Rank Company Location Year end Annual sales rise over 3 years Latest sales £000s Staff Comment
1 Progressive Computer RecruitmentRecruitment agency South-west London 1997 197.79% †26,434 111 High flying workers can earn up to £150,000 a year
2 Optical ExpressOptical retailer Cumbernauld, Glasgow 1997 188.43% 36,650 935 A Scottish optician with an eye for acquisitions
3 Rotrax Engineering ServicesElectrical and mechanical contractors Middlesbrough 1997 148.72% 10,740 80 Rapid growth is result of repeat business from big contractors
4 Travel CounsellorsTravel agency Bolton 1997 147.72% 8,330 71 Holiday consultants visit clients in their own homes to plan and book trips
5 TechnetixTelecoms equipment maker West Sussex 1997 138.77% 10,294 83 Investment in new equipment halved labour costs in three years
6 Oxford Asymmetry InternationalChemicals researcher Oxfordshire 1997 138.64% 10,143 150 Oxford University spin-off that went public this year
7 Beresford Blake ThomasRecruitment agency London 1997 138.44% 8,991 55 Having survived one downturn, the company has taken measures to withstand the next
8 Wilson JamesSecurity provider Essex 1997 133.96% 6,096 265 One of two companies in league table founded by a teenager
9 Great Bear DistributionWarehouser and distributor Chester 1997 132.55% 10,544 146 Stores and distributes food for big grocers such as Sainsbury
10 Antal InternationalRecruitment agency Central London 1997 131.19% 3,921 100 The company places middle managers in 58 countries
11 DR Simpson Chilled FoodsFish freezing and processing for supermarkets Hull 1997 130.27% 8,599 120 Started with mother's redundancy cheque, now supplies Somerfield and Asda
12 A-Gas InternationalChemicals and gases distributor Bristol 1997 128.85% 11,986 29 Struck gold in newly regulated refrigerant-gas market
13 Software WarehouseMail-order and reseller of software and hardware assembled Birmingham 1997 127.88% 38,141 324 Young founder has recruited his sailing friends to help manage the business
14 McGregor Boyall AssociatesRecruitment agency London 1997 123.99% 18,526 41 Former design lecturer turns techno-recruiter
15 Meica GroupElectrical contractor West London 1997 123.82% 18,573 82 Company gained backing by venture capitalists after being rejected by banks
16 Gemstone TravelTravel agency Berkshire 1997 122.88% 16,446 91 Offers cheap airline seats via teletext and national newspaper advertising
17 Team 121Software installer Birmingham 1997 121.57% †12,433 115 Good profits earned on export sales to mainland Europe
18 Computer FuturesRecruitment agency Central London 1997 115.92% 70,528 283 Company says it adds 2,000 candidates to its database every week
19 C-Mar Services (UK)Marine consultancy Aberdeen 1997 112.30% 5,933 27 Launched by two sea captains while decommissioned from their drill-ship
20 Management Services InternationalHotel operator Berkshire 1997 109.10% 4,974 281 Three men turned ailing hotel company into profitable chain of six
21 Bulldog Computer ServicesFurniture maker Leicestershire 1997 103.57% 5,011 71 Two days before ISO9000 certification, a storm blew off the factory roof
22 S&J (Chatteris)Building contractors Cambridgeshire 1997 102.76% 6,777 26 Late-blooming family business jumps 48 places on the list
23 EyretelDevelopers of multimedia recording and analysis equipment West Sussex 1997 102.14% 17,344 156 Last year's top company on list recently raised £22.5m in venture capital
24 Classic Choice FurnishingsFurniture maker Mid Glamorgan 1997 102.12% 3,197 59 Chief executive nominated by venture capitalists decided to put up the money himself
25 AGP DistributionComputer components wholesaler Hampshire 1997 100.36% 22,025 29 Arranges staff football matches to foster camaraderie
26 Karavale EnterprisesElectronic design and assembly of circuit boards Welwyn Garden City 1997 98.89% 14,186 450 600-worker firm created from blue-chip plant closure
27 Humana ConsultingRecruitment agency London 1997 98.78% 11,319 28 Loyalty club for temps offers free training in exchange for hours worked
28 Backup StaffRecruitment agency Worcester 1997 98.33% 3,690 25 Squeezes prospective staff and clients' for competitors' practices
29 Argo HolidaysTour operator London 1997 98.21% 10,894 30 Frenchwoman ships Britons to Cyprus to learn western-style line dancing
30 Manning Gottlieb MediaAdvertising agency London 1997 96.80% 63,925 25 Clients include Nike and Virgin. Acquired by Omnicom
31 GyroMarketing agency London 1997 96.45% 4,607 17 Employee incentives include trips to Majorca and Armani suits
32 Schallenberg International TransportFreight forwarder Suffolk 1997 94.24% 3,342 10 Removal of east European borders presented threats but also opportunities
