First award finalists are announced

THE finalists have been announced for the first five categories of the 2008 Anglian Business Awards. Organised by the East Anglian Daily Times, with the support of Baker Tilly as main sponsors, the awards aim to celebrate success across the local business community.

THE finalists have been announced for the first five categories of the 2008 Anglian Business Awards.

Organised by the East Anglian Daily Times, with the support of Baker Tilly as main sponsors, the awards aim to celebrate success across the local business community.

Over the next three weeks, the finalists will be announced in a total of 14 categories, with the first five being the nominations for Start-up Business of the Year, the Innovation and Technology Award, the Outstanding Customer Service Award, the Young Business Person of the Year title, and the Training and Development award.

The category winners, together with the overall Business of the Year award, will be announced next month at a gala dinner at Trinity Park Conference Centre.

Start-Up Business of the Year

Sponsored by Gotelee & Goldsmith

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Mad Rabbit Recruitment

Three friends working in recruitment got together in July 2007 to realise the dream of setting up their own company. Focusing principally on the local SME market, they set about promoting the Mad Rabbit brand together with their fresh approach to recruitment offering exceptional resourcing solutions coupled with an innovative flat rate fee charging system. Having developed, and retained, an impressive local client list, Mad Rabbit moved into prestigious offices in central Ipswich earlier this year.

Smith & Coburn Ltd

Launched in June this year, Royston-based Smith & Coburn is a washroom and janitorial supplier that is seeking to carve a niche in the market by providing outstanding customer service and supplying quality products at competitive prices, including the increasingly popular eco-friendly range Ecover. Directors Glen Smith and Steve Coburn between them have 25 years' experience in the trade and have already built up a strong local customer base, including Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. They anticipate doubling the distribution facility early next year to accommodate increasing sales levels.

Starburst Dental Care Ltd

Responding to the difficulty of accessing quality NHS dental care, Peter Barter founded Starburst Dental Care in 2007 to set up and manage dental surgeries across East Anglia specifically to provide quality dental care at near NHS prices. The first surgery opened in Bury St Edmunds in September last year, a second opened in Hadleigh in February, a third in Debenham in June, and two others are planned to open before the end of 2008. Starburst also opened an NHS surgery in Brandon after winning a PCT contract. After the first year's trading, the company employs five dentists, one hygienist and 14 support staff.

Innovation and Technology Award

Sponsored by University Campus Suffolk

Azura Group, an IT consultancy in Ardleigh, developed an IT solution called PreLIMS for the UK DNA Banking Network in response to problems with collating and managing information in DNA-led studies. Previously DNA samples were sent separately to the laboratory, while questionnaires linked to the samples and consent forms were gathered at collection points for the researchers. This disparate operation often led to mislaid or mismatched information. PreLIMS enables researchers to create their own questionnaires which are then answered online when the sample is taken, managing the process from “arm to archive”. PreLIMS is now being promoted for commercial use.

BT MyPlace is the world's first location-centric, personalised broadband portal which enables individuals to enjoy relevant services from any wireless device while on the move in a particular area, starting with the City of Westminster. io global, an Ipswich-based spin-out from BT's Adastral Park, developed the technology behind the service. BT MyPlace answers the question “I'm here, what's nearby that I would like?” by using your location and stated preferences. It actively recommends things from restaurants to films based on what you like and where you are.

The Footfunction Centre run by RS Scan Lab uses state-of-the-art equipment to produce D3D orthotics based on a digital assessment of the foot 'in motion' rather than the more traditional static analysis. The clinic provides biomechanical assessments on the largest footscan walkway in Europe to diagnose problems in gait, predict possible injury and provide corrective orthotics. It treats international athletes from all over the world, and believes there is future potential in the military, NHS and veterinary markets.

