural pet food producer Training provider Wood furniture retailer Giftware designer Surgery group Clothing retailer Medical recruitment consultancy Food and toiletries distributor Management consultancy Vehicle rental broker Recruitment consultancy Pie maker Household goods maker Discount retailer Financial information provider Luxury travel agency Online IT reseller Trader coaching programme provider Bike apparel manufacturer Online gift retailer Venue and pub-restaurant operator Energy services provider Clothing retailer Debt purchaser Motorcycle claims handler Incentive scheme supplier IT recruitment agency Offshore services provider Postal services consultancy Recruitment consultancy Jewellery wholesaler & gold dealer Pub operator Recruitment consultancy Foreign exchange broker Cash-back website operator Business performance consultancy Safety products manufacturer Lifestyle retailer Payroll services provider Telecom equipment reseller Financial services provider Recruitment consultancy Branded toy maker Media and advertising agency Contract caterer Specialist tour operator Business travel agent Men's gifts retailer Fashion retailer Consumer website operator Retail services provider Mobile phone recycler Clothing retailer Driver recruitment agency Outdoor equipment retailer Recruitment consultancy Survey equipment supplier Electrical manufacturer & recycler Confectionery manufacturer Online sports goods retailer Care home operator Online hotel-room supplier Pension administrator Online book retailer Infrastructure services provider Bike apparel manufacturer Concierge service provider Gourmet pie baker Adventure course operator

Q fH no tio ca Lo Derbyshire Aberdeen Hampshire Berkshire Hampshire Central London London Northampton Weybridge Central London Cheltenham Lancashire Windsor Henley Surrey Reading Central London Croydon London Nottingham Central London Merseyside Cornwall Warwickshire Central London Middlesbrough Brackley Leeds Central London Bristol Central London Cheshire Bristol Swindon London Birmingham Northwest London Central London Cheltenham Central London Leeds Central London West Sussex Central London Blackpool Central London Greater London Birmingham London London Cheshire London Aberdeen Central London West Sussex Egham Aylesbury London Middlesborough Central London Bristol Birmingham Preston Central London Southwest London Sheffield Central London Coventry Central London Blackpool Windsor Bournemouth Bristol Wolverhampton Central London Staffordshire Surrey Bradford Surrey Manchester West Lothian Bristol Lancaster Leicestershire Luton Sheffield Central London Reading Swansea Blackpool Portsmouth Forfar Hove Manchester Gloucester Croydon West Lothian Central London Bristol Suffolk

† Accounts not yet filed at Companies House

* Annualised figure

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the latest three financial years. For example, companies whose latest available accounts had a 2010 year-end had sales growth measured from 2007 to 2010. Of the 100 companies appearing in the league table, 45 had financial years ending in 2009 and 55 in 2010. Annualised sales had to exceed £250,000 in the base year (2006 or 2007) and not show a drop from the penultimate to the latest year, where total sales had to exceed £5m. Companies had to have 10 or more employees, be making a pre-tax profit in their latest available accounts and forecast further sales growth. Trading

THE Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, published annually since 1997, is the definitive league table of Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing sales. It excludes technology firms, which are featured in our Tech Track 100 league table. Criteria: Companies had to be registered in the UK and be independent, unquoted and ultimate holding companies. Those listed on a stock exchange do not qualify, although listings on Plus Markets are allowed. Sales growth was measured

nd re yea ial nc a Fin Mar 09 Nov 09 May 10 Jun 10 Aug 09 Dec 09 Sep 10 Dec 09 Feb 10 Dec 09 Mar 10 May 10 Aug 09 Jun 10 Apr 10 Feb 10 Apr 10 Oct 09 Jul 10 Dec 09 Oct 09 Mar 10 Sep 09 Mar 10 Jun 10 Dec 09 Mar 10 Mar 09 Dec 09 Jun 10 May 09 Dec 09 Mar 10 Sep 09 May 10 Mar 10 Jan 10 Sep 09 May 10 Mar 10 Sep 09 Dec 09 Sep 10 May 10 Dec 09 Dec 09 Dec 09 Oct 09 Dec 09 Oct 10 May 10 Mar 10 Mar 09 Jan 10 Dec 09 Mar 09 Aug 10 Jun 09 Jun 10 Aug 10 Oct 09 Mar 09 Jan 10 Aug 10 Jan 10 Jul 10 Apr 10 Dec 09 Mar 10 Mar 10 Jun 10 Mar 10 Dec 09 Jan 10 Dec 09 Dec 09 Mar 10 Dec 09 Mar 10 Mar 10 Sep 10 Mar 09 Dec 09 May 09 Dec 09 Jan 10 Sep 09 Aug 10 Mar 10 Dec 09 Jan 10 Apr 10 Sep 10 Sep 09 Jun 10 Mar 10 Apr 10 Aug 09 Mar 10 Dec 09

%

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340.15% 237.14% 195.77% 193.81% 181.97% 158.06% 151.89% 151.17% 144.08% 140.01% 138.66% 133.34% 133.18% 129.22% 125.54% 122.93% 115.51% 113.50% 112.62% 108.13% 105.87% 104.86% 103.01% 101.06% 95.55% 94.42% 91.15% 90.93% 89.50% 89.22% 89.21% 87.47% 84.67% 84.61% 83.51% 82.75% 80.98% 80.69% 80.47% 77.05% 76.96% 76.72% 76.60% 76.42% 76.20% 75.67% 75.49% 74.63% 72.81% 72.18% 71.97% 71.86% 71.43% 71.35% 70.97% 70.82% 68.15% 68.02% 67.41% 65.38% 64.23% 63.81% 63.06% 62.77% 62.75% 62.60% 62.04% 61.88% 59.62% 58.69% 56.59% 55.74% 55.55% 54.50% 54.34% 53.92% 52.80% 52.38% 52.18% 51.03% 49.83% 49.60% 47.94% 47.90% 47.51% 47.50% 47.23% 47.18% 47.12% 47.11% 46.91% 46.61% 46.53% 46.43% 45.54% 45.41% 45.29% 45.27% 45.24% 43.57%

weeks in the base and latest years had to exceed 25. For financial years lasting less or more than 52 trading weeks, figures were annualised on a pro-rata basis. The base-year figures may be from audited or unaudited accounts. Final-year figures that have not been audited and filed at Companies House are marked. Exclusions: Pure property developers were excluded, as were financial trading companies and LLPs. Companies did not qualify if growth came from a restructuring of their accounts, or if they had outstanding court judgments of more than £10,000 against them. Companies with turnovers of £500m or greater were also excluded.

, -10 09 20 les Sa 24,538 *65,142 23,446 †17,024 13,519 16,420 †27,986 9,757 261,613 29,788 20,524 7,423 11,800 †16,465 30,291 *6,359 31,285 23,574 21,634 6,365 277,068 †20,848 361,849 5,972 †32,560 27,030 9,372 54,295 11,860 †47,418 10,703 5,283 †16,815 17,081 †12,662 8,088 64,764 56,178 23,594 10,016 19,385 8,312 †8,107 †12,255 426,657 305,392 6,790 17,947 9,497 †6,960 †9,470 †5,883 119,028 132,854 11,542 5,279 †18,392 14,500 †37,637 †7,602 9,992 43,195 13,926 †11,494 8,281 †32,078 †12,613 14,356 †50,369 †60,655 †6,760 †46,412 14,766 9,298 9,324 15,829 †5,376 31,375 13,742 †48,288 †10,596 7,388 8,045 *35,122 40,898 *74,005 36,266 †6,430 5,449 154,549 55,597 †15,897 †13,395 38,491 †74,272 †23,252 †10,555 11,250 †4,993 10,572

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288 1,700 *906 671 603 *955 1,751 616 17,991 2,155 1,510 *584 931 1,367 2,640 574 3,125 2,422 2,251 706 31,752 2,425 *43,246 735 4,354 3,678 *1,342 7,801 1,743 6,999 1,580 802 2,670 *2,715 *2,049 1,325 10,925 9,523 *4,014 1,805 3,498 1,506 1,472 2,232 77,997 56,332 1,256 3,370 *1,840 1,363 1,862 *1,159 23,625 26,407 2,310 1,059 3,868 3,057 8,022 1,681 2,256 9,827 *3,212 2,666 1,921 7,461 2,965 3,384 12,386 15,179 1,760 12,286 3,923 *2,521 2,536 4,341 1,507 8,867 *3,900 14,018 3,150 2,206 2,485 10,856 12,743 23,064 11,364 *2,017 1,711 48,548 17,536 5,044 4,258 12,260 24,095 7,563 3,441 3,670 1,630 3,573

28 211 35 12 26 41 27 70 76 67 20 65 76 15 55 20 73 65 36 12 13 13 51 21 18 190 12 228 80 51 33 17 178 79 33 40 1,286 87 10 12 31 37 125 30 4,831 1,389 25 32 105 35 47 192 772 1,961 68 85 13 54 405 11 32 10 17 19 67 34 60 29 383 1,488 22 439 89 46 10 668 10 33 108 295 63 723 62 315 54 497 52 24 96 1,343 92 636 16 299 58 122 71 183 89 249

Data collection methods: Companies were selected from a database of 2m private UK companies and were identified in several ways. Sources used included Bureau van Dijk’s Fame, Companies House and Experian’s Corporate Researcher. Some companies nominated themselves or were nominated by venture-capital houses and advisers; others were identified through trade press, media coverage and web research. Where companies were willing to provide them, Fast Track also reviewed draft accounts, management account extracts, pro-forma accounts, and accounts filed in overseas territories. The

1997 2005 2006 2003 2005 2005 2006 2004 2000 2004 2003 2006 2003 2005 2005 1991 1999 1993 2006 1990 2003 2004 2004 2004 2003 1987 2006 1990 2001 2005 2004 2003 1997 2004 1992 2004 1999 2003 2006 2005 2000 2001 2003 2003 1976 2001 2005 1996 2003 2003 2005 2006 2005 1994 2006 2003 2005 2005 1994 2006 2003 1985 2005 2005 2004 2005 1999 2000 1993 2000 2005 1999 2004 2005 1998 2004 2001 1937 2002 1996 2003 2003 2001 1999 1997 1969 2000 2002 2002 2006 1999 2005 1991 1995 2004 2004 1992 2003 2003 2002

