Super Eight: East Anglia's 'kaboom!' firms celebrate remarkable year
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 July 2019
London Stock Exchange Group's 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain report shows East Anglian firms are making a big contribution to the UK economy, driving growth and employment. Sarah Chambers spoke to some of the firms listed
Small and medium firms across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex which have featured in a list of the UK's 1,000 fastest-growing and most dynamic firms are punching above their weight in their value to the economy.
London Stock Exchange Group's 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain report shows East Anglian firms are making a big contribution to UK plc, driving growth and employment as they continue to expand - despite challenging economic conditions.
Collectively, the firms - described by chancellor Philip Hammond as "the backbone of the UK economy" - recorded 108% annual average sales growth, and collectively generated almost 96,000 jobs over the last two years.
"Small businesses not only generate more than 50% of all private sector turnover in the UK, they also account for 60% of all UK private sector employment," Mr Hammond said.
Among the firms featured are Timberwolf of Stowmarket, AJN Steelstock Ltd, of Kentford, Newmarket, Abel Holdings (Norfolk) Ltd of Watton, Thetford, Alloy Fabweld of Great Dunmow, north Essex, Norwich's Angling Direct, Black Swan Care Group in Norwich, Cloudfm, of Colchester, and DS Watson Civil Engineering based in Beccles.
Woodchipper manufacturer Timberwolf, which employs 84 staff and reached a turnover of £16m last year, was among a group of five businesses nationwide to represent the engineering and manufacturing sector in the list and was highlighted as a leader in the manufacturing sector.
It makes two machines - the TW 230PAHB and TW 230DHB - which have contributed significantly to its growth in the UK and Europe, with sales rising by 256% since 2013.
Managing director Chris Perry said the accolade was "a real boost" for the whole team. "We have grown considerably in both size and sales over the past few years, so are very proud to cement that growth with recognition on the national stage," he added.
Black Swan Care Group, which employs 650 people, operates more than 600 registered care beds across 20 care homes, which are all rated either 'good' or 'outstanding' by the Care Quality Commission. Its turnover this year was more than £18m, up from £9m in 2016.
Managing director Tom Lyons (inset left) described the listing, which is based on key financial performance indicators and sector benchmarks, was a "fantastic" accolade, and down to the dedication and caring nature of its staff.
"We are celebrating 25 years in business this year and this accolade is a fitting recognition of our growth," he said. "We specialise in turning around poorly performing businesses of which there have been several in recent years."
Angling Direct, the largest specialist fishing tackle retailer in the UK, selling its products through its network of 28 retail stores and online, launched a 30,000sq ft central distribution centre in Rackheath, Norfolk, in 2015, where the company's head office is also based. Its sales rose by 39% to £42m in 2018, and it employs 352 staff.
Chief executive Darren Bailey (left) said they were "delighted" to join the list. "Angling Direct has certainly come a long way since being a single shop in Norfolk, but our local roots still remain as important as ever, while the brand embarks on its international expansion," he said. "We believe our success comes from our passionate staff."
AJN Steelstock Ltd, one of the largest steel stockholding businesses in the UK, operates from its two sites in Suffolk and Somerset, which together comprise 27 acres and hold close to 35,000 tonnes of steel. It employs 375 staff and operates a fleet of more than 60 vehicles, reporting a turnover of more than £136m in the last financial year - a 16% increase on the previous 12 months.
Finance director Courtney Bell said they were "delighted" to be listed for the second year running.
"Our company continues to grow strongly," he said. "Over the last five years the company has invested around £20m in new plant and equipment to support continued growth and expansion across both sites. Despite the turbulence affecting the steel sector, our investment programme remains unchanged and we expect the trend for growth and expansion to continue in the years to come."
Facilities management firm Cloudfm, which employs 330 people and has a turnover of £58.8m, with a further 7,000 sub-contracted engineers, started in 2011 and now operates across Europe, recently winning the Queen's Award.
Chief executive Jeff Dewing (right) said they were delighted at the latest accolade. "The report shines a light on some of the UK's most vibrant companies and Cloudfm is one of only 147 companies in our turnover range to have been recognised. We are thrilled to have been welcomed back into the list for a second consecutive year."