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MegaGrowth 50: We speak to Kent's fastest growing firms

ByRebecca Tuffin

This year's MegaGrowth 50 winners have been announced - but what's the key to their success?

We spoke to the top three fastest-growing companies in Kent as well as the fastest-growing exporter to find out how they've got to where they are today.

Steve Allen and Kevin Roots collecting their certificate
Steve Allen and Kevin Roots collecting their certificate

Aset (UK) was crowned the winner this year, with an astonishing turnover growth of 575.6%.

Founded in 2008, the company has made its fortune installing airport conveyor belts.

Director, Steve Allen really enjoyed the presentation breakfast and said he did not expect to win.

His co-founder Kevin Roots added: "We're absolutely shocked. We're both quite humble and have come up from nothing so we are just genuinely shocked to be top of the list."

The Rochester-based business works with huge corporations including Heathrow Airport.

Steve Allen, Aset (UK)
Steve Allen, Aset (UK)

Speaking about how such partnerships come about, Mr Roots said: "We've worked with all the main manufacturers of conveyors at the airport and have built on that. It's also helpful that it's a very niche market.

He added: "We just do what we do pretty well - we haven't had any complaints yet."

Speaking about the event, Mr Allen said: "It's great to meet other businesses in Kent and find out what they do. It can actually bring opportunities for us and them as well which could help our business grow even more."

London Chemical & Resources came second, with managing director Richard Bartholomew accepting the award this morning.

This international distributor and supplier of chemicals and metals has seen a growth of 323.6% over the last three years.

Kevin Roots, Aset (UK)
Kevin Roots, Aset (UK)

Mr Bartholomew said: "Coming second is a fantastic achievement - I'm absolutely delighted. I'd like to thank everyone in the team - we are only a very small company of 10 people but it's thanks to them that I'm here today and we've done as well as we have."

Along with a loyal and hard-working team, he also attributes the company's success to "a keen eye on the financial side" and good customer relations.

He added: "We try and stay very close to our customers. The majority are international so it's not quite so easy but we spend a lot of time flying around the world to meet them."

Looking to the future, Mr Bartholomew would like to expand the company, hoping to take on more staff in 2020.

The Westerham-based business is also in the process of opening an office in Singapore - which will be its first overseas premises.

Richard Bartholomew reflects upon what makes his company work

Mr Bartholomew added: "We've also invested in a processing plant in northern Spain which is coming online in December and we're hoping will be operating commercially in 2020."

Coming in third place is media agency The Specialist Works, with a growth of 260.7%.

The Kings Hill-based company was the overall MegaGrowth winner last year but was still very happy with its position this time round.

Credit control manager, Karen Brown, said: "I think one of the keys to our success is that we work worldwide and across a range of different media. We do the lot - TV adverts, newspapers, digital media and more.

Carly Warner and Karen Brown of The Specialist Works
Carly Warner and Karen Brown of The Specialist Works

"We also work with some big, well-known brands like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, which helps to increase our profile. And yes, we do get discounts!"

Client confidence is another strength which has helped the company grow over the last year.

Ms Brown added: "A lot of clients come to us just wanting help with one kind of media, but then they see how well we look after them and end up using several of our services.

"Customer care is really important - listening to them is vital for success."

Carly Warner, who also works in the credit control department, values how the staff are treated and feels this motivates them to help the business grow and develop.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony in Maidstone this morning
The winners were announced at an awards ceremony in Maidstone this morning

She added: "I really enjoy my job - they look after us, and this 100% makes me want to work hard to constantly improve the business."

Winning the export category and also placing 29th in the turnover list is toy, arts and crafts company, West Design Products.

The Folkestone-based business, which supplies to large and small retailers in more than 24 markets across the world, has achieved an astonishing export growth of 470.1%.

Managing director, Mike Bray said he is "totally shocked" to have won.

He added: "I did not expect it at all. I think the fact we're a family company and there's been a lot of internal growth as well as acquisitions has helped us fly forwards."

Andy Bennett and Mike Bray of West Design Products
Andy Bennett and Mike Bray of West Design Products

Talking about what's to come, export manager, Andy Bennett, said: "With Brexit, it's very early to tell how this might effect us at the moment. It will have an effect but we are very resilient as a business and we're well prepared. We'll just have to see what happens in January."

Giving advice on how to be a successful exporter, Mr Bennett added: "Understand your markets and be very clear about what you want to achieve and where your products will work."

He added: "We've had some really excellent support from the Department for International Trade so I'd recommend looking into all the help that's available to you.

"Lastly, you just need to be sure of what you're doing and really get out and canvas your markets."

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