33 YardbraceChemicals distributor Hull 1997 94.21% 48,915 93 One of the largest exporters on the list, with 70% of revenues generated overseas
34 FDiRecruitment agency Brighton 1997 90.92% 14,787 112 Prides itself on training local youth and the unemployed
35 Highfield GroupNursing home operator Edinburgh 1997 90.57% 29,104 3,228 Largest employer in the league table with 3200 workers in 1997
36 DCS Group (UK)Toiletry products distributor Stratford-upon-Avon 1997 90.36% 35,562 24 Former hockey international joined three brothers to export to more than 49 countries
37 Roldec SystemsAssemblers and direct re-sellers of computers via mail order Wolverhampton 1997 89.78% 10,075 50 Claims to assemble and deliver its computers faster than Dell and Gateway
38 Link LicensingLicensing agency London 1997 89.73% 4,247 28 Positioning its Teddybears brand to be the next Teletubbies
39 Hedon SaladsFood processor Humberside 1997 88.96% 13,198 191 Plans to generate own electricity from waste lettuce
40 Custom Cable (Communications) CoCable installer Surrey 1997 88.15% 6,680 55 Founder moved from mother's basement to kitchen, then took over the whole house
41 Panacea ServicesProvision of computer maintenance services and sale of computers London 1997 86.74% 6,974 20 Partners originally set out to open a jazz bar
42 Bon Bon BuddiesConfectionery maker Gwent 1997 86.16% 4,593 14 Sells chocolate RugRats and Monopoly to leading retailers
43 Plan-Net ServicesComputer services provider London 1997 85.85% 3,933 42 IT contractors teamed up to get big bank's business
44 Camco Air ConditioningAir conditioning distributor West Midlands 1997 85.66% 8,229 15 Rewards customers with its Ferrari for a day
45 Gamble Jarvis PlantIndustrial equipment provider West Sussex 1997 85.13% 13,095 37 27 year-old family business shifts into high gear by selling imports from Canada
46 Thomson Pettie Tube ProductsSteel products maker Lanarkshire 1997 84.96% 5,602 150 After firm went into receivership owner bought it back at a quarter of the price
47 PMR GroupIT recruitment consultancy Kent 1997 83.97% 7,454 20 Staff vote on major decisions
48 Systems CapitalComputer lessor London 1997 83.75% 13,346 49 One-stop shop for computer leasing
49 Taran MicrosystemsComputer assembler Hampshire 1997 83.65% 8,121 18 The school of hard knocks: lost £60,000 to a disappearing supplier
50 BUE MarineMarine services provider Edinburgh 1997 83.27% 9,211 51 Operate solely in unpredictable Caspian Sea region
51 BodenClothing retailer Northwest London 1997 82.45% 9,491 61 Use friends and staff as models for up-market catalogue
52 Svenska Palmer ConstructionSpecialist builder Tyne & Wear 1997 81.97% 4,306 60 Builder specialises in Swedish timber-framed system of construction
53 GlotelRecruitment agency Central London 1997 81.15% 49,085 133 Eighteen offices internationally from San Francisco to Sydney
54 Lucas FlettWaste equipment maker Buckinghamshire 1997 80.73% 20,603 180 Owner bought back business he founded 30 years ago
55 Telesoft DesignTelephony switch maker Dorset 1997 80.68% 6,430 35 Achieves the second-highest return on sales of all companies in the league table
56 Pride Valley FoodsBaker County Durham 1997 79.90% 8,027 155 Secured new premises within hours of catastrophic fire
57 Tai Computer SystemsComputer components distributor London 1997 79.79% 9,314 13 Three cousins squeeze £9m in sales from just 13 staff
58 Voyager NetworksComputer consultancy Coventry 1997 79.75% 5,866 50 Installs computer networks for clients such as PepsiCo and the Civil Aviation Authority
59 Modular TechnologyManufacture and supply of data communications products Oxfordshire 1997 79.68% 7,808 61 Company claims one in four PCs sold in Britain contains its products
60 Mason CommunicationsIT consultancy Manchester 1997 79.66% 6,043 80 Full-time culture chief conducts company samba drum playing rituals
61 Countrywide ConsortiumProvision of grounds maintenance services to corporates Cheshire 1997 78.73% 8,478 20 Family-run business is sole franchisor in league table with 50 UK franchisees
62 Ink (Clothing)Clothes manufacturer London 1997 78.66% 3,359 11 Competes with Calvin Klein and Diesel, but in much lower price bracket
63 ComDisAudio visual equipment provider West Midlands 1997 77.38% 3,360 27 Husband and wife team capitalises on audio visual boom
64 Phoenix ComputersComputer services contractor Northampton 1997 77.20% 12,172 220 Owner used venture capital backers to retire partner
65 TPD GroupPublishers of magazines and directories London 1997 76.38% 15,243 143 Company says quality and employees matter more than aggressive profit targets
66 ADA Computer SystemsComputer installer West Sussex 1997 75.98% 3,642 25 Sales people are trained to turn away unprofitable business
