Creating the conditions for growth30 Jun 2014
Britain needs constant gardeners who aspire to deliver best in show results, writes Alex Evans
A good gardener creates the conditions for growth, constantly monitors what is growing, nurtures the most promising shoots and uproots anything that might suffocate them. Every business needs a good gardener, someone who balances experience with a mind open to improving methods and approaches. And the gardening world, like UK plc, needs best in show examples that inspire improvement.
To stretch the horticultural metaphor even further, businesses are gardens that can be wild at one extreme or manicured at the other. Unchecked growth can swallow up resources too quickly and, inevitably, a major pruning exercise will be needed to salvage any value. However, a bit of controlled wildness makes even the best kept garden more interesting and promotes healthy variety.
Tending to succeed
There is always an impressive assortment of growth stories among the 150 finalists shortlisted each year by the National Business Awards but, as the programme has expanded its field of recognition, it now includes early stage start-ups and social enterprises alongside the small, medium and large firms.
While last year’s New Business of the Year winner, wnDirect, achieved £50m turnover in less than two years, it has been careful to manage growth so it doesn’t run away from them – putting together an experienced Board aware of the potential pitfalls.
Community Interest Company Provide, winner of the inaugural Social Enterprise of the Year award, was shortlisted for its bold and ambitious plan to innovate in health services but ultimately triumphed because of its "strong leadership and a never-ending procession of innovations” – with its CEO, John Niland, credited with creating an organisation-wide culture of care.
Sustaining growth is an ongoing challenge for businesses of all sizes. London Bio Packaging was one of several SMEs shortlisted for the ICAEW Sustainable Business Award but it triumphed because of its top down commitment to sustainability. “Have the vision and courage to understand that sustainability is crucial to your medium to long term prosperity,” said founder & CEO, Marcus Hill, commenting on the role of leadership in sustainability. “Make a CEO/ board level push to become leaders in sustainability. For both small and large businesses alike it will make you more innovative, creative and competitive.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Sainsbury’s was named QBE FTSE 100 Business of the Year because of its commitment to sustainability led by CEO Justin King - achieving 34 quarters of growth in a highly competitive sector, aligning social impact with commercial objectives at every level.
Under the leadership of founding chairman Michael Oliver - whose business began in a garage at the side of his family home with an idea to produce a revolutionary severe service needle valve – Oliver Valves has become one of the UK’s top exporters. “From day one of Oliver Valves we set out to trade overseas,” said Michael Oliver, receiving the 2013 International Growth Business of the Year Award. “We have grown that year-on-year and we now sell to more than 50 countries – proof that if you put in the hard work, it can be done.”
The NBA’s ‘Business Without Barriers’ report, which surveyed 500 top performing businesses managing the challenges of growth, found that those exporting are more productive, more innovative, and more resilient. It also found that those investing in talent, innovation, and effective leadership are more likely to enjoy sustained growth.
Britain needs good leaders to grow, whether they’re leading start-ups, social enterprises, SMEs or PLCs. It’s the green fingered constant gardeners who will improve the landscape of the UK economy.
On 11th November, over 1,200 business leaders from Britain’s best businesses will attend the 13th Annual National Business Awards to celebrate the achievements of all those shortlisted. To book your place to see who triumphs this year, visit for information on ticket and table packages.