Founders and senior directors of leading Top Track 250 companies gathered to hear from Princess Yachts’ executive chairman on the lessons learned from the rapid turnaround in its fortunes – from losses of £19m in 2015, to profits of £30m in 2018 – as well as his plans for 2020 and beyond; and discuss their own experiences at our pre-dinner roundtable discussion, co-hosted by Grant Thornton
The 55 guests were drawn from a cross section of current and alumni Top Track 250 companies – including Available Car, END., Matchesfashion.com and Sushi Daily. A straw poll gauging confidence in their companies’ prospects over the next 18 months found resounding positivity, with an average score in the room of 8 out of 10.
James Brown, Partner at Grant Thornton, set the scene, highlighting that even in uncertain times private mid-market companies can plan ahead, and challenged the guests to articulate their key strategic priorities, and how they plan to strengthen governance.
Antony Sheriff, executive chairman of Princess Yachts, shares his insights
James introduced Antony Sheriff, executive chairman of Princess Yachts, which has featured on Top Track 250 seven times. Its luxury yachts are made in Plymouth – where it is embarking on a £100m investment programme – and showcased in Palma and Cannes. Having made losses of £19m in 2015, it generated profits of £29.8m in 2018, on sales of £340m.
Antony explained how he had implemented a change in culture since his arrival in 2016, following the approach of high value luxury brands such as Ferrari – where design and finish is paramount, and customer demand significantly outstrips supply.
He also discussed how it had invested in exceptional after-sales customer service and managed the impact of its rapid growth on its international distributors and workforce. He outlined how the company was now in a phase of consolidating its operations and processes to reflect its scale. “We need to be a bit more corporate but not too much as we don’t want to lose our entrepreneurial spark,” he said.
Guests had the opportunity to ask questions and quizzed Antony on how he had successfully raised prices, how well Princess Yachts knows its customers, and how he planned to develop the brand.
Alice Arnold is finance director at Dune London, the footwear brand which operates more than 300 shops and concessions worldwide. Her company featured on Top Track 250 for the fifth time in 2019, having grown sales to a record £189m.
She said: “Events like Top Track 250 are fantastic for people like me to meet other directors. You don’t often get the opportunity to talk to people from a wide range of different industries.”
Martin Thatcher is managing director of Thatchers Cider and the fourth generation of his family to run the Somerset firm. It featured as a Top Track 250 One to Watch this year after strong exports helped sales break the £100m milestone for the first time in 2018, with profits up 155% to £9.4m.
He told our camera: “We’ve had a really good evening discussing all sorts of things and I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the development of people, service and product.”
Naomi Coxwell is non-executive director at James Walker Group, which was founded in 1882 and provides sealing services for the oil, gas, power and marine sectors. It featured on Top Track 250 for a third year in 2019 after growing profits 15% to £8.7m, on sales of £116.5m.
She noted: “Today was an opportunity to convene with my peer group and hear what others have to say about the key challenges and risks that their companies face.”
More information on Top Track 250
For more information about the league table and events programme, see: https://www.fasttrack.co.uk/league-tables/top-track-250/
For company nominations please enter your details here.
For opportunities to meet and build relationships with the founders and directors of these mid-market growth companies, see sponsorship opportunities for Top Track 250.