67 InterdependenceFinancial support service Hampshire 1997 75.96% 11,528 15 Company believes female co-founder provides healthy balance
68 Extra PersonnelProvision of temporary and permanent staff to industry West Midlands 1997 74.59% 9,414 87 Claims to help the unemployed in its area
69 Carphone WarehouseMobile phone retailer Northwest London 1997 74.36% 107,371 451 Becoming a household name and has the largest sales on the list
70 New Forest FoodsPoultry importer Wiltshire 1997 74.33% 18,366 111 Brothers claim they can track imports down to the chicken that laid the egg
71 Henson CorporationRecruitment agency Essex 1997 74.01% 14,395 139 Sleeping beauty awakened by demands for experts to tackle millenium bug
72 DX CommunicationsRetail of mobile phones & network contracts Lanarkshire 1997 73.61% †21,217 173 Young founder has built Scotland's leading cellular retailer
73 AculabTelephony equipment maker Buckinghamshire 1997 73.46% 9,373 73 Jazz musician switched from sound mixing to digital telephony
74 The Gadget ShopGift retailer Humberside 1997 73.32% 12,151 160 21 groovy stores hawk inflatable furniture, lava lamps, and trendy yo-yo's
75 Sol-TecComputer distributor Reading 1997 72.86% 3,156 26 First and largest client cold-called from co-founder's bedroom
76 Special Delivery ServicesCourier London 1997 72.66% 7,075 173 Sophisticated database pinpoints package location with picture of messenger
77 BasebuyClothes retailer Lancashire 1997 72.46% 3,332 100 13 stores still run by four people from founder's living room
78 Noto CateringJapanese caterer London 1997 72.32% 3,444 50 Runs Harrods' sushi bar and supplies Pret a Manger
79 Anglia Telecom CentresTelecommunications specialist Suffolk 1997 71.83% 37,270 235 Chief executive slept in his car to save money for start-up
80 QuartzAir conditioning maker Dorset 1997 71.80% 5,958 87 Founder sold out this year for £4m after four years in business
81 ComputappointRecruitment agency London 1997 71.76% 6,836 16 Former Harrods' manager used £10,000 credit-card loan to fund start-up
82 Ashbourne CommunicationsCable installer Southwest London 1997 71.43% 36,515 175 Irish brothers turn £10,000 into £37m sales business
83 MBI MBOHotelliers Hertfordshire 1997 70.86% 3,696 75 Planet Hollywood-type hotel for backpackers and other business hotels in central London
84 ROC RecruitmentRecruitment agency London 1997 70.78% 4,978 41 Company set up by female entrepreneur later joined by ex-army husband
85 Prosoft LogisticsCD maker West London 1997 70.73% 5,479 35 Textbook case of three management consultants with venture capital backing
86 Telecom Design CommunicationsElectronic components distributor Hampshire 1997 70.71% 3,503 23 One of company's largest customers, Modular Technology, is also on the list
87 KingsburghTechnology value added reseller Edinburgh 1997 70.41% 5,479 35 Has profited from implementing Microsoft's frequent upgrades
88 SteljesReseller & hire of audio-visual equipment West London 1997 70.03% 14,969 37 Won over banker by displaying business plan on equipment he planned to sell
89 PCI LiveDesignMarketing agency London 1997 69.97% 7,806 36 Boss uses 30-second recruiting test, arguing clients do the same
90 GardmanGarden products wholesaler Lincolnshire 1997 69.73% 6,762 87 Tuned into national gardening obsession
91 MiletrianContract cleaner Surrey 1997 69.70% 27,434 188 22 year-old trainee chef spotted opportunity while cleaning offices to pay bills
92 CAE Office SuppliesComputer distributor Hertfordshire 1997 68.86% 6,071 15 Business was set up by Iranian and Lebanese couple
93 Grampian Electronic ComponentsElectronic components distributor Aberdeenshire 1997 68.46% †4,096 20 Co-founder sold fish and chip shop to join childhood friend in business
94 MJ Quinn (Electrical)Electrical contractor Merseyside 1997 68.06% 5,332 39 Has won contracts with organisations such as Railtrack and London Underground
95 TeleAdaptHotel telecoms provider Central London 1997 68.03% 4,118 71 Supplies more than 40 types of telephone sockets to business travellers
96 Prime Time RecruitmentRecruitment agency Northampton 1997 67.32% 21,720 165 Opened seven regional offices on day one with the help of venture capital
97 LogistixMarketing agency Buckinghamshire 1997 67.29% 10,314 24 Founders mortgaged homes to buy company back from receiver
98 STH Stretch The HorizonMarketing agency London 1997 66.61% 7,654 32 Regular brainstorming sessions with staff
99 Glyn Webb WallpapersSuppliers of wallpaper and home improvements Lancashire 1997 66.55% 24,789 447 Claims to have funded 10 new stores in past 3 years with retained earnings
100 The Jean SceneClothes retailer West Lothian 1997 66.01% 4,818 116 Raju Tali started as market trader at the age of 21

* Supplied by Company  † Annualised figure