Recognising fresh successful corporate activities in today’s business world

Two new awards – the Workplace Mental Health and the Community Legacy categories – reflecting attitudes at the heart of today’s local businesses were introduced at this year’s Thames Valley Business Magazine Awards 2017.

“Business nowadays is not just about profit and turnover, it’s about social responsibility and giving something back. Both these awards recognize and applaud the corporate world’s increasing desire to do good work,” media broadcaster Louise Hulland, the event’s guest host, told a 330-strong audience at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre in Reading.

As the longest-running business awards in the region, the Thames Valley Business Magazine Awards (TVBMA) was again adapting to reflect its 21st century business community, as it has done throughout its 23 years, added David Murray, founding TVBMA chairman, MD and publisher of The Business Magazine.

This slightly different ‘voice’ of the vibrant and successful Thames Valley was reflected through the two new company assessment categories – covering projects, campaigns and initiatives that focus on employee wellbeing, workforce engagement, and business’ provision of charity and community resources.

Several other ’voices’ were heard on the evening thanks to the vocal skills of guest speaker and impressionist Jon Culshaw, who also helped present all nine of the prestigious and much-coveted business awards.

The chosen charity for the evening was the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service, last year’s Charity of the Year award-winner. The charity, supported by BBC Children in Need, and with Theresa May and Sir Michael Parkinson as two of its patrons, is currently building near Maidenhead, Berkshire’s first children’s hospice. Donations from the TVBMA guests raised £3,438.

Best Use of Technology sponsored by CityFibre and BtL


A Reading-based company focusing on e-safety – safeguarding children from online cyber-bullying, sexting, abuse and unwelcome social media content. Its technology blocks harmful messages in real-time before they are seen and before the damage is done.

What the judges said . . .

SafeToNet has developed “a true innovation that blew us away; a brilliant Artificial Intelligence system tackling the growing problem of child safety on the internet. It’s a leap in technology that goes so far beyond the off/on parental guidance incumbents. SafeToNet’s future looks to be incredibly bright.”

Our winner’s AI technology “dynamically protects children in a way that keeps parents in control, the children protected, and importantly retains the privacy and independence of the child. This always-learning technology sits on the child’s mobile phone and screens activity on the various social media apps, flagging to the parent when inappropriate material is sent or received on the child’s phone.”

Second: Europa Technologies

Surrey-based award-winning specialist in geospatial intelligence solutions for a wide variety of markets. Its capabilities allow organisations with international interests to better understand their customers, assets and markets, in a geographic context, thereby gaining competitive or strategic advantage.

 Judges’ view:

“For a relatively small outfit, Europa Technologies has built a tremendous global reach for their mapped data solutions. With over one billion users able to see their data on google maps – technology that has been used to aid in humanitarian crises across the world – it just goes to show what wide-reaching effects the impressive technology we produce here in the Thames Valley can have on the world.

“Alongside the impressive digitized map technology, Europa showed very profitable and steady growth numbers and an impressive clientele, and proved to be a very strong contender for this award.”

Third: Conveyancing Data Services

Based in Woodley, near Reading, this company has established an impressive cloud-based automated information platform for conveyancing requirements.

Judges’ view:

“Clearly developed with a challenge-led mentality, the platform provides solicitors with an easy-to-use and packaged process to increase efficiency and take away some of the undesirable complexity of purchasing properties. Using a seamless workflow model, users can log on easily anywhere and complete their action, notifying next-in-the-chain and so on. A feature that really impressed was the intelligent geo-mapping system, an AI service that shows users exactly what surveys are required with each property, simplifying and streamlining any potential waste from the process.

“All in all, a solution that meets and then evolves with the demands of its key users. A great use of technology to solve an inefficient process.”

Highly Commended: NavTech Radar

Fast-growing Wantage-based company providing advanced radar technology systems including safety-critical solutions.

SME of the Year sponsored by James Cowper Kreston 

 WINNER: Diamond Logistics 


This Sunday Times Fast Track logistics and fulfilment company that has almost doubled turnover in 24 months. Guildford-based Diamond’s award-winning service includes same day, overnight, international and remote storage fulfillment solutions for local and national business.

What the judges said . . .

“Our winner portrays the very essence of what makes a fantastic entrepreneurial SME business and prove you don’t have to be a start-up to be a great innovator. We were impressed by the company’s recent and potential substantial future growth, having embraced change, technology and a new business model. With an evident passion for business, people and community, they have also enabled the growth of many other SMEs across the Thames Valley and the wider UK.”

Second: CitNOW

The Wokingham provider of video broadcast systems, including CitNOW, which streams 21,000 videos a day in the automotive sector.