ge Pa Presented a Mini Cooper to its millionth customer Lays sub-sea power-transmission cables for off-shore wind farms Founders previously set up and sold two IT businesses Founders replicated the family’s business in Australia and later acquired it Launched a holiday TV show on the Ideal World Home Shopping network Co-founders started golf tournament to support Help for Heroes Claims to have provided doctors to more than 100 NHS hospitals Aims to recruit another 150 people over the next year Says it is the fourth-largest independent fuel importer in Britain Claims it has saved clients £57m in energy bills over six years Founders developed heating-filter prototype in their garden shed Supplies re-manufactured printer cartridges to hundreds of retailers Co-founder met his wife through one of the company’s online dating sites Company is named after its founder’s daughter Recently launched a service to check staff compliance before and after employment Operates WatchShop.com, which, it says, stocks 6,000 different watches Sent out 8m greeting cards and thousands of flower bouquets in the past year Sales continued to rise despite the economic downturn and volcanic-ash disruption Plants one tree in collaboration with the Woodland Trust for every placement made Company’s owner, Liz Hobbs, is a former British and world champion water skier Won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2009 Recently expanded its range of chicken products to include party boxes Exchanges sums from £5,000 to more than £5m Sells sustainably sourced wood floors and eco-friendly bamboo and cork flooring Enables clients to trade inventory for advertising space Has grown from 19 to 72 stores in only two years Founder started his working life as a car panel beater The company’s first care home was the house of the founder’s parents Has gained 20 new clients in the past year Recently invested £300,000 in a sorting machine to extend its services Eight directors worked a year without pay, and five years on reduced pay to build firm Makes high-end pet food exported to 29 countries More than 12,000 delegates were trained by this company in 2009 Sources its wood from eastern Europe, India and Indonesia American subsidiary doubled turnover in 2009 to £4.1m This organisation of consultant surgeons is owned and run by its members Runs an apprenticeship scheme with a British mill to support British manufacturing Consultants are available around the clock to meet the staffing needs of clients Doubled its client base to nearly 300 retailers and wholesalers in the past 12 months All of its consultants work on-site with clients such as Elsevier Arranges rental of more than 250,000 cars and vans for 300 businesses annually Rewards good employee performance with weekend trips away More than 100 kitchen staff handmake around 100,000 pies and quiches each week A dress made entirely of its plastic chopping boards was modelled at a fashion show Some 1.5m shoppers bargain-hunt among up to 200 new lines introduced each week General Atlantic paid a reported $250m for a 7.5% stake in the company in January Organises bespoke travel to more than 100 countries around the world Recently moved into a new £1.1m warehouse facility in Sutton Coldfield Firm’s 35-year-old founder quit his job to set up an eight-screen trading floor at home Collaborated with designer Paul Smith for its new city bike riding range Personalises chocolate bars by printing the recipient’s name on the wrapper Founder previously worked as a chef in a restaurant with three Michelin stars The founder is chairman and benefactor of Ross County Football Club Uses 10,000 sewing machines as displays in its shop windows This year bought £250m of debt from British banks to recover it Handled 30,000 motorcycle claims for insurers in 2009 Supplied one iPod every five minutes in the year to August 2010 Says it has 150,000 candidates on its database Contracts range from £500 painting jobs to providing equipment worth £10.5m Responsible for the Conservative party’s campaign mail in the 2010 election Had to find new London offices three months after opening due to rapid growth Bought the 1904 car registration plate AU1, the chemical symbol for gold Aims to double its portfolio of pubs to 110 by 2014 Counts as clients 50 investors and asset managers, including ING and Fortis Says it donates up to £50 to charity for every customer who completes its survey Recently bought by former chief executive of FriendsReunited.com Is developing a college modelled on Sandhurst for business leaders Supplies smoke detectors to 50 fire brigades across the country Says it uses enough fabric each year to wrap the M25 twenty times For its first two years the business was run from the founder’s spare room Claims that all the members of its sales team are multilingual Says that 10,000 people per week apply for small loans from the company The firm’s job titles are ranks of the Japanese samurai Is launching an 8ft tall radio-controlled crab at New York Toy Fair in February 2011 Specialises in selling travel advertising space, particularly for cruises Sponsors a school in Mozambique, providing 140 free meals a day Claims its website can offer 110 different flight routes to Cyprus from Britain Its booking system recommends energy-saving trips to boost clients’ green credentials One-stop shop for men’s gifts offering watches and cuff links as well as gadgets Appears for the fourth consecutive year on the Fast Track 100 league table This group operates two websites selling pet and garden accessories The founders’ first client also provided the start-up funding for the company Claims to have raised £3m in partnership with charities such as Childline This year it introduced its Baby Joule and high-end Boutique collections Bucked the credit crunch, winning 17 additional contracts during the recession Says that a climber preparing for Everest could buy all but two items from its stores Celebrated its 10th anniversary this year Supplies some of the equipment being used to build the 2012 Olympic village Says it recycles 1,200 tonnes of items a year for retail clients Claims to be Britain’s largest privately owned confectionery manufacturer Sells sports gear to more than 70 countries Makes its third consecutive appearance on the Fast Track 100 league table Sells hotel rooms exclusively to travel agents Says it has £13.7 billion of client assets under its administration At peak periods sends out more than 50,000 hand-packed orders a day Company is renewing the Victorian water pipes in southeast England at present Supplied double-padded cycle shorts for the quidditch scenes in Harry Potter Says it answered its millionth request in September 2010 Produces branded pies such as its steak and stilton “moo and blue” pie Saw its high-ropes adventure courses make their debut in America this year

majority of the companies listed on the league table were interviewed by phone and many have been visited. The companies are not endorsed, guaranteed or recommended by the sponsors of Fast Track 100, nor are they necessarily the best-run companies. The league table is based on a historical sales growth, with latest available accounts information ranging from March 2009 to October 2010. Incomplete information: About 2m companies file accounts at Companies House, but most file abbreviated accounts that do not report sales, including many young companies. For this reason, the Fast Track 100 research team may have

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9

www.famecompanyinfo.com

been unable to obtain sales figures for many companies, and would therefore welcome nominations from companies for next year’s table. Some exceptions were made to the qualification criteria set out above. The compiler’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.


THE SUNDAY TIMES

thesundaytimes.co.uk/business

05.12.10

3

Mobile phone retailer made the right call PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla BUYMOBILEPHONES.NET THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

421

Online phone retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

340.15% 217.12% 161.92%

IN 1997, businessman Paul Sisson founded A1 Comms, which grew to become a group of 14 high-street shops selling mobile phones around market towns in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In 1999 he launched A1comms.co.uk but because prices had to be competitive to encourage consumers to buy online, the website drew attention to the fact that his shop prices were more expensive. To get round this, he set up Buymobilephones.net in 2003 and this fundamentally altered the company’s direction. Initially, the offshoot company operated out of one of the A1 Comms shops, manned by only three to four members of staff. However, such was the website’s success that in 2006 he sold the high-street stores to focus exclusively on e-tailing, although he kept A1 Comms operating as a phone supplier to businesses in the Derbyshire area. The online outlet now employs more than 60 people and aims to reach a turnover of £100m in the next few years. Buymobilephones.net offers a wide range of handsets from leading manufacturers that include Sony, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Blackberry, Nokia and Apple. It claims to sell 80,000 mobile

phones each year on contracts with all the leading networks. By dealing directly with Orange, T-Mobile, O2, Vodafone and 3, the company says it is able to offer a range of tariffs that are competitively priced. In addition, Buymobilephones.net spends £10m each year on promotional gifts, including laptops, televisions, games consoles, iPods and digital cameras, which form part of contract packages. The company also pays out £4m each year in cash-back deals, according to which Buymobilephones agrees to transfer a one-off sum directly into the customer’s account upon the uptake of a phone contract from a certain range. Word-of-mouth referrals, repeat custom, Google search optimisation and a hefty £200,000 a month spent on marketing on price-comparison sites have greatly boosted the company’s sales. As Sisson also acknowledges, the high volume of sales, coupled with the comparatively low overhead costs of the internet, gives online trading an edge over its unplugged counterpart, enabling new businesses to snowball. The company says that its website generates up to 17,000 unique visits a day and that it took its millionth order in the summer. To promote this achievement, it gave away a Mini Cooper to the lucky customer. The keys were presented by Derby County Football Club manager Nigel Clough at a match as the firm is the

Ring master: from a few Midlands shops, Paul Sisson’s Mobilephones.net has grown into a £25m turnover business

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla SUBOCEAN GROUP THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla HIGH TECHGROUP HEALTH THE HUT Pla t t TORFX

42

Subsea construction provider 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 237.14% 161.92%

THIS sub-sea engineering contractor runs power-transmission cables along the sea floor from off-shore wind farms to sub-stations on land, using four vessels that can lay cables in waters up to 2,000 metres deep. Counting energy companies Centrica, RWE and Eon among its clients, the business, which is led by John Sinclair, focuses exclusively on the renewable- energy sector. It is aided in its work by the commitment of European governments to install at least a further 19,000 wind turbines by 2020. And with only a handful of competing companies based in Britain, sales grew 237% a year, from £1.7m in 2006 to an annualised £65.1m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla VADITION THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

423

Your Golf Travel offers holidays that include race meetings such as Cheltenham

KATIE BAILEY

shirt sponsor of the Championship side. According to Buymobilephones.net, another reason for its success is the demise of the competition. At the start of 2007, says Sisson, 20 online companies dominated the market. By the end of that year there were only five, as a result of many of the other firms overextending themselves by offering cash-back deals they could not afford. This prompted Ofcom, the industry regulator, to review and regulate the sector to prevent more consumers being mis-sold mobile phones. Buymobilephones.net says that it profited from its unwillingness to offer such appealing, yet in many cases untenable, offers. The company suffered a minor setback in recent months when its website was attacked by cyber criminals who managed to immobilise it for 20 hours on the same weekend that they targeted a handful of competitor websites. In spite of this, Buymobilephones.net has continued to thrive, now claiming to offer more than 850,000 combinations of phone deals from which customers can choose. Custom seems set to increase, with future plans to include the introduction of Pay-As-You-Go deals, in addition to an environment-friendly phone-exchange programme. Buymobilephones.net’s sales grew an impressive 340% a year, from £288,000 in 2006 to £24.5m in 2009.

Hardware/software seller Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

195.77% 217.12% 161.92%

HAMPSHIRE-BASED Vadition sources security, networking and data-storage technology from America’s Silicon Valley, which it sells to banks, televisionproduction companies and life-sciences groups via resellers. It has achieved higher margins by specialising in new technologies and by often securing sole distribution rights in Britain and continental Europe. During the recession, sales growth has been driven by products that monitor staff activity, productivity and their use of confidential information. Led by co-founders Ian Morris and Neil Ledger, turnover has risen by 196% a year, from an annualised £906,000 in 2007 to £23.4m in 2010.

42

Health product marketer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

193.81% 217.12% 161.92%

LIVING in London in 2003, Josh and Roseanna Penny decided to set up a company modelled on the family business in Australia. Using personal savings, they began by importing a range of infra-red saunas, marketed at home shows. However, it was their step into consumer-health products and direct marketing that propelled the business. Today, their range of homecare therapeutic devices, which includes a machine designed to boost circulation, is sold on television, in newspapers and pharmacies throughout Britain and Europe as well as in Australia. Sales grew 194% a year, from £671,000 in 2007 to £17m in 2010, helped by the acquisition of the family’s original Australian company earlier this year.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla PLANET CRUISE THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

425

Cruise holiday operator Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

181.97% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS company exclusively sells cruise and tour holidays, offering a wide range of trips to exotic locations, from the Far East to South America and Alaska. Founders Gary and Jenny West both worked for cruise companies before deciding to start their own business in Petersfield, Hampshire. They attribute much of Planet Cruise’s success to its swiftness in assembling its package holidays the moment a new cruise destination becomes available. Sales, which represent total transaction value, grew by 182% a year, from £603,000 in 2006 to £13.5m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla YOUR GOLF TRAVEL THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

642

Golf travel agency Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

158.06% 217.12% 161.92%

MAXING out their credit cards to the tune of £30,000 to fill a perceived gap in the market, Durham University friends Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding set up their company in 2005. Today it sells domestic, European and long-haul golf holiday packages to 150,000 people a year, offering a choice of 3,000 courses in 20 countries. The business also offers spa breaks, ranging from “overnight rebalancing rituals” to hen weekends, through its sister company Spabreaks.com. In addition, it recently launched fairwaytofurlong.com, a niche holiday concept that combines golf and horse-racing breaks at the country’s big meetings. As a result of acquisitions and marketing, sales, representing total transaction value, grew by 158% a year, from an annualised £955,000 in 2006 to £16.4m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla PATHOLOGY GROUP THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

427

Healthcare recruiter Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

151.89% 217.12% 161.92%

THE healthcare recruitment consultancy Pathology Group was set up by Louie Evans and Zack Feather in 2006 and places accident-and-emergency staff and specialist senior doctors, including pathologists and psychiatrists, in the NHS. The business requires its consultants to develop an understanding of the roles in which they place people by regularly experiencing work in a pathology laboratory or A&E department. Sales at the company grew 152% a year, from £1.8m in 2007 to £28m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla STAYSURE.CO.UK THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

482

Over-50s insurance provider 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 151.17% 161.92%

STAYSURE specialises in providing people aged over 50 with a wide range of insurance products, including travel, private health, home, holiday home and car insurance. It also sells funeral plans and organises holidays and services for retirement properties. Founded by chief executive Ryan Howsam, the company has a strong online presence. It operates a call centre in Britain and an expat office in Spain. Plans for 2011 include Staysure’s first retail outlet. Sales, which represent gross premiums and amounts invoiced for other services, increased 151% a year, from £616,000 in 2006 to £9.8m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla STATE OILGROUP114.24%114.24% THE HUT Pla t t TORFX

