Published: 10:30, 07 November 2019
The 2019 MegaGrowth 50 has been revealed - listing the top 50 fastest-growing private companies in the county.
And once again the list showcases a diverse range of industries, highlighting Kent's appeal across the sectors.
After another year dominated by uncertainty over Brexit, the list demonstrates that despite the challenges, firms in the county are pushing ahead and growing their revenues at impressive levels.
In addition to the main top 50, there is also a list of the fastest growing exporters - a key sector for those eyeing significant growth.
So just who came out on top?
Here are profiles of the top three, followed by the list in full...
1. Aset (UK)
The next time you check in your luggage at the airport and it disappears through those little plastic flaps behind the check-in desk, spare a thought for the maze of conveyor belts which lie behind it.
Because it is through their installation that the company which sits atop of the MegaGrowth 50 list has found its success.
Aset UK was founded in 2008 by directors Steve Allen and Kevin Roots and has found itself at the forefront of a lucrative stream of work at airports both home and abroad.
Not that it started off with that intention.
Explains Mr Allen: “We started off doing mechanical and technical engineering services in general, and the way the business has grown has seen us specialise in material handling; baggage handling, conveyors for airports, sugar, parcel handling – we do it all.
“But in 2014 one of our biggest customers, on the parcel side, folded.
“So we had a bit of regroup then and thought about where were we going to take the business. We decided to focus on the baggage handling at airports side.
“And it's paid off.
“At the moment, the aviation business if very buoyant and with international laws changing, airports have to do it so they're always spending money.
“People don't appreciate the amount of conveyors there are - they check their bag in but there's miles and miles of it behind the scenes.”
It has just completed its biggest single project – a four-year complete renovation of the baggage system and screening machines at Heathrow Terminal 2. Likewise for Heathrow Terminal 4.
Work at Gatwick north and south terminals has also just been concluded, while it is just embarking on an 18-month project at Stansted.
Add to that, it is also looking at international projects too, in addition to picking up contracts for the likes of the Royal Mail.
“Our turnover was £6.8million last year,” the director adds. “In 2015 it was a £1m. So we've gone on from then.”
And it is that almighty increase which sees it sitting pretty at the top of our list.
"I think the strategy for the next few years will be the same for the past five. Why change what's working?" - Steve Allen, Aset (UK)
Based on the Medway City Estate and with a core crew of around 35 staff, there’s no intention of stopping the roll it’s currently on.
Explains Mr Allen: “I think the strategy for the next few years will be the same for the past five.
“Why change what's working?”
2. London Chemical & Resources
It is often said the strength of the British chemical industry is under-appreciated – so to see London Chemicals & Resources (LCR) so high on this year’s list is encouraging.
The firm, which moved to its head office in Westerham in 2009, is an international distributor and supplier of chemicals and metals for industry.
And its growth has been significant, seeing revenues leap by more than 323% over the last three years – fuelled in part by a focus on recycling industrial materials.
Such a rate would have put it at number one in last year’s MegaGrowth 50 list, but for this year it has to settle for a still impressive second place.
Turnover for 2018 was £27.9million which delivered the firm, which has less than 10 staff, a pre-tax profit of £803,000.
Formed in 2005, the company’s founding partners – the current managing director Richard Bartholomew and fellow director Peter Nicholson - had more than 20 years of experience in the global distribution and trading of chemicals, base and minor metals and the London Metal Exchange – the world centre for industrial metal trading.
It put the fledgling firm in good stead.
Three years after it was created it started to roll-out a “strategic move upstream” to expand its offering and hiring specialist staff to deal with more secondary metals – those derived from scrap.
It joined the Chemical Business Association in 2011 and by 2015 with its continuing development into the field of secondaries, obtained UK registration as a waste broker and dealer.
As its growth continued, the London Stock Exchange recognised the firm as “a company to inspire Britain” and last year saw it become a member of the Bureau of International Recycling.
Today, that ability to transform the old and recycle key materials drives it forward in a world where such a practice is very much encouraged.
A spokesman explained: “We are an international distributor, stockist and supplier of industrial inorganic chemicals.
"We aim to offer commercially competitive recycling options with an emphasis on environmentally sound management." - London Chemicals & Resources
“We hold several agencies and serve a global customer base both directly and via a network of local agents.
“In addition, LCR aims to offer commercially competitive recycling options with an emphasis on environmentally sound management including assistance with notification procedures where necessary.
“We are partnered with fully licensed recycling facilities in Europe and the Far East.”
3. The Specialist Works
Last year’s number one slips down the hit parade a little, but still continues to deliver remarkable growth as it settles for third place this year.
The Specialist Works (TSW) is a media agency which has dazzled in a highly competitive environment delivering considerable growth over the last three years – a nosebleed inducing rise of 260.7% in fact.
And with its last accounts showing a turnover of in excess of £119million it is proving a major success.
Which will bring a smile to the face of Gravesend-born managing director Martin Woolley who, last year, spearheaded a management buy-out of the company alongside chief operating office Parry Jones, who himself recently moved to the county.
With its registered office in Kings Hill, the company has spent the last 12 months re-evaluating its operation to ensure it is not only fighting fit but ready to push ahead.
So what has propelled them forward so far at such a rate of knots?
"Our clients tend to be among the most innovative companies...those guys have innovation in their DNA and they want to do things differently." - Martin Woolley, The Specialist Works
“I put it down to a couple of things,” explains Mr Woolley, “first is that relentless itch to innovate.
“The way we arrived at what and how we're going to do it is to really focus in on what our clients needed. It sounds a bit holier than thou but actually it's just really simple business logic.
“Our clients tend to be among the most innovative companies - the likes of Boohoo.com, which is one of retail's great success stories of the last 10 years, big US companies who are expanding into Europe, Dollar Shave Club, Credit Karma, 23andMe - those guys have innovation in their DNA and they want to do things differently. If we remain open and flexible and try and create solutions that don't even exist, we can find better ways of doing things.”
With some 175 staff, the company has offices in Beijing, the US and Dublin as well as its Kent and London bases.
And don’t be surprised to see it back in the list next year too.
Adds the MD: “We absolutely believe we can drive significant growth from where we are now, but to do that you need some more structure.
“We were a big start-up until last year, and now we are on our way to being a really serious business and I think we can do it differently and, without a doubt, be the largest independent agency in the media sector in the UK.”
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More by this authorChris Britcher