From 1997-2015: The historical high-rankers of The Hot 100 list of fast-growth British firms

Looking back throughout the history of The Hot 100, it has been made undeniably clear that the mid-market sector, Britain’s version of Germany’s “Mittelstand”, has always played a critical role in driving economic growth.

Let’s face it, nothing beats a good old list – and The Hot 100 is one of the best. Where else would you see Led Zeppelin’s first sound man, former Dragon’s Den investor Duncan Bannatyne’s gym chain, David Beckham’s Footwork Productions and the UK’s first sushi business together in the same place?

It spans back to 1997, where the cover story of the first published edition of Real Business carried The Hot 100 ranking of fast-growth UK businesses. How appropriate it was that the headlining business of the time – Nexus Media – had a magazine called “The Grower”.

Some 1,800 businesses have been profiled over the 17 years of The Hot 100. Each year, we’ve identified businesses that go on to reach lofty heights.

You may have heard of some of the featured businesses: Carphone Warehouse (1997), chip designer ARM (1998), Wagamama (2001), sandwich bar EAT (2002), (2004), Mind Candy (2005), Jimmy Choo (2006),  and cinema Vue Entertainment (2007).

That’s right, we had them all – and more! Ranked by average growth in turnover, in 100 different ways, these companies have showed how to withstand, even prosper, against the odds. That has been particularly true of The Hot 100 2015 list.

Read more about the 2015 Hot 100:

Salute them all, here are the previous high-rankers of the Hot 100.


Number one: Magazine publisher Nexus Media 
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 161-77
Notables: Carphone Warehouse (38); Carbouchon, the costume jewellery company that later went bust (5).
Big themes: The list was filled with telecoms businesses and Hot 100 business owners who’d “done their apprenticeships”. Most bosses had worked in their industry for many years.


Number one: City & Financial International, a courier service delivering research to City fund managers
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 165-60
Notables: Advanced Risc Machines better known as ARM, which is now a FTSE 250 company (43); Technetix, the Sussex-based technology equipment manufacturer that’s still run by CEO Paul Broadhurt (2).
Big themes: With a courier business at number one, and increasing dissatisfaction with “snail mail”, it was evident that the digital revolution was under way.


Number one: IT recruiter Plexus Personnel
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 112.8-55.2
Notables: At number five was a promising mail-order clothing business called Boden. The boss, Johnnie Boden, shared his thoughts on fast growth: “For us, the stretch on working capital is the clear danger of rapid expansion. Each year, we make three or four mistakes. They start out as stretched management and they end up as stretched working capital.”


Number one: Progressive Computer. Founder Simon Arben also ran 15th-ranked Computer Futures Recruitment. Arber said: “This is a full-on sales environment. The sales board is on the wall. When you sign a candidate to a client, you mark it on the board. The cheer makes you feel like Michael Owen.”
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 158-53
Notables: Boden (again); iconic “lava lamps” business Mathoms (44).


Number one: Healthcare at Home
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 224-57
Notables: Restaurant group Wagamama (95); Real Business’ publisher, which was then Caspian Publishing (31).
Big themes: Hot 100 researcher Philip Mellor said: “Looking at the past four years’ Hot 100 rankings, we’ve seen a move from 50/50 split between service and manufacturing companies to a predominance of service firms – especially in IT and recruitment.”


Number one: TV producer Victoria Real
Spread (average annual growth rate of number one company to number 100 company in %): 183.2-53.4
Notables: Healthcare at Home (again); sandwich bar EAT (6); first appearance for the Hot 100’s longest-standing entrant, Centra Healthcare.
Big themes: The list was littered with mobile phone businesses such as the Mobile Phone Store and New World Payphones.

Read more to find out which year comprised Duncan Bannatyne and a football club in one list.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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