492

Fuel wholesaler Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

Thumbs up as firms prepare for take-off

T

he publication of the 14th annual Fast Track 100 list comes at a potentially transformational time for the British economy. After one of the most difficult and uncertain times I can remember, many private firms are now looking at 2011 with a sense of cautious optimism. Indeed, buoyed by low interest rates the British consumer did not disappear as many had predicted, and spending across retail and leisure held up pretty well. This is reflected in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 table, proving the point that over the years it has become an excellent barometer of private-company growth, measuring the health and strength of Britain’s enterprise sector. Hamish Stevenson, founder of Fast Track, which compiles the information, came to me with the idea in 1996 and asked Virgin to sponsor the table and awards, and I have watched the list develop and grow since then. The Fast Track 100 reflects the changing face of the British economy and has shone an early spotlight on many businesses and founders who would go on to become household names. Companies such as ARM Holdings, Carphone Warehouse and Innocent have all appeared on former lists, as have businessmen such as Sir Philip Green and Simon Fuller. The 2010 list is topped by the Derbyshire online phone retailer Buymobilephones.net, which had average sales growth of 340% a year, from £288,000 in 2006 to £24.5m in 2009. This year’s Fast Track 100 has a number of well-known brands such as Jack Wills (No 37) and

After surviving the downturn, many private companies are set to spread their wings again, says Sir Richard Branson Cath Kidston (No 69) proving that even in recession, wellexecuted branded businesses will grow. And, pleasingly, the number of female-run, cofounded and owned businesses has nearly trebled to almost 30% since the league table was first published. The dark cloud prompted by the global financial crisis of 2008 did not wreak as much havoc in 2009 as commentators had feared. However, reviewing the performance of this year’s league table shows how the tough economic climate did hit sales and affected the

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FAST TRACK 100 HAS BECOME AN EXCELLENT BAROMETER OF PRIVATE COMPANY GROWTH

top-line growth of companies. Average three-year sales growth had been 95% last year, but this year the figure fell to 85%, still a very credible performance. This slight slowdown was more than compensated for by a rise in the list’s pre-tax earnings of £280m in 2009-10, an increase of 41.4% against the combined profits of £198m from last year's table. Interestingly, the performance of the Virgin Group’s British businesses — ranging across transport, financial services, holidays, health clubs and media — has followed a similarly resilient path. In our 40th year we seem to have weathered the storm well and increased profits. The notable exception was Virgin Atlantic, which ran into one of the worst recessions in aviation history as passenger numbers slipped and yields fell drastically. Thankfully, this year has been much better. Sales, yields and profits are all on the rise again and we are expanding routes and waiting for new planes in 2011. The situation was not quite as drastic at Virgin Trains. A tough 2008-9 was followed by a much better performance as high fuel prices, aviation strikes and the volcanic ash cloud encouraged passengers back onto the train. In the past

six years we have more than doubled the number of passengers, from 14m to 28m, proving what you can do if you invest for the future. The financial crisis and the lack of confidence in the banking sector have given us an opportunity to expand Virgin Money away from its predominant credit-card business. This year we started by acquiring Church House Trust, a small bank based in Yeovil, Somerset. This was followed by a £100m investment from the wellknown American privateequity investor Wilbur Ross in August, and we are planning to launch a bank next year. Virgin Active, our healthclub business, was thought to be susceptible to the pressures of recession; but it surprised many with its continued success across Italy, Spain, Portugal and South Africa as well as in the UK. It now has more than 960,000 members and made more than £100m of ebitda last year. As has been usual since Fast Track began in 1997, the bestrepresented sector on the league table is services, with 54 companies in this category, including recruitment agencies, payroll-services providers and business consultancies. Interestingly, an increasing number of these companies have been focused on the public sector and this could be put under severe pressure next year as the coalition government’s programme of cuts starts to take shape. The next biggest sector is retail, with 25 companies selling products including furniture, clothing, sports gear, food, drink and software. Interestingly, budget as well as

144.08% 217.12% 161.92%

HUSBAND AND WIFE Sanjeev and Arani Soosaipillai began this business in 2000 as a bedroom start-up. State Oil, based in Weybridge, Surrey, imports liquid fuel from oil companies and sells it to British firms under the Prax Petroleum brand. The company stores and blends diesel at facilities in Dagenham and then sells it to British commercial clients, including Royal Mail and Stagecoach Bus. State Oil plans further expansion by increasing its petrol imports. In the retail sector, the group administers 22 fuel service stations in Britain. Some of these are owned while others are managed on behalf of the larger oil companies. Sales have grown by 144% a year, from £18m in 2007 to £261.6m in 2010.

MARK GREENBERG

High-flyers: state governor Bill Richardson and Sir Richard Branson in New Mexico with the Virgin Galactic spaceship

high-end brands appear on this year’s league table, proving that one can generate growth from a well-defined strategy at either end of the market. Food and drink is another popular group, with 10 companies, including baby-food producer Ella’s Kitchen (No 14), two pie bakers and pub operators making the list. At the other end of the spectrum there was a growing presence of successful companies powered by the internet. One

example is Moonpig.com (No 17), an online retailer of personalised cards that has appealed to customers with its quirky designs. Founded in 1999, it now has 73 employees, made more than £11m profit this year and sent out 8m cards. It is refreshing to see the rise of sustainable-energy companies such as Aberdeen-based Subocean Group (No 2). Founded in 2005, it runs powertransmission cables along the sea floor from off-shore wind

farms to sub-stations on land. There were 11 other firms with strong green credentials determined to make a positive impact on the environment by focusing on alternative fuels, saving energy and recycling. I hope we will see this become an even bigger part of future Fast Track 100 tables. Within Virgin, we are also looking at the sea and working on a new project to explore the depths of the ocean. I feel this complements our

latest push into space with the Virgin Galactic project, which is one of the most exciting things I have ever been involved with. Galactic has been gathering pace this year — we have seen the spaceship’s first “drop and glide” flight and the completion last month of the new Spaceport America in the heart of the New Mexico desert. Let us hope that 2011 will be an exciting year in business, deep sea and deep space.


4

FAST TRACK 100: Britain’s fastest-growing private companies

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla POWERPERFECTOR THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

10 42

Energy-saving device seller 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 140.01% 161.92%

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla TEAM24 THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

15 42

Medical recruiter Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

TEAM24 specialises in recruiting experienced healthcare professionals for temporary private and public-sector roles. It has invested heavily in candidatemanagement software called Galago, which it credits as an influential factor in its growth. Using Galago, the company has launched a pre- and post-employment compliance-checking service of staff for the NHS to ensure that its compliance standards are met. Led by founder and managing director Robert Stiff, Team24’s sales have grown 126% a year, from £2.6m in 2007 to £30.3m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla ADEY HEATING SOLUTIONS THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla SDK JEWELLERS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

1142

Heating filteroperator manufacturer Foreign currency provider 217.12% E-commerce 138.66% 161.92%

16 42

Online watch retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

122.93% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS company’s star product is a special filter installed in central-heating systems to prevent the build-up of black iron-oxide sludge. Adey uses a powerful magnet within the filter to remove debris that would otherwise clog the system and cause boilers to break down. Inventor and founder Chris Adey had the idea for the product while working as an engineer for British Gas. The company claims that MagnaClean is the first filter of its kind, and, as well as saving on maintenance calls, reduces heating bills and CO2 emissions. Sales grew 139% a year, from £1.5m in 2007 to £20.5m in 2010.

THIS watch and jewellery retailer revolutionised its sales when it set up its online watch website Watchshop.com. Founded in 1991 by former school inspector Sham Naib, the company originally started out with one store in Reading. Sham’s son, Kishore, launched Watchshop.com in 2007, giving the company a strong internet presence. SDK now claims to sell about 100,000 watches per year through its online boutique, and says that aggressive advertising and a snappy trade name have aided sales growth of 123% a year, from £574,000 in 2007 to an annualised £6.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla BADGER OFFICE SUPPLIES THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MOONPIG.COM THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

12 42

Office products supplier Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

133.34% 217.12% 161.92%

THE bulk of this office-supplies wholesaler’s turnover is generated by collecting and remanufacturing used printer cartridges, sold on to consumers through retail and online stores at a snip of the price of new ones. Founders Dennis Haines, Karl Kitchen and Maureen Haines originally worked for a large inkjetprinter company when they decided to exploit the market for re-manufactured products. As recession-hit consumers have tightened their purse strings, increasing demand for Badger’s budget cartridges has led to sales growing more than 133% a year, from an annualised £584,000 in 2007 to £7.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GLOBAL PERSONALS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

13 42

Online dating agency Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

133.18% 217.12% 161.92%

NOT only did Steve Pammenter meet his wife through one of his dating websites; the company, which he co-founded in 2003 and runs with IT expert Ross Williams, now also provides the software, infrastructure and databases for about 1,300 clients which host more than 4,800 dating websites across the Englishspeaking world. Websites can be designed to appeal to sections or all the 5.5m users on the company’s database. With British clients including The Independent and FHM, sales have grown 133% a year, from £931,000 in 2006 to £11.8m in 2009.

17 42

Online greeting card retailer 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 115.51% 161.92%

EVEN during the recession this online retailer of personalised cards has kept growing by appealing to shoppers looking for good-value fun gifts. Last year the business sent out 8m cards in the UK, all made from sustainably sourced materials. Founder and chairman Nick Jenkins is expecting further growth from the company’s launch in Australia and America. Down Under, the company finds the same British range sells well, but it has had to offer different designs in America. Sales have grown 116% a year, from £3.1m in 2007 to £31.3m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla DIRECTLINE HOLIDAYS THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

18 42

Online travel Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

Family affair: Paul Lindley named his children’s food company Ella’s Kitchen after his daughter

125.54% 217.12% 161.92%

ANGUS ROBERTSON’s London company supplies Japanese technology that improves electricity flow into electrical equipment, enabling it to run at optimal thelife lifeofof voltage. This helps to extends extend the machinery, promotes energy efficiency and enables firms to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions. With sole distribution rights in Britain and parts of mainland Europe for the next 20 years, PowerPerfector has recently installed its technology in 1,000 Tesco stores. This has helped sales to rocket 140% a year, from £2.2m in 2006 to £29.8m in 2009.

113.50% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 1993 by Matthew Flint and Antony Bradley as a traditional travel agent, Directline Holidays now sells hotel

stays, flights and city breaks in addition to package holidays through six related websites. The Croydon firm’s software is able to match a diverse product range with customers’ needs, including the holidays from Thomas Cook and Thomson that it also sells. By expanding its city-break market and its own holiday packages, sales grew 114% a year, from £2.4m in 2006 to £23.6m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GREEN PARK THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

19 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

112.62% 217.12% 161.92%

WITH 15 years in recruitment, Raj Tulsiani and Steve Baggi decided to use their experience to go it alone in 2006, focusing on placing senior executives, both interim and permanent. Green Park Interim and Executive’s clients include BP, the BBC, RBS and various public-sector organisations. Fees for the worker and Green Park are performancebased and the company claims that its clients can use its online system to measure the performance of recruits and help their organisations to achieve stronger results. Green Park’s

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla ELLA’S KITCHEN THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

14 42

Baby food producer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla LIZ GROUP THEHOBBS HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

20 42

Events producer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

108.13% 217.12% 161.92%

TWICE world champion water skier and horse enthusiast Liz Hobbs set up her business by chance when Epsom Downs Racecourse needed an events producer and came to her. Today her firm organises events for every big horse race in Britain, and is now expanding into motor racing, football and the charitable and cultural sectors. Musical artists commissioned for concerts include Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Status Quo, Westlife and JLS. Sales grew 108% a year, from £706,000 in 2006 to £6.4m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla BULLIONVAULT.COM THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

21 42

Gold dealer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

105.87% 217.12% 161.92%

WANTING to invest in gold in 1999, computer programmer Paul Tustain discovered how hard it was for small investors to get good rates. These were reserved for big players that traded gold bars with a minimum $500,000 price tag. Using his programming skills, he set up a trading website allowing retail customers to acquire shared ownership of these bars, stored in accredited vaults. Thanks to the booming gold market and the support of the World Gold Council (an association of the world’s leading gold-mining companies), sales grew 106% a year, from £31.8m in 2006 to £277.1m in 2009. Turnover represents amounts receivable for sale of gold and services to customers.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla SFC THE (WHOLESALE) HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

129.22% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS business is the brainchild of former Nickelodeon television director Paul Lindley, who wanted to create a healthy but fun brand of children’s food. The company makes 46 products for children aged six months to six years, including pureed fruit, instant rice and biscuits. Sold in all big British supermarkets, the food is made of organic produce with no additives or preservatives. Thanks to its expanding range and launching in Scandinavia and America, sales grew 129% a year, from £1.4m in 2007 to £16.5m in 2010.

