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Meet Britain’s fastest-growing private companies: 71-80

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71. Mardi Foods

Mark Richards’ Mardi Foods is a McDonald’s franchise with 11 restaurants. With a profit of £228,000 on a £13m turnover, Richards is demonstrating the merits of becoming a franchisee of Ray Croc’s indefatigable fast-food chain.

72. Movewithus

Movewithus is fast becoming a household name. Movewithus represents more than 1,000 independent estate agents on a single site, so they can compete with dotcoms such as Rightmove and PropertyFinder. Buyers browse properties and are directed to the assigned estate agents. Other property service providers are linked into the site, so buyers can use it as a one-stop shop for probate, equity release, assured maintenance and general legal advice. A sister site, Whitehotproperty, specialises in new-build homes, offering direct sales to cut out the middleman. The founders behind this rapidly expanding dotcom empire are Richard Jeffrey, Robin King, Nigel Higgins, Russell Cade and group chief executive Sean King.

73. Exponential-e

Lee Wade founded Exponential-e in 2001 in the wake of the dotcom crash. “It wasn’t the most obvious thing to do,” he admits. His idea was to sell an alternative method of connecting corporate offices. Instead of using traditional internet technologies, Exponential-e offers ethernet connections. These are more secure, faster, and easier  for IT support to maintain. The concept proved a winner. Exponential-e now employs 120 staff in London and Reading and boasts more than 900 clients, mostly large corporates, and has a physical network presence throughout the UK as well as New York, Frankfurt, Chicago and New Jersey.

74. RMJM

Signature buildings by architects RMJM include the lopsided Capital Gate skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, LG’s R&D campus in South Korea, the Beijing Olympic Fencing Hall and the headquarters of three largest pharmaceutical companies in the world: GSK, Wyeth and Sanofi-Aventis. In St Petersburg, RMJM won a competition to build the headquarters for Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas supplier. In Suzhou, China, RMJM is erecting a glass arch skyscraper, which will be the largest building in China. Revenue for the practice is a few quid short of £100m, up double on the previous year, making RMJM the seventh largest architects in the world.

75. Bibby Line Group

The oldest business in this year’s Hot 100 is Bibby Line Group, a family-owned shipping firm founded over two hundred years ago in Liverpool, run by the sixth-generation Sir Michael Bibby. It’s also the largest, with turnover topping a billion pounds. Bibby tends to be viewed as a shipping company, with vessels in every sector from LPG and chemical tankers to dry-bulk and containers. But a run of bad results in the eighties – including the loss of the largest ever British ship to sink – forced Sir Michael’s father, Sir Derek, to diversify, creating a complex conglomerate. Bibby Offshore provides subsea construction to the offshore oil industry, and possesses a fleet of diving support vessels.

Bibby’s private equity division makes long-term investments in entrepreneurial businesses across a range of sectors. Bibby Financial Services offers cash-flow services such as factoring and invoice discounting to small and medium-sized firms. Bibby owns millions of square feet of warehousing and is one of the UK’s largest logistics firms. In 2007, Bibby took another bold step with a controlling interest in Costcutter convenience store franchise. A bid last year for the Nisa-Today’s supermarket buying group failed. Sir Michael joined the family firm in 1992 as financial director, before rising to the top job in 2000. Oxford educated, with an estimated personal fortune of £133m, he is regarded as one of the most energetic bosses in the company’s history. Some of his decisions, such as the move into woodland funerals, have baffled some financial commentators who query the ability of the group to operate such a wide range of businesses. But the results speak for themselves.

76. Probrand

It’s an understatement to say the government has a poor record at purchasing IT. Probrand’s mission is to change that by providing computers and IT accessories such as memory sticks at rock-bottom prices. Probrand’s online buying portal, The IT Index, allows government departments to log on and buy more than 125,000 products from more than 1,600 vendors with just a few clicks. The portal is proof that technology can deliver measurable efficiency savings. Birmingham-based Probrand is also a major supplier of IT kit to the private sector, specialising in large and complex contracts, using the same online approach. Such is the advantage of Probrand’s business model that ICAEW has taken the rare step of awarding it a Best Practice Best Value accreditation.

77. K & G Restaurants

Kurt Jansen is this year’s second McDonald’s franchisee (see 71). Jansen took over his first McDonald’s in 2002 and now manages five restaurants in the Essex area.

78. Entanet

Telford-based telecoms provider Entanet is a deceptive operation. On the surface, it is a supplier of broadband, business phone lines and voice services. Entanet is part of the Enta Group, an hugely ambitious company founded by Taiwanese entrepreneur Jason Tsai in 1990. Tsai, the youngest son of an illiterate farmer, had been working in the UK as marketing director of Tatung, a Taiwanese electronics brand, when he decided to import low-cost Taiwanese computer components. He began by distributing computer cases from his garage in Bridgnorth. By 1995, he’d grown Enta so much he received an award from the president of Taiwan for entrepreneurship. Growing organically, without borrowing funds, he developed divisions of e-commerce, web design and internet-enabled CCTV, though components distribution and telecoms provision remain the cornerstones of his empire. Tsai certainly hasn’t forgotten his roots, building a huge £5m pagoda office in Telford, adorned with genuine Chinese roof tiles and ceramics, plus a garden with waterfalls, bridges and 200 koi carp. He has founded a Chinese school in Telford, teaching local students Chinese language and culture, and says he sees it as his mission to foster closer ties between the UK and his native land.

79. Carisbrooke Shipping

Eight years of growth in the shipping industry was followed by an almighty slump in 2008, in which prices for dry goods fell more than 90 per cent. Isle of Wight bulk shipper Carisbrooke rode the boom as well as any in the industry, and is now contemplating life in the slump. Fortunately, under skipper Ian Walker, Carisbrooke is adept at navigating rough times as plain sailing. “Our industry is cyclical,” he admits. “But we’ve been around for years. For us, this downturn is merely a raincheck. We are still taking delivery of new ships this year, and though this is a tough year for us, we’ve prepared carefully.” Carisbrooke is also slightly better off than rivals, as it specialises in dry cargo, not merely containers. Its fleet of 50 vessels moves goods such as grain, fertilizers, windmill blades and pallets between all major ports. With technical operations in Rotterdam, Leer and Montreal, Carisbrooke has global ambitions, which won’t be upset by the current trading weather.

80. Draycott Ward

Debonair rugby legend Jeremy Guscott has another life outside the television studio. He’s the marketing director of Draycott Ward, a Bath-based construction company, focused on the insurance claim market. When floods and hurricanes strike, Guscott and co get a call from the insurers to sort out the mess. After the flooding in 2008, Draycott Ward found itself in demand. Co-director Chris McKenty says bad weather is a godsend to the firm: “We’ve grown on other people’s misery. But we see ourselves as the fifth emergency service. It’s our job to rush and strip out all the rotting wood and debris and give people their homes back as soon as possible.” He says recent growth has been extraordinary.

“We doubled business because of the floods. After that rush of work, we managed to keep our clients and keep growing.” Draycott Ward, whose other directors are Alan Meade and Tony McKenty, is now taking a breather. “We founded the firm in 2004,” says Chris McKenty, “So it’s been a great few years. Now we are pausing and we have PwC in to look at our processes and people before we grow any more. If want to move to the next level, it is vital we are prepared and have the right building blocks in place.”

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Meet Britain’s fastest-growing private companies: 81-90
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