Outstanding Customer Service Award

Sponsored by National Express East Anglia

Ardex UK is a manufacturer of premium quality tiling, flooring and construction products based in Haverhill. It has an organisational culture that always puts the customer first, from providing easy access to products and services to resolving enquiries first time. With support from the customer services department, Ardex implements consistent customer service 'gold' standards and seeks regular feedback from customers which it uses to improve. Any complaint is dealt with at director level. Ardex also offers free technical advice and product training.

Customers visiting any of Feathers' four hair salons in the north Essex area are given a five-step service comprising total commitment, a full consultation to ensure the hair style meets their lifestyle and needs, product advice, hands-on styling practise, and a home care maintenance plan. If there are any problems, customers are guaranteed they will be put right free of charge. Feathers uses a quality control letter system, offering £5 discount incentives, to seek customer feedback and implements champion certificates for stylists focusing on service excellence.

React Computer Partnership Ltd in Woodbridge supplies IT networking solutions to businesses of all sizes. It also runs regular seminars to encourage minimising paperwork and maximising productivity through IT. React continually strives to improve customer service standards, operating a call logging and service management system and pledging to tailor its service to customers' specific needs. Earlier this year, React was awarded gold partner status by Microsoft and the results of the customer review showed React constantly outperforms other Microsoft partners in customer service performance.

Young Business Person of the Year

Sponsored by Picasso HR

Joe Friedlein founded Browser Media, a search engine marketing agency, in Colchester in 2005. From setting up the business in a garden office with no investment, he has developed the company into one of the UK's leading agencies with a list of blue-chip clients including John Lewis, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and TV channel Five. Joe has also put his early accountancy training to good use overseeing an impressive financial performance that has seen turnover and operating profit treble from year one trading to year three. He is reinvesting profits back into the business taking premises at Braxted Park for his team of four and a satellite office in London.

Jody Smith joined Feathers hairdressers in 1997 where she gained professional stylist qualifications before opening the Feathers hair salon in Witham in 2003 with a team of four. Her commitment to the salon ensured its success and she now has a team of 12 stylists and six juniors. Jody actively encourages young people into hairdressing and runs the company's training academy. Meanwhile she continues her own improvement recently becoming a master associate for Paul Mitchell. Jody has introduced new business initiatives and team reward schemes that have helped the Witham salon to increase turnover for five consecutive years and dominate the Feathers inter salon awards.

Over the past three years, Deborah Watson has taken Woodbridge-based Lexia Media from an East Anglian start-up PR firm to a successful PR, design and event management services company with clients across the South East. Finding a niche in the charity sector, Lexia Media has won awards for its work with clients such as St John's Ambulance and has recently won the brand and design contract for the London Lord Mayor's Appeal. Deborah has doubled turnover of the company in the past year and is a powerful ambassador for the industry through her commitment to mentoring students interested in media and PR.

Training and Development Award

Sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council

It is not by chance that Monthind Cleaning in Copford near Colchester boasts an excellent staff retention rate in an industry known for high staff turnover. Employing more than 800 staff, the company runs an in-house training scheme comprising eight levels that allow employees to progress. It also encourages staff members to take additional external training related to their roles and implements several recognition and incentive schemes which make individuals feel valued. Monthind recognises that its staff success is the measure of the company's performance.

Leading global insurance broker Willis this year established the Willis Academy to develop a global training and development strategy. The Academy provides a rigorous governance process and is run 'by the business for the business'. In Ipswich, Ian Gale has the role of learning governor responsible for talent management which is achieved through various training strands including accelerated learning in the Technical Training Centre, leadership training, online and lunchtime learning, secondments, training from associates, and qualifications. Willis also works with local education providers to help develop future talent.

Blue Donkey, a business-to-business telephone marketing firm in Soham, is reliant on its employees ability to make unscripted but effective calls. Staff spend 10% of their time in training, briefing or monitoring, which includes an initial induction programme, weekly competency and skills training, informal weekly workshops, and monthly one-to-one supervision meetings. Employees are given clear targets and high performance is recognised through daily feedback and a bottle of wine is given each week to the highest achiever as nominated by colleagues.