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Golden opportunity: Bullionvault.com helps small investors to get a good deal

PARKERSHOTS

accountability appears to be paying off with sales growing 113% a year, from £2.3m in 2007 to £21.6m in 2010.

Fried chicken wholesaler Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

104.86% 217.12% 161.92%

GRAHAM HANSON’s company views itself as selling KFC-style products for your freezer. It has a range of 15 cooked and coated chicken products that it supplies to wholesalers, supermarkets and caterers. It sells 700 tonnes of chicken each month. Thanks to shareholder and managing director Tony Nuttall’s drive to expand retail sales and recent expansion into the Continent, sales grew 105% a year, from £2.4m in 2007 to £20.8m in 2010.

Thinking big: Maria Whiteman and Antony Bradley of Directline Holidays

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

23 42

exchange provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

103.01% 217.12% 161.92%

PENZANCE-BASED TorFX offers foreigncurrency transactions on sums from £5,000 to more than £5m. Its clients, operating mainly in Spain, France, America and Australia, include businesses and high-net-worth individuals, many of whom are referred by the removal company Allied Pickfords. Chief executive Jon Bedell claims the business has lower overheads than its London competitors. Sales at the Cornwall company, representing total transaction value, have grown 103% a year, from an annualised £43.2m in 2006 to £361.8m in 2009. Its commission on the trades amounts to £2.5m.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla UK DIRECT THEFLOORING HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

24 42

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Online flooring retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

101.06% 217.12% 161.92%

FLOOR FITTER Jason Ashby founded UK Flooring Direct in 2004 when he believed there was a gap in the market for an online flooring retailer. Wood products are sourced from certified sustainable suppliers, mainly in eastern Europe and China. After a tough start to 2009, the Warwickshire-based company switched to sending out free samples on request and launched a new, more user-friendly website featuring a virtual showroom to showcase its products. Along with investment in search-engine optimisation, these initiatives have helped sales to grow 101% a year, from £735,000 in 2007 to £6m in 2010.

DWAYNE SENIOR

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THE SUNDAY TIMES

thesundaytimes.co.uk/business

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MIROMA THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

25 42

Media barter company Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

95.55% 217.12% 161.92%

MIROMA is a business that enables clients to harness their own inventory to buy advertising. Companies trade all manner of stock — from cars to hotel rooms — with Miroma, which in turn purchases advertising space for them. Founded in 2003 by entrepreneur Marc Boyan and his business partner Michael Hindhaugh, the firm has grown as companies become increasingly receptive to its bartering model as a means of converting surplus stock into valuable advertising. Sales, which represent the total invoice value of stock sold, have grown 96% a year, from £4.4m in 2007 to £32.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla RAMSDENS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

26 42

Pawnbroker and jeweller Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla INTERNAT’L APPLICATIONS THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX Multi-product distributor Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

5

and the Middle East and sales grew by 91% a year, from an annualised £1.3m in 2007 to £9.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla LNT THE GROUP HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

28 42

Care home developer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

90.93% 217.12% 161.92%

LAWRENCE TOMLINSON started his care-home construction company in 1990 by converting his parents’ former house into a residential home. In recent years, however, LNT Group has moved beyond just building care homes and is now managing them as well. Because it provides all the initial construction services in-house, LNT claims that it is able to save on start-up costs, and then to pass these savings on to its residents. It aims to create 1,000 new beds next year across 20 new care homes. Sales at the company grew by 91% a year, from £7.8m in 2006 to £54.3m in 2009.

94.42% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS Middlesbrough-headquartered pawnbroker runs 72 stores in northeast England, Scotland and South Wales, and says it transacts 10,000 deals each week for 9,000 customers. In 2007 it launched what it says was one of the first cash-for-gold websites, Got Gold Get Cash, the revenue from which has funded the expansion from only 19 stores in 2008. Chief executive Peter Kenyon says low retail rents have enabled the business to open stores in high-street locations and raise its profile. Sales grew 94% a year, from £3.7m in 2006 to £27m in 2009.

27 42

05.12.10

91.15% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDER Karl Durham started out his working life as a car-panel beater. From there he went on to establish several businesses in the motor trade, setting up International Applications in 2006. The company distributes goods in two main sectors. The first is food and beverage, and the second is products such as paint, polish or sandpaper of the kind used in the car industry. The business now distributes to mainland Europe, Africa

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla FJORD THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

29 42

Digital design consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

89.50% 217.12% 161.92%

FJORD designs digital customer interfaces (equipment or programs designed to communicate information from one system of computing devices or programs to another) for clients in broadcast media, telecoms, finance and technology. The business researches customers’ needs, conceives and designs the interface and offers marketing support for the product launch. Clients include the BBC, for which it designed the iPlayer, as well as Orange, Nokia and Yahoo! Olof Schybergson, Mark Curtis and Michael Beeston founded the company in 2001, and, last year Beringea paid a reported £2.4m for a 26% stake. Sales have grown 90% a year, from £1.7m in 2006 to £11.9m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla ONEPOST THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

30 42

Postal management adviser 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 89.22% 161.92%

THIS company claims to offer cheaper mail services to businesses by using bespoke software that identifies the

High fashion: sales at the clothing retailer Jack Wills have been growing at 81% a year, helped in part by the company’s expansion in America

precise service required. Onepost can also collect and sort mail before passing it to carriers such as Royal Mail for delivery. Customers are generally medium-sized firms such as mail-order companies and charities, including the British Red Cross. However, Onepost has recently extended its services to cater for smaller businesses as well. Founders Graham Cooper and Tim Norman and sales director Lesley Harris have overseen sales growth of 89% a year, from £7m in 2007 to £47.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla SHIP SHAPE RESOURCES THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

31 42

Construction services Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

89.21% 217.12% 161.92%

LONDON-BASED Ship Shape Resources was founded in 2004 to provide recruitment and payroll services to the construction industry. It also has a construction division managing contracts for residential and civil projects. Chief executive Howard Hughes credits the company’s turnover growth to in-house software that it uses for recruiting, paying and allocating work to individual subcontractors, managing suppliers and invoicing clients. The comprehensive nature of the software and its simplicity has helped the company to sign up 900 contractors and 350 businesses to its services. Sales have grown by 89% a year, from £1.6m in 2006 to £10.7m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MPM PRODUCTS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

32 42

Lapping it up: pet food maker MPM Products now exports to 29 countries

Natural pet food producer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

87.47% 217.12% 161.92%

MPM produces high-end, natural pet food for our furry friends. Founded in 2003, the company first had success at cat shows with its flagship product, The World’s Best Cat Litter, before turning its efforts to animal cuisine. Director Jon Kinsey claims that MPM’s range of Applaws pet food uses only good cuts of meat and contains none of the scraps to be found in some competitors’ products. Its recent international success — it now exports to 29 countries — has driven a sales increase of 87% a year, from £802,000 in 2006 to £5.3m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla LIFETIME THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

33 42

Training provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

84.67% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS Bristol firm provides training services to the leisure, fitness and hospitality industries. Clients include the Hilton hotel group, gyms and individuals wanting to work in these industries, as well as the Department for Work and Pensions, which uses Lifetime to train disadvantaged youths before employment. In April the business acquired a rival to increase its reach across Britain, and in August it bought a training company offering child and social-care courses. Founded by former fitness instructor Heather Frankham, the company’s sales have grown by 85% a year, from £2.7m in 2007 to £16.8m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla OAK FURNITURE LAND114.24% THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

34 42

Wood furniture retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

84.61% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 2004 by Jason Bannister, Oak Furniture Land is one of Britain’s largest online retailers of exclusively hardwood furniture. The firm claims that, in a little over two years, it went from housing its stock in chicken sheds to being eBay UK’s largest retailer by turnover in 2006. Later that same year, it launched its own website selling oak, mahogany and mango wood furniture designed by Bannister and crafted overseas. Sales have grown by 85% a year, from an annualised £2.7m in 2006 to £17.1m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla NATURAL PRODUCTS THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

35 42

Giftware designer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

83.51% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS company designs giftware, stationery and personal-care items for wholesale and retail clients. It makes products for Gap, Topshop, WH Smith and other leading retailers to sell under their own branding. Co-founded by Michael Sweeney and Jonathan Pooley, Natural Products and Worldwide Co (NPW) also supplies NPW- branded goods to a number of small and midsized retailers. Among its best-selling items are

a lip- balm range and a pocket device with 16 sound effects, both priced at about £8. Sales have grown by 84% a year, from an annualised £2m in 2007 to £12.7m in 2010.

year, from £512,000 in 2006 to £9.7m in 2009. Sales, which represent total cost of staff to clients, increased by 81% a year, from £9.5m in 2006 to £56.2m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla ALLIANCE SURGICAL THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla INTAMARQUE THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

36 42

Surgery groupoperator Foreign currency provider E-commerce

82.75% 217.12% 161.92%

BRANDING itself “the doctors’ doctor”, Alliance Surgical claims to provide toprate consultant surgeons to privatesector health institutions. All its members are practising NHS consultants who are invited to join the business on the basis of acclaim from fellow practitioners. The company, which was co-founded by chairman Paul Howlett and director Ann Copsey in 2005, says that rising demand for its personnel has pushed up sales by 83% a year, from £1.3m in 2007 to £8.1m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla JACK WILLS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

37 42

Clothing retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

80.98% 217.12% 161.92%

STRAIGHT out of university, friends Peter Williams and Rob Shaw used savings and credit cards to open a clothes store in Devon, selling casual, preppy gear to affluent university students. Today their firm, Jack Wills, has more than 40 stores in Britain and America. It also has an Aubin & Wills brand for older customers. Due in part to expansion in America, sales grew by 81% a year, from £10.9m in 2007 to £64.8m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MAYDAY HEALTHCARE THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

38 42

Medical recruiter Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

80.69% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 2003 by Nick Poturicich and Charles Safapour, with the backing of Kevin Coyle, Mayday Healthcare provides nursing staff to the NHS and private hospitals. It also supplies specialist staff for nursing homes and organisations that care for patients with mental-health and learning disabilities. The company was No 1 on this year’s Profit Track 100 league table, with profits having grown 167% a

39 42

Food andcurrency toiletries supplier 217.12% Foreign provider E-commerce operator 80.47% 161.92%

CHELTENHAM-BASED Intamarque distributes consumer products to independent retailers and wholesalers in Britain and 30 other countries. Working with an outsourced logistics business, it supplies nearly 300 clients with products from the likes of Glaxo, Cussons and SC Johnson. The firm was founded in 2006 by twins Stephen and Richard Shortt, and sales have grown by 80% a year, from an annualised £4m in 2007 to £23.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla LOC THE CONSULTING HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

40 42

Management consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

77.05% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS firm specialises in implementing complex business change and technology projects for the private and public sector. All LOC’s consultants work full time on clients’ sites. These include Universal Films, Elsevier, the Post Office and the Department of Health. LOC has projects in the UK, Jersey, Belgium and Holland. Led by co-founder Peter Osborne, the firm’s sales grew by 77% a year, from £1.8m in 2007 to £10m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla VEHICLE MANAGEMENT TORFX THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t NEXUS

41 42

Vehicle rental broker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

76.96% 217.12% 161.92%

USING proprietary software, Nexus Vehicle Management provides firms with easy access to about 80 car-rental providers in the UK and worldwide. Clients can rent cars, vans — even horse-drawn carriages. Nexus recently bought Adapted Vehicle Hire, which deals with disabled drivers. In February 2008 Neil McCrossan, chief executive, and his team bought the Leeds firm for £11m with backing from Isis Equity Partners. Sales have risen by 77% a year, from £3.5m in 2006 to £19.4m in 2009.


6

FAST TRACK 100: Britain’s fastest-growing private companies

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla NEXT VENTURES THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

42 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

Industry breakdown of Fast Track 100

76.72% 217.12% 161.92%

PROVIDING tech-savvy staff to clients such as IBM, Accenture and Deloitte is the speciality of this London recruitment agency. Its contractors are mainly experts in computer accounting programs such as Oracle and SAP. Founding director Richard Lacey attributes Next Ventures’ success to aggressive commission-based pay, together with incentives such as monthly club lunches and weekend trips away for employees who meet their targets. Sales grew by 77% a year, from £1.5m in 2006 to £8.3m in 2009.

