Senior directors from Britain’s 250 leading mid-market private companies with the biggest sales were recognised at our 16th annual Sunday Times PwC Top Track 250 awards, held yesterday as an interactive virtual event. Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the CBI and founder of Cobra Beer; Jo Malone, founder and CEO of VetPartners; and Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of PureGym, were guest speakers.
The annual Sunday Times PwC Top Track 250 awards event brought together the senior directors running the UK’s leading mid-market private companies with the biggest sales. Pre-Covid-19, they grew their combined sales by 17% to £59.6bn, and operating profits by 25% to £5.1bn, in their last financial year.
Guests & sponsor welcome
240 guests attended the interactive virtual event, including senior directors from Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, Busy Bees, EG Group, END, Lush, Sushi Daily and The White Company.
Encouragingly, 92% of guests polled were very confident (38%) or confident (54%) about their company’s prospects over the next 12 months.
Carl Sizer, head of regions at PwC, our title sponsor, welcomed guests and praised them for their hard work and determination in the face of the Covid-19 crisis:
“There is no doubt that 2020 has been incredibly tough but that makes it all the more important to really celebrate success. I’ve been inspired to see how businesses have responded to the pandemic with real ingenuity and resilience,” he said
Guests heard from two leading entrepreneurs who shared their insights on responding to the pandemic: Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, and founder & chairman of Cobra Beer; and Jo Malone, founder and chief executive of VetPartners, one of Europe’s largest veterinary chains, with more than 450 clinics, which has featured twice on Top Track 250.
Lord Bilimoria, who became the first BAME president of the CBI in June, outlined the key steps necessary to help UK business recover from the pandemic’s economic impact.
He told guests: “A time of crisis is when you can come up with opportunities. Now is the time to look at long term things like climate change, where there are huge opportunities with employment and investment for the planet. We’ve got to take the long term view, as well as surviving now.”
In her keynote, Jo, founder and CEO of VetPartners, explained how the Yorkshire group has grown from only three regional practices in 2015 to now operating more than 450 clinics across the UK and Europe with sales of £349m, up 33% in the year to June, and operating profits of £45.2m, up 29%; and expects sales of £500m in 2021.
She said: “Covid has been an epic time for us, and we’re much stronger on the other side. We’ve definitely learned that there are lots of different ways to communicate, and that’s been key to getting us through.”
Both speakers joined John Collingridge, deputy business editor of The Sunday Times, for a Q&A.
Virtual roundtables & 1:1 networking
After the Q&A, guests participated in small virtual breakout discussions to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic, with sponsor representatives facilitating the conversations, and also in 1:1 video networking.
No 1 company award
The number one company award was presented by business editor Oliver Shah to Turner & Townsend. The construction consultancy grew sales 16% to £744.3m and operating profits 29% to £87.1m in the year to April. It is headquartered in Leeds and owned by its 93 partners worldwide.
Accepting the award, chairman and chief executive Vincent Clancy said: “It’s great to get recognition at any time but particularly this year when there are so many challenges around. I know our staff around the world are very grateful for the chance to celebrate something positive.”
Breakout discussion session
Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of Top Track 250 alumnus PureGym, led a breakout discussion session after the awards on whether Covid-19 can be an accelerator for positive change. The gym group, which has had to close hundreds of gyms during the lockdown restrictions, has featured on Top Track 250 for the last five consecutive years, with sales up 12% to £255m in 2019, and ebitda up 63% to £125m.
He told guests: “I’m not a believer that we can leap forward from a position of instability and uncertainty. From a business point of view we are focusing very hard on stepping back and resetting our foundation in as many ways as possible as we get through the crisis.”
League table award certificates
All companies on this year’s Top Track 250 league table received a league table award certificate to recognise their success.
These were shipped with a goodie box by our alumni company Diamond Logistics, with gifts from our sponsors and other alumni kindly provided refreshments: Cobra beer, Naked Wines, PROPER popcorn and Graze snacks.
Recognising the achievements of all these companies is made possible by support from our sponsors PwC, Lloyds Banking Group and Trowers & Hamlins.
More information on the league table
The 2021 Sunday Times Top Track 250 league table supplement will be published with The Sunday Times on 3 October, with an awards event in November.
For company nominations please enter your details here.
For opportunities to meet and build relationships with the founders and directors of these fast-growing private tech companies, see sponsorship opportunities for Top Track 250.