Published: 10:43, 02 November 2016
Since launching 15 years ago, MegaGrowth 50 has celebrated companies creating growth in Kent - but what has happened to the top firms since?
2002: Land of Leather, Northfleet
The furniture retailer became the first winner of MegaGrowth 50 after recording 1,600% turnover growth in four years – still the highest percentage ever. Sales rose from £4 million in 1997-98 to more than £72 million in 2000-1. Founded in 1997, it floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2005. In December 2008, the company employed 850 people and had 109 stores but, sadly, it was to become one of the first high-profile casualties of that year’s credit crunch. It tumbled into administration in early 2009 and ceased trading soon after, blaming reduced consumer spending and a lack of financing options after the banking crisis.
2003: Elec-Track Installations, Hythe
This company topped the pile with 486% growth after erecting masts and overhead cables for high-speed trains travelling through the Channel Tunnel. Founded in 1995, it was run by husband and wife team Alistair and Christine Flanagan. In 10 years, it grew turnover to £14 million and employed 460 people nationally, predicting its high rate of growth would continue over the next few years. However, Elec-Track ran into trouble in the challenging rail market and appointed administrators in 2008.
2004: Servirail, Maidstone
Another success story created by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, this signalling company grew turnover by nearly 530% over three years. A main contractor for Network Rail, it resignalled the Sittingbourne to Sheerness line and also carried out civil engineering projects. The firm grew turnover to £16 million and employed 275 people. It sold its trade and some assets in 2011 and has been running down its operations since. Now called Mouchel Rail Ltd, the company was acquired by construction contractor Kier Group last year.
2005: Fresh Bouquets, Faversham
This small horticulture business, trading under the name Flowerfete, turned into a national enterprise after appointing managing director Colin Hills. He transformed it from a firm employing eight people with a turnover of £700,000 a year into a £20 million plants and flowers wholesaler with a 200-strong workforce across the UK and Europe. It had boosted revenues by 430% in four years. However, it began making losses in 2006 as it expanded its non-floral business and suffered a £1.5 million loss of turnover when it lost two major customers in 2009. Bosses appointed liquidators in 2011 and it was eventually dissolved in 2013.
2006: Plastering Contractors (Stanmore), Welling
Two years after entering MegaGrowth 50 for the first time, this plastering and dry lining company was named Kent’s fastest-growing company with growth of 192.2%. Its boss Donal Leavey, from Dublin, said at the time “if you’re a good tradesman, you’ll never be out of work” and the firm proved that with turnover of £21 million. Employing 55 people across 70 sites, the company moved from Welling to Erith shortly after winning MegaGrowth. Mr Leavey handed over the business to present managing director Rajbir Manak in 2007, which changed its name to Stanmore Contractors Ltd. Its latest accounts show it made revenues of £108 million and employs more than 200 people.
2007: EMS Radio Fire and Security Systems, Herne Bay
Radio engineer Doug Lawrence picked up his winning MegaGrowth certificate nearly 40 years
to the day after he set up his company, originally called Electronic Modular Services, in his
Beckenham garage. He used wireless technology to make fire and security systems for buildings, airports, castles and museums. The company, which employed 130 people, won with 391.3% turnover growth in four years. Mr Lawrence remains chairman of the firm, known as EMS, which was named best science and technology company at KEiBA 2012. It had a turnover of £11.9 million last year.
2008: Fuel Oils, Erith
This distributor of fuel oil for the commercial sector came top of MegaGrowth 50 with turnover growth of 295% in four years. Operating from offices in Canterbury, Rochester, Erith and London, it ran a fleet of 40 vehicles ranging from 30,000 litre tankers to vans carrying 500 litres. The family business was founded in 1964 and continues today, also supplying agricultural and marine businesses. It defied volatility in oil prices to make revenues of £66 million according to its latest accounts.
2009: Hobson Prior, Tunbridge Wells
This recruitment agency for the life sciences sector defied the economic downturn to increase turnover by 597% to £10.3 million. Launched in 2002 by Matthew Perrett and Jane Woodhead, it was profitable from the start. The pair sold the business, which supplies skilled staff across Europe and Asia, to Independent Clinical Services in 2012 and it has a Kent office alongside one near St Pancras International in London. Mr Perrett and Ms Woodhead are both investors in fast-growing firms.
2010: Pentagon Holdings, Orpington
Founded in 1974, this international freight forwarding company serves the oil, gas and petro-chemical industry. Trading as Pentagon Freight, it was named top of the MegaGrowth 50 list with 170% growth in sales to £138 million, having appeared in the table for the previous four years. Oil price rises helped boost sales, with 80% generated overseas. It is now the largest privately-owned oil and gas freight forwarder in the world, with more than 500 staff, 200 of which are based in the UK.
2011: Full Circle Asset Management, Sevenoaks
This privately-owned wealth management firm called the markets right as turnover surged 135.7% in four years to make it Kent’s fastest-growing company. It was founded by chairman John Robson in 1993, who brought on board managing director Andrew Selsby in 1996. Despite the huge funds it manages – investors have to put in a minimum of £250,000 – the firm prides itself on its family ethos. Mr Selsby’s wife Donna and brother Mark both work in the business. When it won MegaGrowth, it managed £300 million for 650 investors worldwide.
2012: Marlin Chemicals, Brenchley
This family-owned importer and exporter of industrial chemicals dates back to 1968 and became Marlin in 1991, founded by late chairman Gerald Williams, who died last year. It supplies raw materials for manufacturers in Brazil, France, Japan, Portugal and the United States. It came top of the table with turnover growth of 282.1%. Three companies make up the group – Marlin Chemicals, J&S Technical Services and PMC Marketing. Sales revenues are split roughly half between overseas and domestic markets. Last year it made revenues of £17.8 million.
2013: Lawtech Group, Strood
Energy-efficient construction specialists Lawtech boosted turnover by 390.5% in four
years, thanks in large part to Government fuel-saving targets. The big energy companies subsidised its work installing boilers, roofing, windows and insulation to meet energy-saving targets on housing and commercial premises across the country. Launched from managing director David Lawrence’s home in 2004, its growth was mainly on social housing projects. Employing about 65 people, turnover reached £26.7 million last year.
2014: Chartway Group, Maidstone
This house builder became the first company to top the table after submitting its accounts
to Kent Business, managing an astonishing 1,302.9% increase in revenues in four years. It was launched during the deepest phase or the recession in 2009 by managing director Ian Savage and grew after winning a number of social housing contracts. It has since launched
a private development company, Westerhill Homes, and features on this year’s table at No.7 with growth of 143.3%. Last year, turnover reached £33.6 million.
2015: Reliable Contractors, Margate
This recruitment firm for the construction industry grew thanks to long-term work on the Olympic Park but is also a labour supplier for Crossrail and other high-profile renovations and infrastructure projects. It was launched more than 40 years ago by director Brian Greene’s semi-retired father Patrick and was named Kent’s fastest-growing firm last year with revenue growth of 492.1%. It recently opened its first office in Manchester and also has bases in London and Bristol. Placed at No.4 in this year’s MegaGrowth table, last year its turnover was £24.5 million.