Consumer goods 25

Others 15

Pie maker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

56 42

Food and drink 10

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla B&M RETAIL THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

45 42

Discount retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

76.20% 217.12% 161.92%

SINCE B&M Retail was bought by brothers Simon and Bobby Arora in 2005, it has grown from a 21-store Lancashire value chain into a variety retailer with 205 stores from Edinburgh to Hemel Hempstead. The 1.5m weekly visitors to its stores can find bargains on essential items such as toothpaste as well as impulse buys, such as beauty products. A glut of empty high-street retail units has helped the firm grow through new store openings, increasing sales 76% a year, from £78m in 2006 to £426.7m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MARKIT THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

46 42

Financial dataoperator provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce

75.67% 217.12% 161.92%

MARKIT is a global financial-informationservices company. It was founded in 2001 by Lance Uggla and a group of executives from Toronto-Dominion Bank. The company provides independent data, valuations and trade-processing services for the over-the-counter markets across asset classes including equities, interest rates and foreign exchange. In January the private-equity firm General Atlantic paid a reported £155m for a 7.5% stake. Sales have risen 76% a year, from £56.3m in 2006 to £305.4m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla BLACK TOMATO THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

47 42

Luxury travel agency Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

75.49% 217.12% 161.92%

OFFERING bespoke travel to more than 100 countries, Black Tomato was founded in 2005 by friends James Merrett, Tom

Business services 4

Computers/ electronics 3

Building related 3

enclosed scroll bears the name of the recipient, is a particular favourite for Valentine’s Day. Isis Equity Partners invested a reported £4m in June this year for an undisclosed stake. Getting Personal’s sales have grown by 72% a year, from £1.9m in 2007 to £9.5m in 2010.

76.42% 217.12% 161.92%

WITH a keen interest in perfecting both form and function, brothers Richard and Antony Joseph started the company with a single product in 2003. They now market 250 different kitchen items in 61 countries, with customers including John Lewis and Bloomingdale’s. Their colourful range has been showcased in the Big Brother house, and the company has benefited from the “stay at home” culture encouraged by both cookery programmes and the recession. Sales rose by 76% a year, from £2.2m in 2007 to £12.3m in 2010.

Engineering 5

Healthcare 3

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla JOSEPH JOSEPH THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX Household goods maker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

Finance 8

Media 3

76.60% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS West Sussex firm handmade and sold 4.7m pies and quiches last year compared with 2.9m the year before. Sales have risen due to the larger range of products available in Waitrose, and an increase in the numbers sold each week at Sainsbury’s. Founder Camilla Stephens says special tasting evenings have helped the business to understand better what shoppers want. Sales grew 77% a year, from £1.5m in 2007 to £8.1m in 2010.

44 42

Leisure 9

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla 4TH INNOVATION THE DIMENSION HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla HIGGIDY THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

43 42

Recruitment 12

a buyout from its American owner. Four years later, Duke Street Capital bought a 58% stake. In 2009 Marlin was included in a Channel 4 exposé of the credit industry, but an independent legal review found no evidence to support the assertions made in the programme. Sales rose 71% a year, from £2.3m in 2006 to £11.5m in 2009 as a result of improving its analytical tools.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GRAND UNION THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

52 42

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla BOX LIMITED THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

48 42

Online ITcurrency reseller Foreign provider E-commerce operator

74.63% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 1996 by Mark Jordan and Nick Denker, Box Limited sells laptops and PCs to clients, consumers and home workers through four distinctly branded websites. By far the largest source of revenue is the company’s retail website, Saveonlaptops.co.uk, which is aimed at consumers, while another website, Box.co.uk, focuses on promoting new and interesting computer products. Two further websites, Simply Acer and Simply Asus, specialise in selling the brands of their respective namesakes. Thanks largely to marketing through search-engine optimisation and online review sites, sales grew 75% a year, from £3.4m in 2006 to £17.9m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla KNOWLEDGE TO114.24% ACTION THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

49 42

Trader coaching provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

72.81% 217.12% 161.92%

AS an IT consultant in the mid-1990s, Greg Secker worked alongside foreignexchange traders. Listening carefully, he learnt strategies and within a few years

71.86% 217.12% 161.92%

set up an eight-screen trading floor at his London home. Friends asked him for trading advice, which inspired him to set up his firm in 2003. It now offers free seminars across the world, and training programmes in London and Australia. Heavy marketing of these stock-market and currency-trading programmes have led sales to grow 73% a year, from an annualised £1.8m in 2006 to £9.5m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla RAPHA RACING THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla GLOBAL ENERGY GROUP THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

Cooking up a storm: Joseph Joseph’s colourful kitchenware is sold in 61 countries

Marchant and Matt Smith. Revenue is split equally between private leisure clients and corporate-events clients who request employee-incentive programmes, conferences and promotional travel prizes. Corporate clients include HSBC, Heineken and Lucozade. Earlier this year the business opened an office in New York to cater for a growing interest from American leisure clients. Since 2006 sales, which represent the travel invoiced, have grown 75% a year, from £1.3m in 2006 to £6.8m in 2009.

Pub-restaurant operator Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

THIS London-based chain of restaurantbars has opened new venues in the city and in the home counties in recent years, bringing the total number of sites to 10. With its shabby-chic, boudoir-style décor and Berry Mojito cocktails, Grand Union, named after its original outlet in Camden, which backs on to the eponymous canal, targets the young professional market. On weekend nights, a DJ and a dance floor liven up the customers’ mood, turning the venues into bar-club hybrids. Founders and best friends Adam Marshall and Adam Saword worked as top chefs before deciding to go into business together. They set up the first Grand Union bar in 2006. Sales increased by 72% a year, from an annualised £1.2m in 2007 to £5.9m in 2010.

50 42

Bike apparel manufacturer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

72.18% 217.12% 161.92%

CYCLING fanatic Simon Mottram founded Rapha Racing in 2004. The firm designs and manufactures luxury road-cycling sportswear and accessories, which it sells mainly through its website. Products range from performance clothing to luggage, books, music, shaving kits and even holidays, all of which aim to be authentic expressions of the sport. One of the skincare products, for example, has been designed with the smell of a well-pedalled mountain route in France in mind. Thanks to expansion of its niche market, sales rose by 72% a year, from £1.4m in 2007 to £7m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GETTING PERSONAL THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

51 42

Online gift retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

71.97% 217.12% 161.92%

JOHN SMITH and Giles Harridge set up this business to enable online shoppers to order personalised versions of a range of gift products. These include calendars, chocolate bars and champagne bottles, all of which are adapted to bear a person’s name or a message to the buyer’s specification. The special occasion “message in a bottle gift”, where the

53 42

Energy services provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

clothing retailer’s signature window display of sewing machines — chief executive Stephen Craig estimates the business now has about 10,000 such machines across its outlets — has made its stores easily recognisable to consumers. Sales increased by 71% a year, from £26.4m in 2007 to £132.9m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla MARLIN FINANCIAL GROUP THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

55 42

Debt purchaser Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

70.97% 217.12% 161.92%

IF you have not been able to make your monthly credit-card repayment to your high-street bank, Marlin Financial Group might buy that debt at a reduced price and attempt to recover it. In 2006 founder and group chief executive Martin Dunphy led

Motorcycle claims handler Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

70.82% 217.12% 161.92%

AFTER getting injured in 2003, competitive motorbike racer Neil Foster devised a business plan from his hospital bed. Realising that lots of bikes were written off unnecessarily because of the insurance industry’s lack of expertise, he set out to create a motorcycle insurance claims-handling company staffed by specialists. Insurance companies can outsource their claims to 4th Dimension. It also procures new bikes for claimants and runs a repair service, some of whose staff previously worked as McLaren Formula One technicians. By referral alone, sales grew 71% a year, from £1.1m in 2006 to £5.3m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla AV THEPROMOTIONS HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

57 42

Incentive scheme supplier Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

68.15% 217.12% 161.92%

FIVE years ago Rupert Poulson saw an opportunity in supplying products from companies such as Apple, Sony, Samsung and LG as rewards in corporate incentive schemes. Today he has 500 clients, including Twentieth Century Fox, Coca-Cola and The Carphone Warehouse, for which he runs schemes that reward and motivate staff and customers with a range of electrical and non-electrical goods. He has also diversified into corporate procurement. Thanks to repeat custom and an expanding client base, sales increased by 68% a year, from £3.9m in 2007 to £18.4m in 2010.

71.43% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED by Roy MacGregor in 2005, Global Energy Group is a Scottish-based service and contracting business with a broad competence in construction and maintenance of equipment for the energy and oil-and-gas sectors. On any given day, the firm says it may be repairing a drilling rig, building a subsea production system, constructing a petrochemical plant, refurbishing a hydro station and building wave and tidal devices. While a third of its development has been due to acquisitions, organic growth and customer-led expansion overseas have helped sales to rise by 71% a year, from £23.6m in 2006 to £119m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla ALLSAINTS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

54 42

Clothing retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

71.35% 217.12% 161.92%

ALLSAINTS’ collection of urban and edgy fashion has won it worldwide popularity with high-street shoppers. With 122 outlets across Europe and America, there has been continued expansion this year with the opening of new stores in big-city shopping havens, including New York, Las Vegas, Seattle and San Francisco. The

Plenty of dough: Higgidy pie maker Camilla Stephens’ sales are up to £8m

Why ititwill pay be Why pays toto get ahead in ahead in the thecloud cloud Microsoft’s Scott Dodds looks Microsoft’s Scott Dodds looks at at rapid advances in cloud howhow rapid advances in cloud computing bring many growth computing bring many growth opportunities ambitious firms opportunities forfor ambitious firms

W

ithout cloud power, chief executive Olof Schybergson of the digital consultancy Fjord knows that designing and operating cuttingedge services, such as the BBC iPlayer and the Orange customer website, would be almost impossible. Fjord, No Fast Track Fjord, No2929ononthe the Sunday 100, uses the cloud store 100, and Times Virgin Fast toTrack sharethe thecloud hugeto music, videoshare and uses store and image files music, they create during the huge video and client projects. the memory image files it But creates during and the bandwidth required to client projects. But the memory handle such largerequired chunks to of and bandwidth data is expensive, which is why handle such large chunks of the firm has chosensotoit outdata are expensive, has source server capacity. chosen to leverage the capacity But Fjord servers. is also saving of cloud-based money improving Fjordand is also saving producmoney tivityimproving by movingproductivity internal comand by munication functions, such as moving internal communicadocument-sharing, the tion functions, such astodocucloud. For example, ment-sharing, to thee-mail cloud.and For calendarse-mail powered Microexample, andby calendars soft’s Outlook and Exchange powered by Microsoft’s Outlook software now sits in the cloud, and Exchange software now sits where viewstaff themcan at in the staff cloud,can where

any time and device. view them at via anyany time and via arrangement allows emanyThe device. The arrangement ployeesemployees in Fjord’sinfive offices allows Fjord’s five across Europe Americaand to offices acrossand Europe collaborate effectively, America to more collaborate more says Schybergson. In recent effectively, says Schybergson. months, for instance, In recent months,staff for and inclients in Australia and in Europe stance, staff and clients Auswere able take advantage of tralia and to Europe were able to time-zone differences to work take advantage of time-zone difaround-the-clock a project ferences to workonround the for a large telecoms client. clock on a big telecoms project. Microsoft believes cloud computing is a transforming technology that offers a tremendous opportunity for both growing businesses and their customers, providing them with flexibility whether they are scaling up or down. By harnessing cloud power, firms can achieve greater cost savings, agility, scalability and global reach. Many companies are already moving their technology functions to the cloud. British firms are expected to double spending on cloud services to £1.2 billion by 2012, according to Tech Market View, a research firm. Over the same period, the

research group Gartner forecasts that a fifth of all Fortune 1,000 companies will have scrapped their own IT assets entirely — and that by 2013 the cloud sector will be worth about $150 billion (£100 billion). Microsoft is committed to becoming a leader in the field and bringing the cloud’s financial and operational benefits to businesses large and small. This year we have invested a big portion of our global $9.5 billion research-and-development budget in cloud services. So what is cloud computing? Essentially, businesEssentially,ititallows affords busises to outsource technology nesses the opportunity and hardware, as servers flexibilitysuch to shift theirand IT data-storage and web investments facilities, into the cloud for applications, including calenothers to manage. Companies dars e-mail, tointo a third moveand commodities the party. cloud, Firms from move wherecommodithey are ties into theinto cloud, fromoffices. where piped back users’ they aresuch piped users’ Clients asback Fjordinto subscribe offices. Clients such to the service and pay as perFjord unit subscribe service and pay instead toofthespending on per unit instead of spending on building, running and mainbuilding, running and maintaining in-house facilities. taining in-house facilities. At Microsoft, we believe