Judges’ view:

“This business has shown significant growth over the past number of years with a product that has completely revolutionised the way an entire industry communicates with its customers, establishing itself as real technological jewel in the Thames Valley crown in the process.”

Third: iPRO Solutions

Based in Haddenham, Bucks, iPRO focuses on providing ‘great customer service and stability’. It’s a leading UK specialist in sourcing precision components from manufacturers around the world.

Judges’ view:

“Exponential growth, quality, technical prowess and a commitment to continual improvement has ensured that this year iPRO exceeded its goals. The business demonstrates that by operating around its seven core principles it can achieve great results both in the business and the local community – and have fun whilst doing it.” 

Highly Commended: Active Facilities Management

Fast-rising company based in Woodley near Reading achieving 25% growth. It prides itself on exceptional customer service plus staff and client retention.

Firefly Human Capital

A Windsor-based accountancy recruitment specialist, winning awards and thriving since start-up in 2012.

Hawkins Group of Companies

A Banbury headquartered construction company, expanding fast through a major restructure.

McFarlane Telfer

Maidenhead-based company that services and maintains commercial kitchen equipment –  and is growing significantly.

Workplace Mental Health Award sponsored by the Cardinal Clinic and the Institute of Directors, supported by Brighter Berkshire

WINNER: Fourfront Group

With one in four people predicted to have mental health problems at some stage in their lives, it’s vital for both individuals and businesses to understand how mental health issues can affect someone and learn more about how they can help.

 Judging panel overview:

We were impressed by all the finalists, and the contributions they are making to promote mental health in the workplace should be commended.”

The UK’s leading workplace design and fit-out specialist, and move management consultancy. A key focus of the Fourfront Group Wellbeing Programme has been striving to battle the stigma associated with mental health. The company’s action plan includes training, support and wellbeing policies affecting every department.

What the judges said . . .

“Our winner demonstrated that they had generated policies regarding mental health in the workplace and that they were actively being implemented. We also liked that their ideas and effort showed innovation in their own business-world, in that the work was internally generated by the company as opposed to being led by the business already being within the health and wellbeing sector.”[/fusion_text][/one_half][title size=”3″ content_align=”left” style_type=”none” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]

Second:   Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service

While frontline firefighters make up the majority of RBFRS staff, many others work tirelessly in the background, all facing challenges that can affect mental health. The service has set up resources and systems to promote health and wellbeing.

Judges’ view:

“There was clear evidence of the provision of help regarding mental health problems in the workforce. In addition there were initiatives with respect to stigma, resilience, and community initiatives.  Finally, they are looking forward to how they can continue to improve with regards to mental health by appointing a mental health and wellbeing advisor.”

Third: Seymour Taylor

This High Wycombe accountancy firm has health and wellbeing as an important part of its culture, and uses mentors to help guide staff and ensure there is a work-life balance.

Judges’ view:

“Seymour Taylor has implemented a number of initiatives to help with mental health problems, including support for staff dealing with mental health issues, but also support within work to manage stress and maintain resilience including a buddy system and flexi-time, not to mention complimentary yoga classes and fruit deliveries. They do community work that helps staff get away from the office and get involved in local charitable projects. Finally, they showed a focus on personal development and self-awareness.”

Highly Commended: Optalis

Wokingham-based Optalis runs a supported employment service, with Donna Morgan heading up the promotion of mental health. Donna has been integral in creating employment and training solutions for vulnerable people for the past 15 years.

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

The borough has adopted an approach that stipulates and emphasises ‘no public health without mental health’. It has developed a plan of action and is implementing policies across the borough, from training to screening

Wilsons Life

This Bicester personal development and military transition consultancy, founded by military veteran Nick Wilson, helps to support, motivate and inspire people with mental health issues.

Charity of the Year sponsored by James Cowper Kreston

WINNER: SpecialEffect

Based in Oxfordshire, the company adapts technology to enable severely disabled people to use computers and IT to communicate and play games – “people with physical disabilities have lives beyond simply ‘being disabled’ and want to enjoy themselves”.

What the judges said . . .

“Instead of using judges’ comments around outstanding achievement, innovative fundraising, empowerment of people and sustainability that the charity demonstrates, we think it is better to sum up the very essence of this year’s winner with eight short words from one of their beneficiaries……. ‘Thank you for giving me my life back!!’

Second: Step by Step

Aldershot-based Step by Step’s vision is for every young person facing adversity, including homelessness, to realise their aspirations and reach their full potential.

It takes a unique step-by-step approach, providing accommodation, personal development opportunities and specialist support services. Its approach helps young people to identify and fulfil their aspirations.

