The owners and directors of Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing profits were recognised at our 21st annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track awards, held yesterday as an interactive virtual event, with a Q&A with Ben Francis, co-founder of Gymshark, and a keynote from Kenny Wilson, chief executive of Dr Martens. Four companies won five prestigious awards.
The annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track awards event brought together the founders and directors of the UK’s private companies with the fastest-growing profits over the past three years, published in April with the awards postponed until now. This year’s league table featured 70 out of the original 100 companies who agreed to be published after the pandemic struck. Pre-Covid-19, the companies grew their profits by between 45% and 156% pa to a combined £769m.
Special awards were sponsored by BDO, Santander, UBS and The Sunday Times (see below).
Guests & sponsor welcome
162 guests attended the interactive virtual event, including founders and senior directors from Caffè Nero, Gymshark, NG Bailey, Plimsoll Productions, PureGym, Regatta, Riverford and Tropic Skincare.
Guests were welcomed by Paul Eagland, managing partner at title sponsor BDO, who said:
“Huge congratulations, because on this year’s list there are some amazing and quite spectacular good news stories, in a world where we definitely need some good news.”
Encouragingly, 89% of guests polled were very confident (27%) or confident (62%) about their company’s prospects over the next 12 months.
Guests heard from Ben Francis, co-founder of Gymshark, and Kenny Wilson, chief executive of Dr Martens.
In a Q&A with Oliver Shah, business editor of The Sunday Times, Ben, 28, and a 70% shareholder, described how he and his team have grown Gymshark – No 1 on Profit Track this year – from a start-up in 2012 into a global fitness clothing brand, valued at over £1bn when it sold a 21% stake to US private equity firm General Atlantic in August.
He told guests: “One thing that has been embedded in us during the pandemic is that driving forward with purpose in a brand is more important than ever. People nowadays want to associate with brands that reflect their values.”
They then heard from Kenny, CEO of Dr Martens, on how the iconic footwear brand, which operates 122 stores worldwide and celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, more than doubling profits to record ebitda of £185m on sales of £672m. In August it repaid its furlough cash after strong lockdown sales. It has featured on Profit Track three times.
He said: “It’s probably been the toughest six months I’ve had in my career. We’ve learned things like how to run the business remotely and our ability to be super agile even as we stuck to our strategy, so as digital more than doubled we had to open two distribution centres in the middle of a pandemic.”
Both speakers joined Oliver Shah to take questions from guests.
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.
Companies presented with special awards were:
- Go-Pak, which makes food packaging for the likes of Starbucks and Greggs, and has a biodegradable brand, won the Ones to Watch award, sponsored by BDO and presented by David Buttress, chairman of the judges and UK co-founder of Just Eat.
- Gymshark, which was valued at over £1bn in a private equity deal this summer, with Ben Francis increasing his stake to 70% and senior management to 9%, won the Value creation award, sponsored by UBS
- Invenio Business Solutions, which has offices across 11 countries and grew international sales fivefold over three years to £20.4m in 2019, making profits of £7.5m, won the International growth award, sponsored by Santander
- Brompton, which exports its folding-bikes worldwide, tripling profits in three years to £3.9m in 2019, and provided 1,000 free bikes to NHS staff, won the Best brand award, sponsored by The Sunday Times
- Gymshark, which reached the top spot after profits rocketed by 156% a year to £18.6m in 2019, on sales of £176m, and this year hit £31.8m, won the Fastest-growing profits award, sponsored by BDO
League table award certificates
All companies on this year’s Profit Track league table received a league table award certificate to recognise their success.
These were shipped carbon-neutrally with the help of DHL Express in a goodie box, with gifts from our sponsors and our alumni companies: BrewDog beer, Naked Wines, Graze snacks, and PROPER popcorn.
Recognising the achievements of all these companies is made possible by support from our long-term sponsors BDO, Santander and UBS.
More information on the league table
The 2021 Sunday Times Profit Track league table supplement will be published with The Sunday Times in April, with an awards event in June 2021.
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 companies, see sponsorship opportunities for Profit Track 100.