At Microsoft, we believe cloud power can deliver solucloud solutions inpower three can areasdeliver of business. tions in three of business. First, ourareas private cloud First, using our private offering, resourcescloud that offering, using that are dedicated to resources your organisaare organisation,dedicated delivers to allyour the flexibility tion, delivers all the require flexibility fast-growing firms as fast-growing require as they hire staff,firms launch services they hirenew staff, launch services and test products. Moving and test newcan products. Moving to the cloud transform the to thesmaller cloud can transform the way firms do business way smaller do capacity, business because they firms gain the because they gain the capacity, platforms and applications to platforms and larger applications to match much corporamatch much larger corporations without a proportionate tions without a proportionate investment in hardware. investment Take thein hardware. energy-savingTake distributor the energy-saving device PowerPerdevice PowerPerfector, distributor No 10 on the league fector, 10 on the league table. ItsNo unique voltage-powertable. Its unique voltage power optimisation technology gives optimisation technology gives energy, cost and carbon savings energy, cost and carbon savings by efficiently optimising a site’s by efficiently optimising a site’s supply voltage. The firm is a supply Theoffirm alstrong voltage. advocate the has cloud ready its month customerstrategy,moved and this will relationship to cloud, be migratingsoftware all applications and data this month will migrate all to the Microsoft-based applications and data. The move cloud. will improve cost-effectiveness The move will improve costand efficiency, says execueffectiveness and chief efficiency, tive Robertson. By using says Angus chief executive Angus Robthe flexibility ertson. By usingoftheMicrosoft’s flexibility cloud power, the company of Microsoft’s cloud power, can the take additional firm up, canand takepay up,for, and pay for, resources, only when it needs additional resources, only when them. InInaddition, required. addition,Robertson Robertson explains, he expects infrastructure maintenance and server downtime to be minimised because he will be outsourcing to resilient data centres.

‘‘

Sky’s the limit: cloud computing allows firmsthe to flexibility outsourceto expensive high-technology hardware andIT web applications gives firms meet their specific needs without huge spending

Second, as Fjord has found, cloud power can enhance collaboration and improve productivity. Staff and customers can work together, both inside and outside your organisation, using existing software, devices, phones and browsers. Our unique hybrid model enables firms to blend their in-house Microsoft products and our cloud-based services seamlessly. Third, Microsoft’s application hosting and development services enable IT staff to develop in-the-cloud software and services using technology

they know and trust. We offer a highly reliable service with around-the-clock customer suparound-the-clock customer port andand robust servers. support robust servers. We understand why firms might be concerned about the security of data stored in the cloud. But Microsoft deploys powerful anti-virus and antispam software. We also invest to ensure the physical security of our data-centres. Meanwhile, companies such as Fjord and PowerPerfector benefit from our highly monitored and regulated data centres in Dublin and the Netherlands.

BRITISH FIRMS FIRMS ARE ARE BRITISH EXPECTED TO TO EXPECTED DOUBLE SPENDING SPENDING DOUBLE ON CLOUD CLOUD SERVICES SERVICES ON TO £1.2BN £1.2BN BY BY 2012 2012 TO

Microsoft is committed to supporting growth stars such as those on the Fast Track 100 to achieve their potential by seizing opportunities to drive down costs, boost innovation and improve efficiency. That is why we continue to invest in our cloud technology. We look forward to helping more ambitious companies as they broaden their horizons and get ahead in the cloud. n Scott Dodds, general manager, business strategy and marketing at Microsoft UK, was talking to Catherine Wheatley


THE SUNDAY TIMES

thesundaytimes.co.uk/business

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla NICOLL CURTIN TECHNOLOGY THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

58 42

IT recruitment agency Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

68.02% 217.12% 161.92%

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla TIMOTHY JAMES THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

61 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

PLACING senior candidates such as project leaders and programme directors to assist companies to manage change is the speciality of Timothy James Consulting. Customers include local authorities such as the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea and financial-services companies such as Aviva. The Bristol firm was founded in 2003 by Peter Bennett and Chris O’Connell and recently opened a London office to develop closer links with its City clients. Sales increased by 64% a year, from £2.3m in 2006 to £10m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla WILTON GROUP THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla LOIS JEWELLERY THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

59 42

Offshore services provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

67.41% 217.12% 161.92%

MIDDLESBROUGH-BASED Wilton Group is an engineering company specialising in the design, manufacture and upgrades of subsea, drilling and production-rig structures for the oil-and-gas industry. Founded by Bill Scott and Steve Glenn, the firm had relied on repeat custom, but in 2008 it appointed a dedicated sales director, who is targeting growth in Brazil. In the same year Wilton also bought an Aberdeen design firm, to strengthen its design expertise. In June Barclays Private Equity invested £16m to support growth. Turnover has risen 67% a year, from £8m in 2007 to £37.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla POST-SWITCH THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

60 42

Postal services consultancy Foreign currency provider 217.12% E-commerce operator 65.38% 161.92%

LED by Jonathan de Carteret, this firm operates as a price-comparison agency, determining clients’ cheapest postal option before managing the delivery process with its recommended operator. The advantage for clients is that they deal with Post-Switch as the sole contact for all their deliveries. The firm claims to have managed all the postal services for the Conservative party’s direct mail in the 2010 election campaign, helping sales to grow 65% a year, from £1.7m in 2007 to £7.6m in 2010.

62 42

Jewellery andoperator goldprovider dealer Foreign currency E-commerce

7

Sign of the times: cashback website Quidco’s Paul and Jennifer Nikkel with Michael Murphy. The firm says members save on average £250 a year

64.23% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 2005 by entrepreneur Derek Johnson and experienced search consultant Beverley Brown, this London company focuses exclusively on placing IT candidates, in particular in financial trading organisations. With 20 core clients, including Barclays Capital, RBS and Credit Suisse, NCT makes temporary and permanent placements in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region. It is now planning to set up offices in Switzerland and Singapore as well. Sales went up by 68% a year, from £3.1m in 2006 to £14.5m in 2009.

05.12.10

63.81% 217.12% 161.92%

AT the age of 16, Nigel Blackburn began visiting antiques fairs and auctions, refining his eye for jewellery. Today his family-run Birmingham company buys and sells jewellery on a bigger scale. With the recent 300% rise in the price of gold, he is able to buy, melt and refine gold from jewellery to produce 200kg of bullion each week, which is then sold on. The boom in gold prices and television coverage have helped sales to rise by 64% a year, from £9.8m in 2006 to £43.2m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla AMBER TAVERNS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

63 42

Pub operator Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

63.06% 217.12% 161.92%

CHAIRMAN Clive Preston came out of retirement in 2001 and by 2005 had set up and sold the Nectar pub chain. He then created Amber Taverns with colleagues and venture-capital investors including Acuity Capital, Maxcap Partners and Unicorn Asset Management. Amber Taverns offers traditionally furnished, high-quality venues with affordable prices from Stoke to Newcastle. Legal and General Ventures backed a buyout for an undisclosed sum in October, helping to fund the company’s plans to double its number of pubs by 2014 from the current 56. Sales grew 63% a year, from an annualised £3.2m in 2007 to £13.9m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla EMPIRIC SOLUTIONS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

64 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

62.77% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS London company was founded in 2005 by recruitment consultants Sam Kamyar and Stephan Williams, who specialised in supplying IT staff that could maintain electronic trading systems used by global banks and asset managers. Since then, it has employed senior recruitment consultant Steve Brown as a key director and has expanded to recruit more generalist roles for the banking and finance sectors. It also claims to have implemented a

trainee-development programme, helping sales to increase by 63% a year, from £2.7m in 2007 to £11.5m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla WORLD FIRST THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

65 42

Foreign-exchange broker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

62.75% 217.12% 161.92%

PROVIDING foreign-exchange and international payment services to both private and corporate clients, this company distinguished itself by also having FSA authorisation to offer foreign-exchange advice to customers. Already operating out of the UK, France, Gibraltar and Australia, co-founders Jonathan Quin and Nick Robinson will shortly add an American office. Sales, which represent the margin taken on trades, rose by 63% a year, from £1.9m in 2007 to £8.3m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla QUIDCO THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

66 42

Cashback website operator 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 62.60% 161.92%

THE former chief executive of Friendsreunited.com, Michael Murphy, recently led a management buy-in of Quidco, a cashback and voucher-code website. The business works by directing its members to retail websites, which pay the company a commission on everything subsequently bought there. Quidco then redirects this money back to the purchasing members, saving them a percentage of their transaction. The company claims there are now 1m members signed up who save on average £250 per year. Initially aimed at the student market, the money-saving climate of the recession has widened its appeal. Sales, which represent the total value of facilitated transactions, grew by 63% a year, from £7.5m in 2007 to £32.1m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla MCKINNEY ROGERS THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

67 42

Sea power: Wilton Group designs and makes subsea, drilling and production-rig structures for the oil-and-gas industry

Business consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

62.04% 217.12% 161.92%

CONTRACTS with global companies such as Bacardi and the American supermarket giant Walmart have been integral to the growth of this management consultancy.

Founded by Damian McKinney, the firm has 11 offices in the Americas, mainland Europe, Asia and Australasia. It says it uses military-leadership best practice to structure organisations, boost performance and foster strong teamwork. Sales have grown 62% a year, from £3m in 2007 to £12.6m in 2010, and the company is expanding into Nigeria and Hong Kong.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla SPRUE AEGIS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

68 42

Safety products maker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

61.88% 217.12% 161.92%

SMOKE and carbon-monoxide alarm manufacturer Sprue Aegis says it supplies almost 90% of Britain’s fire brigades and is the main supplier of alarms to Tesco and B&Q. In April BRK Electronics, the American inventor of battery-powered smoke alarms, licensed the rights to its European operations to Sprue Aegis. The new operations open up opportunities in British construction and access to retailers in mainland Europe. Led by Graham Whitworth, the firm’s sales grew 62% a year, from £3.4m in 2006 to £14.4m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla CATH KIDSTON THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

69 42

Lifestyle retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

59.62% 217.12% 161.92%

CATH KIDSTON set up her Notting Hill shop in 1993 selling antique furniture and fabrics, becoming a hit with her largely female clientele when she designed a homeware range. Distinctively decorated with floral prints, the items have tapped into the “modern vintage” trend, and can be seen on items from key rings to Apple iPhone covers. The company gained further exposure this year when it appeared at the Vintage at Goodwood festival. TA Associates backed a majority buyout in March that valued the company at £100m. Sales rose 60% a year, from £12.4m in 2007 to £50.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla DANBRO THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

70 42

Payroll services provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

58.69% 217.12% 161.92%

BLACKPOOL-BASED Danbro provides payroll services to 2,900 contractors working mainly in IT, engineering and

local-authority services such as policing and health. Since March 2009 the company has added 500 new contractors, helped by the acquisition of a competitor in May of last year. Earlier this year, founders Damian and Helen Broughton also launched a division providing financial advice tailored to the needs of temporary contractors. During the recession employers have taken on greater numbers of temporary contractors, which has contributed to sales growth of 59% a year, from £15.2m in 2007 to £60.7m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla TRANSMISSION ONLY 114.24% THE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

71 42

Telecom equipment reseller 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 56.59% 161.92%

THIS Windsor-based company buys and sells second-hand telecoms infrastructure for both fixed-line and mobile networks. Its clients include global operators such as BT, Telefonica, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel Lucent. Founded by Alan Ockenden in 2005, Transmission Only puts its success down to the large scale of its inventory — it claims to stock up to 200,000 items at any one time — and its confidence to purchase speculatively for customers’ future requirements. With its extensive product knowledge, the company is also able to offer technical support. Sales increased by 57% a year, from £1.8m in 2007 to £6.8m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla RICHMOND GROUP THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

72 42

Financial services provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

55.74% 217.12% 161.92%

JAMES BENAMOR’s company claims to be one of the few remaining unsecuredloan lenders in a field that has been decimated by the economic downturn. It attributes its survival and continued growth to its ability to adapt its business model to meet market needs. Through its divisions FLM Loans, FLM Quick, CGS, Debt Line, Loan Finder and Payment Guard, it offers customers a wide range of loan options and insurance schemes. This diversity, combined with the company’s online presence, has helped sales to gp up by 56% a year, from £12.3m in 2007 to £46.4m in 2010.


