51. InvestigoFounders Scott Beckson and Simon Smith had a history in financial recruitment before setting up their own agency in 2003. Investigo places finance, strategy and consulting professionals on salaries up to £250,000 and claims it is the preferred supplier to Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks & Spencer. The company also places interim hires and was one of the lead providers on the Lloyds HBOS integration. Smith attributes success to his team: “We have poached top talent aggressively. If you put highly talented people in a room together, you will produce a successful, highly motivated company.” And the top team is locked in with an attractive equity plan. Smith and Beckson used the recession to build on this talent base, increasing headcount from 48 to 60. Credibility wise, they were also helped by some serious clout when first starting out, with Robert Stodel, ex-COO of Credit Suisse First Boston stumping up equity and acting as chairman. “We started the company with £90,000. Last year turnover was £28.8m. It’s been an incredible ride,” says Smith. Pre-tax profit meanwhile, has increased by 50 per cent in the past year, to £2.6m.
52. IntellifloThis IT-services company was created in 2004, out of the IT department of a firm of financial advisers. Nick Eatock ran the MBO and took seven staff with him. Intelliflo provides IT services to the financial services sector, and sees its focus on web-based solutions as key to success. For clients, “it cuts out a whole load of costs, maintenance and hassle,” Eatock says. Clients also benefit from access to the latest version software, as “there is only one version. When we upgrade, we upgrade for everyone.” According to Eatock, Intelliflo wins 85 per cent of genuine new business and, with regulatory changes to the finance sector in the pipeline, believes there should be an influx of new customers. This summer will see the release of a personal finance portal and there is the possibility of extending into the professional services market. Turnover in 2008 was £5.2m with pre-tax profits of £1.6m.
53. B&M RetailSince brothers Simon and Bobby Arora bought B&M Retail in 2005, growth has rocketed. On average, B&M has opened a new store once a week for the past three years, helped by vacancies left by Kwik Save and Woolworths. There are now 190 discount stores in the chain, opening their doors to 1.5 million cost-conscious shoppers a week. The shops sell both household-branded groceries and non-food items, primarily in the North West, although this is changing, explains finance director Steve Wakeman: “We are extending our reach. We are known as a North West operator but, in fact, we are in the North East, South Wales, Northern Ireland and we have just opened a store in Hemel Hempstead.” 2008 turnover was £256m, and the company reports an increase to £420m for 2009.
55. IT SkillfinderFor this firm of IT recruitment agents, size definitely matters. Focused on the financial sector and founded by Darren Hall and Grant Brummer in 2003, their aim is “not to become the biggest boy on the block”, but to grow revenue through the quality of work they provide and retain a more boutique style. “I will never do business at ten per cent [commission] for clients giving us 10,000 requirements. That is not our business model. The quality of what we do is higher,” says Brummer. Instead, they focus on mid-size companies (where the processes are fewer and things actually happen) and aim to build up an intimate understanding of the company, in effect becoming an extension of it. IT Skillfinder will grow, but never to the extent that Brummer and Hall do not know everyone. “That would be horrible!” he exclaims. Brummer’s ethos is surround yourself with like-minded people, treat them well and you will get the best out of them. They have spent £100,000 on their offices, as “we want to provide an amazing environment for people”, Brummer continues. And it’s working – staff turnover is low, essential when trying to build relationships with clients. There are 16 staff, carefully chosen to reflect the founders’ own values: in a nutshell – take your work seriously but not yourself. A European office may be on the cards, given that 70 per cent of business is in Europe (the company is one of the main providers to the German Stock Exchange). In the meantime, sales have risen from £1.9m to a very healthy £8m.
56. ToppesfieldToppesfield is run by husband-and-wife team Gale and Matthew Pryor, and their brother in law David Last, who just “went to lend a hand for a couple of weeks”, and is still there six years later. Toppesfield is a tarmacing company that makes asphalt roads, car parks and garage forecourts, worked on the Wembley contract and is now involved in constructing the Olympic Park. Toppesfield’s focus is on improving its client base, working with the likes of Volker Fitzpatrick and Kier. “We work with reputable clients with large portfolios who would help our growth,” explains Last. The company also strives to be highly professional in an area of the industry not renowned for it, pricing jobs overnight where possible. This approach has helped turnover grow £10.5m at a compound growth rate of 61.5 per cent.
58. JVM EquipmentDealing in construction, earthmoving and lifting equipment, JVM Equipment was founded in 1998 by Max Skillman and his former partner (now deceased). JVM acts as a dealer for companies like JCB and Barford in Russia and the former Soviet Union countries. Skillman says that the company is number one in equipment supply in Russia and, in 2008, was JCB’s biggest dealer in the world. The company, which employs some 500 people, has a depot in every town in Russia with a million or more people. Skillman sees it as a “no-brainer” to have focused on the region. “Russia has 40 per cent of the world’s gas. It is the richest country in the world – it is all in the ground. And despite what the press says, it is easy to do business there,” he comments. Clearly so, as the company’s turnover has risen from £43.2m to £176.6m, at a rate of 60 per cent.
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