THE WALES FAST GROWTH 50 2014


At a time when this week’s unemployment data shows that the economy is starting to motor, then can be no better time to celebrate the success the fastest growing Welsh firms.

Since it was first launched in 1999, the Wales Fast Growth 50 has become firmly established as the award that entrepreneurial businesses in Wales aspire to. In addition, the annual gala dinner, which is open only to the fifty fastest growing firms in Wales, has developed into one of the largest Welsh business events of the year and, unlike any other award ceremony, is judged solely by the performance of businesses in the marketplace.

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Village Bakery, the fastest growing firm in Wales for 2013.  As those who know me can attest, I am not one who is easily impressed! However, Village Bakery is an incredible company that is an example for every other Welsh business. A traditional family firm that is 80 years old, it has transformed itself by doing what it does best, investing in the highest quality manufacturing machines money can buy and developing the skills of its workforce.

As it aims to become a £50m business over the next few years, this is a business that has enterprise and innovation in its DNA and will, in my opinion, is an exemplar not only for its industry but for every other business in Wales.

The Fast Growth 50 lists have, during the last sixteen years, shown the continuing impact that the fastest growing firms can have on the Welsh economy in terms of both wealth creation and employment.  This year is no exception and the fifty firms featured have generated a collective turnover of £272 million and employed three thousand people in 2013.

More importantly, during the period 2011-2013, they generated an additional £175 million in turnover at a growth rate of 182 per cent as compared to 123 per cent last year. They also created over 1,500 new jobs, which demonstrates their continuing importance across the Welsh economy.

This year, we have eight companies with a turnover of over £10 million, a reduction on last year’s list. However, what is remarkable is the emergence of so-called breakthrough firms i.e. those with a turnover of less than £2 million. There are twenty seven on this year’s list that are an interesting stage of their development and they could, and should, with the right support from the private and public sector continue their path towards the £10 million mark over the next few years.

Growth is not necessarily something that is found only in young companies. Although there are fourteen fast growth start-ups (five years old or less) on this year’s list, the average age of a fast growth company in Wales is twelve years old, which suggests that growth tends to take place when the firm is established within its marketplace.

It is also worth noting that whilst international trading activity is normally associated with high growth firms, only six firms from this year’s list are exporting more than 50 per cent of their goods and services overseas. This means that there are opportunities for improved international trading from firms and it can only be hoped that the Welsh Government will specifically target some these for support over the next 12 months.

In terms of industry representation, it would seem that the recovery is taking hold in construction and building with nine firms working within this sector. There are also five firms within manufacturing and engineering although, reflecting the growth in the economy, it is service sector businesses that dominate the list this year.

Cardiff, yet again, is the main centre for fast growth firms, with thirteen businesses being based in the capital city. However, the majority of the fast growth firms are to be found in the convergence region of Wales – which is one of the poorest parts in the whole of Europe – showing that growth can occur even in those areas that are suffering economically. Indeed, growth firms are to be found across seventeen counties in Wales with only Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan having no Fast Growth 50 firms in their boundaries in 2014.

To celebrate the success of these growing firms, the annual Fast Growth 50 gala dinner at the Mercure Holland House Hotel was held in Cardiff last Friday. Hosted again by BBC Presenter Sian Lloyd and with nearly 500 guests attending, awards were presented to firms to highlight the individual successes in the different sectors represented across the fifty fast growth businesses on this year’s list. These were:

  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN MANUFACTURING AND ENGINEERING: VILLAGE BAKERY 
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS SERVICES: COMPLETE BACKGROUND SCREENING
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN PROFESSIONAL AND FINANCIAL SERVICES: SPRINGTIDE CONSULTING
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN CONSUMER AND RETAIL SERVICES: TATAMI FIGHTWEAR
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN CONSTRUCTION AND BUILDING SERVICES: MORGANSTONE
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN CREATIVE AND KNOWLEDGE INDUSTRIES: HYDRO INDUSTRIES
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATIONAL SERVICES: FIX TRAINING
  • FASTEST GROWING BUSINESS IN CARDIFF: ACTIVEQUOTE HEALTH
  • FASTEST GROWING INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: HYDRO INDUSTRIES
  • FASTEST GROWING SOCIAL ENTERPRISE OR CHARITY: SOUTH EAST WALES ENERGY AGENCY
  • SUSTAINABLE GROWTH AWARDS - LINEA RESOURCING, COMPLETE BACKGROUND SCREENING, JOLLY GOOD VEHICLE RENTALS, SAVE BRITAIN MONEY, Y3S LOANS

You have to be there to experience the confidence and sheer exuberance of these fantastic companies and, as one leading entrepreneur once told me, if we could bottle this then the Welsh economy would have no problem in growing!

I am grateful to Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking for being the main sponsor for the gala dinner and to Capital Law, Cardiff Airport, Cityjet, Business in Focus, Cake Communications, Logicalis, Media Wales, RSM, Sinclair Finance and Leasing, Smart Solutions, and the University of South Wales for sponsoring the individual awards on the evening. With both Stephen Crabb, the Secretary for State for Wales and Edwina Hart, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, in attendance, it was fantastic to see the Fast Growth 50 firms celebrating their achievements with their staff, customers, family and friends and helping to make it a very special night for everyone at the event.

Finally, congratulations to Hydro Industries of Llangennech for becoming the fastest growing firm in Wales in 2014. A home grown business that exports globally, its  main objective is to champion innovative thinking with a clear humanitarian purpose and, through this, transform communities around the World using its unique water-based technology.  Like many Fast Growth 50 businesses, its greatest resource is its team, which has developed a vast array of knowledge and skill and this has been the key driver to grow the business to its current level. It is also thinking big, growing globally and is continually looking to improve its in-house skill base, and adding strength to its organisation from targeted recruitment and organic growth via training.

Its growth and development as been remarkable and I can only hope that we are finally witnessing, in the shape of Hydro and other growing innovative firms such as The Sure Chill Company, the emergence of entrepreneurial businesses that are going to have a massive impact on the global stage and, more importantly, on the Welsh economy. Indeed, all of the firms featured this year are examples of excellence and wealth creation in a range of sectors and locations across Wales. We should be proud of their achievement and I encourage you read their stories of entrepreneurial success and business inspiration on the Fast Growth 50 website.

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