8

FAST TRACK 100: Britain’s fastest-growing private companies strong internet marketing, M8 Group’s sales have grown by 50% a year, from £3.2m in 2007 to £10.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla JJFOX THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

73 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

55.55% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS Bristol company specialises in recruiting for the IT, education and manufacturing sectors. Last year it also branched out into property services, brokering residential sales and lettings in Bristol. In 2008 the company’s four founding directors — three of whom are brothers — set up the company’s own charity, which is building a school in Tanzania. Co-founder Daniel Smith suggests that increased business with long-standing clients has helped its sales to grow 56% a year, from £3.9m in 2006 to £14.8m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla EXPD8 THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

82 42

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla WOW! STUFF THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

74 42

Branded toy maker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

54.50% 217.12% 161.92%

A WORLD CHAMPION marksman at the age of 19, owner Richard North later set his sights on the toy market, and now has licensing agreements with brands such as Wallace & Gromit and Top Gear. The company has its own team of toy and gadget inventors, and uses in-store demonstrations and videos to advertise its products. Retail partners include Harrods and Debenhams, and the business has recently launched in France, Germany and America in retail outlets such as Toys R Us. Sales at the Wolverhampton company increased by 55% a year, from an annualised £2.5m in 2007 to £9.3m in 2010.

83 42

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla CATERING ACADEMY THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX Contract caterer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

53.92% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED in 2004, this Staffordshire catering company operates 110 sites across Britain, with a focus on providing food made from fresh and locally sourced ingredients to the education and business sectors. The firm works out of three regional bases from which it aims to offer a local, personal service. The business also sponsors a school in Mozambique for the Nema Foundation, providing 140 free meals a day. Led by Stacey Rose, Kevin Cannon and Louise Wymer, the firm’s sales rose 54% a year, from £4.3m in 2006 to £15.8m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla DIRECT TRAVELLER THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

77 42

Mobile phone recycler Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

47.94% 217.12% 161.92%

WHEN customers kept asking what they should do with their old handsets, former Orange employees Simon Walsh and Craig Smith founded what they say was the first mobile-phone-recycling company in 2001. From humble beginnings — working out of a garage in Wimbledon — the company now reprocesses gadgets such as laptops and MP3 players. Every component is refurbished, re-used or melted down to maintain the firm’s zero-landfill policy. Sales grew 48% a year, from £2.5m in 2006 to £8m in 2009.

Media &currency advertising agency 217.12% Foreign provider E-commerce operator 54.34% 161.92%

STARTING OUT of director Clive Goodman’s living room in 1998, this media-and-advertising companynow now media and advertising company comprises a small team of marketers who specialising selling press specialise inin selling press advertising advertising space, mainly the travel space, mainly to the traveltoindustry industry in high-readership publications in high-readership publications such as such as the Daily Mail. The company the Daily Mail. The company claims that claims thatadvertising increased advertising increased spending by large spending large clientsservice and itshave led clients andbyits customer customer led itsthe sales — its sales —service which have represent total which thesold total—value of 54% value ofrepresent advertising to grow advertising — in to grow 54% a year, a year, fromsold £2.5m 2006 to £9.3m in from 2009. £2.5m in 2006 to £9.3m in 2009.

76 42

49.60% 217.12% 161.92%

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla SHP SOLUTIONS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla GOODMAN ASSOCIATES THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

75 42

Retail services provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

IN 2003 Peter Bailey and Mark Thurgood set up EXPD8 with funding from their first client, Parragon Books. The business displays goods such as books, cosmetics and electronics in stores on behalf of suppliers but also works directly for the retailers themselves. With 30 large clients, including J Sainsbury, Dyson and Sony, the firm claims to send 1,200 employees to 15,000 locations across Britain and Ireland each month. Managers communicate from a central database with their employees’ handheld devices, making for a cost-effective and efficient operation. Sales increased 50% a year, from £2.2m in 2006 to £7.4m in 2009.

Specialist touroperator operator Foreign currency provider E-commerce

52.80% 217.12% 161.92%

RAMADAN OZDEMIR’s company began selling package holidays to northern Cyprus in the same year that border restrictions between the north and south of the island were eased. This enabled it to offer direct flights to Larnaca in the south followed by a transfer service to resorts on the north coast, which previously could be reached only through Turkey. This, combined with a £100,000 investment in a website which, it claims, can offer 110 flight routes from 20 UK airports, helped sales to grow 53% a year, from £1.5m in 2007 to £5.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla JOULES THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

84 42

Boxing clever: Simon Walsh’s SHP Solutions recycles old mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players and other gadgets. The firm says it puts nothing into landfill

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla REDFERN TRAVEL THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

78 42

Business travel agent Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

52.38% 217.12% 161.92%

FORMERLY a traditional travel company, Redfern Travel was bought by Ian Wotton, Allan Webster and Anthony Shawe in 1999 and it has since been modernised and developed into a niche business. The business now focuses exclusively on the corporate travel market and has developed an automated online booking system that reduces costs for firms by suggesting time and money-saving trips. The Bradford-based company also recommends energysaving trips to boost clients’ green credentials. Winning contracts with government departments has contributed to sales growth of 52% a year, from £8.9m in 2006 to £31.4m in 2009.

Menkind’s sales to increase 52% a year, from an annualised £3.9m in 2007 to £13.7m in 2010.

HQ location of Fast Track 100 Scotland 5

Northwest 11

Northeast 7

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla MENKIND THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

79 42

Men’s gifts retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

East 2

52.18% 217.12% 161.92%

MENKIND opened as a one-stop men’s gift shop in 2002 and now has 20 stores across Britain. Among the company’s best-selling items is a Rocky Balboa bathrobe, based on the Sylvester Stallone film about a retired boxer who decides to get back into the ring one last time. Led by co-founder Paul Kraftman, the company’s range of products includes watches, cufflinks and gadgets. In the run-up to Christmas the retailer opens a number of temporary stores to test the market in other cities. In the past year some of these temporary outlets have done well and have subsequently been converted to permanent stores, helping

Wales

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla HENLEYS CLOTHING THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

80 42

Midlands Southeast

12

18 London

Southwest 12

32

47.90% 217.12% 161.92%

51.03% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUR consecutive years on the Fast Track 100 league table, Ben Luscombe’s company is clearly doing something right. A well-known urban clothing brand, Henleys makes clothes and accessories such as footwear and watches, which it sells through its 18 stores across Britain and through high-street retailers including RD Scott, Bank and Republic. It has also revamped its website for online shoppers. Now venturing into North America and mainland Europe, with further plans to expand into the Far East, sales have gone up by 51% a year, from £14m in 2007 to £48.3m in 2010.

STARTED UP by Keith Churchhouse and Nick Guyton, PPF says it places up to 2,000 drivers a week with customers such as Tesco and Morrisons. With 17 offices in Britain, it aims to finalise a large network of drivers by opening additional offices in Gloucester, Hull and Peterborough. To cut carbon-dioxide emissions, each driver will undertake fuel-efficiency training every year. Sales at the Luton firm grew 48% a year, from £12.7m in 2006 to £40.9m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla M8 THEGROUP HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GO THEOUTDOORS HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

81 42

1

Fashion retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

Clothing retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

THE brand’s clothes and wellies used to be sold at country markets, saddleries and garden centres by Tom Joule’s father, but after the son took over in 1995 it grew to 35 UK stores plus branches in glamorous locations such as St Tropez and Biarritz. Since then the firm introduced its Boutique and Baby Joule collections. This year it handled the merchandising for the Badminton, Burghley and Gatcombe horse trials and launched a homeware and toiletries range through Boots. Sales rose 48% a year, from £10.9m in 2006 to an annualised £35.1m in 2009.

Consumer website operator 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 49.83% 161.92%

IF you need dog food, but don’t want to walk Rover to your local shop to buy it, then Kevin Hague’s company, Petplanet.co.uk, offers an online service with next-day nationwide delivery. Founded in 1999, the business claims to supply more than 8,000 pet products from its warehouses in Scotland, which also stock a range of gardening accessories and furniture for a sister company, Greenfingers.com, which was launched in 2002. Thanks in part to

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla PPF THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

85 42

86 42

Driver recruitment agency Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

47.51% 217.12% 161.92%

Outdoor equipment retailer 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 47.50% 161.92%

AS a young man, John Graham’s passion was climbing mountains. In 1998, with business partner Paul Caplan, he opened his first outdoor-products store. Today, Go Outdoors has 27 shops with walking and camping gear for professionals and amateurs, as well as cycling, skiing and climbing accessories. The business is chaired by John Lovering, former chairman of Debenhams and Somerfield. Sales were up 48% a year, from £23.1m in 2007 to an annualised £74m in 2010.

Postman can deliver growth with a smile Ambitious Ambitious companies companies are are making makingthe the most of of postal postal services services to to strengthen strengthen relationships relationships with withtheir theircustomers, customers, says Royal Royal Mail’s Mail’s Antony Miller

G

Getting Personal founders John Smith and Giles Harridge rely on Royal Mail’s expertise

etting Personal is an innovative internet venture, but traditional values of outstanding customer service and rapid delivery are still crucial to its success. Last year the online retailer, at No 51 on this year’s Fast Track 100, dispatched about 750,000 personalised gifts from a range of 4,000 products that includes calendars, key rings, cutlery, clocks, champagne and chocolate. Each can be adapted to bear a name or special message, and all are delivered in packaging that bears the firm’s distinctive smile logo. Over the past three years sales have grown 72% per annum, from £1.9m in 2007 to £9.5m in 2010. Attracting and retaining customers is vital to the company’s success, according to John Smith, who launched Getting Personal with Giles Harridge after they met at their wives’ antenatal classes. Five years on, the pair have developed an award-winning website with straightforward navigation and high-resolution photography. More visits have been converted into sales since a new feature was added, allowing shoppers to see gifts as they

would appear if a name or message were inscribed. Rapid, reliable delivery is another vital part of the customer experience, said Smith. Getting Personal uses Royal Mail to ship three quarters of all orders, offering free first-class delivery on all sales over £30. For shoppers who have left their purchase until the last minute, the company offers Royal Mail Special Delivery Next Day, which guarantees arrival either before 9am or 1pm on the next working day to 99% of the UK. The firm also uses Royal Mail’s Packetpost service, which saves time and money by applying charges based on the average weight and format of items sent. Purchasers can also use Royal Mail’s Track & Trace service to monitor the parcel’s progress and confirm delivery. “As a gifting business, we have to offer the certainty that a gift will arrive on time,” Smith said. “We have a reputation for reliable, fast service, which is splashed across our site by our customers.” Despite the rise of online communications, Royal Mail firmly believes that effective postal services have an impor-

tant part to play in the success of emerging businesses. E-mail may be the right solution for companies that want to communicate instant offers, but more complicated propositions still need to be set out on paper. What's more, there are still an estimated 9m people in the UK who do not use the internet, either through choice or because of poor broadband connections. So at Christmas, for example, Getting Personal posts about 250,000 brochures to its clients.

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THERE ARE STILL AN ESTIMATED 9M PEOPLE IN THE UK WHO DO NOT USE THE INTERNET

We want to share our knowledge of direct mail, data management and marketing with ambitious businesses like those on the Fast Track 100, to help them find and keep new customers, and to become more cost-effective. That is why last year we launched the Mail Media Centre (mmc.co.uk), a source of free advice, data and inspiration for small firms planning direct mailshots. As well as case studies of successful campaigns, we offer businesses an extensive suite of free tools to help improve their marketing activity. For example, our Mailshots Online service helps customers design, approve and send a mailout in under 30 minutes. Our average response rate indicator tool evaluates direct marketing campaigns, using eye-tracking technology to assess how customers scan, open, read and respond to a mailing. Our catalogue critique tool analyses marketing material and recommends changes. We have an Infobank Resource Centre in central London that offers visitors the opportunity to identify and research target markets, review recent direct-mail campaigns and track competitors’ activities. Our pick-and-pack warehouse facility in Swindon, incorporating an e-commerce, stock-management and orderfulfilment service, is available for firms wanting to outsource their distribution function. Another Fast Track 100 company that understands the importance of market research

is Ella’s Kitchen, at No 14 on the league table. Over the past three years sales of its brightly coloured pouches of organic baby food and other healthy children’s meals have soared 129% a year, from £1.4m in 2007 to £16.5m in 2010. The firm keeps a database of “Ella’s Friends” with whom staff regularly communicate. Last week it sent 20,000 campaign leaflets to nurseries around the country using Royal Mail. When former Nickelodeon TV director Paul Lindley launched Ella’s Kitchen five years ago he devoted months to finding the right manufacturers, negotiating how he would pay them and developing campaign ideas. Now the company is expanding into Scandinavia and the United States. We estimate that Royal Mail has daily contact with 88% of Britain’s small and mediumsized firms. Encouragingly, our own data show that over the past two months there has been a significant rise in their spending on delivery, direct mail and other Royal Mail products, hinting at a recovery across the sector. Our aim is to help Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses to find and keep customers, improve their sales and create jobs and wealth. We urge ambitious firms such as those on the Fast Track 100 to take a fresh look at how we can support them. n Antony Miller, Royal Mail’s head of media market development, was talking to Catherine Wheatley


THE SUNDAY TIMES

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PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla MORGAN LAW RECRUITMENT THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

87 42

Recruitment consultancy Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

47.23% 217.12% 161.92%

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla WIGGLE THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

91 42

Online sports goods retailer 217.12% Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator 46.91% 161.92%

AFTER David Morgan and Simon Law’s firm had grown each year for a decade by recruiting only for the public and not-forprofit sectors, the duo made the decision to expand their client base to include the private sector. As a result, the business is continuing to expand. Specialising in recruiting finance, human-resources and PR staff, it now also supplies board-level executives and procurement professionals. With a new office in London, the company increased its sales 47% a year, from £11.4m in 2006 to £36.3m in 2009.

THIS Portsmouth company sells sports products online to more than 70 countries. Its range of about 15,000 products for sale include bikes, cycling accessories as well as running and swimming gear. Founded by Mitch Dall and Harvey Jones from their bike shop in 1999, the company claims it delivers most customer orders in the UK within 24 hours. Thanks to cycling’s current high profile and Wiggle’s aggressive marketing policy, sales have increased by 47% a year, from £17.5m in 2007 to £55.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla OPTI-CAL SURVEY EQUIPMENT THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla BALHOUSIE CARE GROUP THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

88 42

Survey equipment supplier Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

47.18% 217.12% 161.92%

FOUNDED by Timothy Davies and Stewart Palin in 2002, Jim Warner’s 2004 buy-in led to a move away from only repairing and recalibrating survey equipment. Now the company also owns the Leica survey equipment that it hires out for jobs as diverse as the Eden Project, Crossrail and the construction of sets for films such as Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. About 20% of its business is carried out abroad, with the African and Middle Eastern markets particularly keen to buy reconditioned equipment. Sales rose 47% a year, from an annualised £2m in 2007 to £6.4m in 2010.

92 42

Care home operator Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

46.61% 217.12% 161.92%

MAKING its third consecutive appearance on the Fast Track 100 league table, Tony Banks’s Forfar firm operates 20 homes that provide long-term nursing and residential care for 725 people, mainly in eastern Scotland. It also has two specialist

units for individuals with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. The company says it is committed to a sound nutritional policy for residents, providing locally produced food. As a result of increasing its number of homes, sales rose by 47% a year, from £5m in 2007 to £15.9m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GETABED.CO.UK THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

93 42

Online hotel room supplier Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

46.53% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS online hotel supplier trades rooms to travel agents, who then sell them on to their customers as part of package deals. Formerly dealing only in North American resorts, Getabed today supplies rooms in 7,500 destinations worldwide. Managing director Matt Stuart was only 20 when he bought the company in 1998, and claims that his website attracts travel agents because, unlike other sites, it does not allow customers to compare room prices paid by agents and themselves. Sales, which are commissions made on bookings, grew by 47% a year, from £4.3m in 2007 to £13.4m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla AJ THEBELL HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

94 42

Pension administrator Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

46.43% 217.12% 161.92%

AJ BELL provides self-invested personal pensions, or Sipps, to 48,000 clients. The Manchester firm also manages pension products for Barclays, Halifax and other financial institutions. Co-founder and chief executive Andy Bell credits greater public awareness for the rise in the number of people choosing to manage their pensions themselves. The firm’s stockbroking arm charges commission on each transaction it settles through the stock exchange, and in a volatile market with more transactions income has risen. Turnover increased by 46% a year, from £12.3m in 2006 to £38.5m in 2009.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla THE BOOK DEPOSITORY HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

95 42

Online book retailer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

45.54% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS business sells niche and hard-tofind books around the world via the internet. In the past year the Gloucester company has run a series of promotional

campaigns, such as refer-a-friend coupons, to increase its customer base. It recently ran a giveaway of more than 500,000 e-books, which helped to attract more customers to buy from its range of printed titles. During the recession, the popularity of vocational and lifelong learning publications has increased, helping sales to grow 46% a year, from £24.1m in 2007 to £74.3m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla BLU (UK)GROUP114.24%114.24% THE 3HUT Pla t t TORFX

96 42

Infrastructure services Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

45.41% 217.12% 161.92%

DEVELOPING the road, kerbs and pavements that form the entrance to the Olympic Stadium is one of the projects of this infrastructure-services provider. It has also been contracted by the Ministry of Defence to refurbish the power network for the army barracks in Aldershot and around Salisbury Plain. Led by founder Danny Chaney and with 20 key clients, including Tesco and EDF Energy, the company’s sales have increased by 45% a year, from £7.6m in 2007 to £23.3m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla TROJAN ELECTRONICS THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

89 42

Electrical recycler Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

47.12% 217.12% 161.92%

97 42

Bike apparel manufacturer Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

45.29% 217.12% 161.92%

HAVING his entire cycling kit stolen while competing in a triathlon in Australia and finding it hard to get suitable replacements prompted founder Jim McFarlane to start manufacturing his own range in 1992. The company has since twice won the Eurobike design award for clothing, and started its own cycling team, Endura Racing, managed by Olympic medal winner Rob Hayles. The rise of the Mamil — middle-aged man in lycra — consumer has increased the size of the market, and expansion into mainland Europe has also helped sales at the Livingston firm to grow 45% a year, from £3.4m in 2007 to £10.6m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24% Pla tPla TEN MANAGEMENT THE LIFESTYLE HUT GROUP114.24% Pla t t TORFX

98 42

Concierge service provider Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

45.27% 217.12% 161.92%

RECOGNISING that a cash-rich but timepoor demographic exists, founders Alex Cheatle and Andrew Long started this firm in 1998 to provide a bespoke concierge service. Ten Lifestyle Management says its 311 staff are experts in fields such as golf or the theatre, and have helped meet all manner of requests, from finding a decent plumber to rescuing clients stranded in the desert. It now provides a 24/7 service in eight languages. With a recently opened office in New York, sales, including subscriptions and cost of goods, grew 45% a year, from £3.7m in 2006 to £11.3m in 2009.

99 42

Gourmet pie baker Foreign currency provider E-commerce operator

45.24% 217.12% 161.92%

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla GO THEAPE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

Confectionery manufacturer Foreign currency provider 217.12% E-commerce operator 47.11% 161.92%

100 42 Foreign Adventure course operator currency provider E-commerce operator

Knowing the ropes: adventure-course operator Go Ape has expanded its forest fun operations to 26 venues in Britain and is now swinging into America

THE SUNDAY TIMES VIRGIN FAST TRACK 100 THE 14th annual Fast Track 100 leaguetable supplement and networkingevents programme is produced by Fast Track, Britain’s leading networking company that focuses on top-performing private companies and entrepreneurs. Fast Track researches and publishes seven different annual league tables with The Sunday Times, ranking the fastest-growing to the biggest private companies, and runs invitation-only

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla ENDURA THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

DURING their travels, bar owner Jon Simon and chef Tristan Hogg saw that pies were popular Down Under and so, using personal savings, they set up their first pie shop in Bristol in 2003. They now have five shops in England and produce 3.5m pies a year, selling most through wholesale customers, at festivals and in supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. With a range of 14 heavily marketed branded pies, including Mr Porky Pie and the popular Heidi Pie, sales grew 45% a year, from £1.6m in 2007 to £5m in 2010.

PlantHirer tHir 114.24% 114.24%114.24% Pla tPla TANGERINE CONFECTIONERY THE HUT GROUP Pla t t TORFX

90 42

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PlantHirer tHir 114.24% Pla tPla PIEMINISTER THE HUT GROUP114.24%114.24% Pla t t TORFX

HAVING foreseen the impact of the 2007 WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) directive, founders Clive Murphy and Malcolm Rash set up a repair and product-refurbishment service for businesses that receive customer returns. Clients include supermarkets, retailers, manufacturers and mail-order firms. The Swansea firm also runs and manages the outlet store on eBay for Britain’s largest supermarket chain, selling its excess inventory and end-of-line products. Largely as a result of the directive’s consequences, sales have grown 47% a year, from £1.7m in 2007 to £5.4m in 2010.

ESTABLISHED in 2006 in a buyout led by chairman Steven Joseph, this firm now claims to be Britain’s largest privately owned confectionery maker. It produces a wide range of traditional treats such as Butterkist popcorn and Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts. Its success in recent years is owed significantly to some key acquisitions, including Burton’s Foods confectionery division in 2006, and Monkhill, from Cadbury, in 2008. The introduction of popular new products such as Henry Goode’s Soft Eating Liquorice has also contributed to a sales growth of 47% a year, from £48.5m in 2006 to £154.5m in 2009.

05.12.10

events and dinners for entrepreneurs to network and meet our sponsors. It is run by Dr Hamish Stevenson, who holds an associate fellowship at Green Templeton College, Oxford University. The Fast Track 100 research was managed by Laura Vicary. Fast Track’s sole source of revenue is from sponsors. We would therefore like to thank Virgin for its title sponsorship of Fast Track 100 for all 14 years, as well

JOIN OUR TEAM 2012 PROGRAMME as our main sponsors, BDO, Microsoft and Royal Mail. Nominations for next year’s Fast Track 100 can be made online at fasttrack.co.uk, or sent to: Angel Court, 81 St Clements, Oxford OX4 1AW Phone 01865 297100 Fax 01865 297001 E-mail info@fasttrack.co.uk

Dr Hamish Stevenson of Fast Track is an ambassador to Our Team 2012, a national fundraising campaign from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that helps to support athletes as they train to get selected to represent Britain at the London Olympic Games in 2012. Supporters receive many benefits: they can become an official “follower” of Our Team 2012, they may get invitations to behind-the-scenes events where clients and staff may be able to meet the athletes, and they will enjoy VIP hospitality. For further details go to team-2012.com/sme.

43.57% 217.12% 161.92%

THIS adventure-course operator lets its customers play Tarzan for a day, swinging, climbing and crawling through an assortment of tree-top obstacles. Founder and “chief gorilla” Tristram Mayhew was formerly a captain in the British Army. He and his wife, Rebecca, had the idea for the company in 2001 while on holiday in the Auvergne National Forest in France. Go Ape now operates 26 centres across Britain, and this year its canopy adventure took off in the United States. Sales rose by 44% a year, from £3.6m in 2006 to £10.6m in 2009.


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THE SUNDAY TIMES thesundaytimes.co.uk

05.12.10

FastTrack100  

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