Judges’ view:

“Meeting and exceeding their expectations in a challenging economic environment our second place charity this year has gone from strength to strength in 2017 and with ambitious plans to further expand services over the next 5 years and double the number of young people the charity supports, with less reliance on non-contact income, there is still so much more to come.”

Third: Ufton Court Educational Trust

An innovative and ground-breaking children’s charity with life-changing impacts on the educational success of disadvantaged children. Ufton Adventure provides a platform from which children can raise their aspirations, increase their confidence and be physically and emotionally equipped to achieve their potential at school. It helps young people to become work ready, take advantage of opportunities and aim high.

Judges’ view:

“When facing cuts in funding and changes in policy from central government, versatility and innovation are key to enable sustainability. This has been demonstrated by their resilience while supporting the challenges of our region’s children – not just by sustaining, but by growing their income and expanding their service offerings despite the tough climate.”

Highly Commended: Achievement for All (3As)

Based in Newbury, AfA provides coaches to enable children and young people to have the best possible start in life regardless of background, challenge or need.

involve Community Services

Involve is the Bracknell charity championing volunteering and community development, and most recently nominated for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services.


Based at Beech Hill, south of Reading, Thrive uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities, ill health, and those who are isolated or vulnerable.

Management Team of the Year sponsored by ActionCOACH

WINNER:   Sun Mark 


Sun Mark is a West London (Greenford) marketing and distribution company of fast-moving consumer goods specialising in business in emerging markets, especially in Africa and the Middle East.  Engaged in business in over 120 countries, it is the only company to have won the Queens Award for Enterprise in International Trade for five consecutive years. 

What the judges said . . .

“This management team has consistently demonstrated the characteristics of a truly ‘world-class’ organisation. 

“From the very top to the very bottom of the organisation this dynamic management team has ensured that there is a shared vision and set of ‘family’ values among a highly engaged and loyal workforce. The company’s unswerving customer-centric approach is highly visible across the various functions and the behavioural and cultural integration across the business is equally exceptional.”

Second: CV-Library

CV-Library is the Fleet-based job board, the UK’s fastest growing, with sales growth up 4% year-on-year, and a database of over 12 million CVs. The site was founded by managing director Lee Biggins in 2000 after he saw a need for a job board benefiting both job hunters and recruiters. With a £9k loan and help from

a web developer; the CV-Library website was built.

Judges’ view:

“A dynamic and ambitious management team that despite not being together very long has already demonstrated its ability to deliver substantial growth in a highly competitive sector. Over the last three years it has delivered in excess of 35% compound annual growth. Moreover, this impressive team has managed to allow their entrepreneurial founder to release his grip on the core UK business and re-set his sights on conquering the even larger US market.

“In an industry typically characterised by high staff turnover the management team has built a loyal and talented workforce that prides itself on customer service and continues to set the bar higher and higher for their competitors on a daily basis with net promoter scores to rival the world’s best.

Third: Roc Technologies

A Newbury-based multi-award-winning technology and business services provider. Organisations such as Tesco, BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence work with Roc to transform their business processes. Roc, one of the fastest growing IT services companies in the UK, enables organisations to transform through its unique process, projects and technology capabilities. Roc’s strategy is underpinned by a 100-year vision, focusing on customers, colleagues and commercial excellence. It has an award-winning apprentice programme and regularly supports local charities.

Judges’ view:

“A very close third, the judges were hugely impressed by this management team and its ability to ensure that the business bounced back from a catastrophic situation outside of their control to create and build one of the fastest growing companies in UK with a reputation for innovation and services excellence. Over the last five years this team has ensured that revenues have grown from £400k to £25m whilst earnings before interest and taxation have grown from £80k to £4m. More recently the management team has navigated the market to make a sizeable acquisition as part of the company’s future growth strategy.

Highly Commended: Wilson Partners

An ambitious and fast-growing Maidenhead-based firm of accountants, aiming to offer first-class information, analysis and advice.

The Management Team of the Year award is open to outstanding management teams in the Thames Valley. Judges are looking for management teams that are truly go-ahead, enlightened, innovative, and forward-thinking. The award will go to the team that has created (or helped create) a highly-successful business, or a team that has managed and led a successful project, deal or venture.

Best Company to Work For sponsored by Hays

WINNER: Volume

A Wokingham artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality agency, which creates immersive customer experiences and has developed the world’s first cognitive website.

What the judges said . . .

“A business that first entered the awards five years ago and has made amazing strides since we first met them.

“They impressed us by demonstrating that their key values run through the organisation’s veins from recruitment and inductions, right through all their training (and there’s lots of it!), to team meetings, appraisals and career reviews.

“Their level of internal communication was off the scale. We met lots of engaged staff who spoke of how their careers had been supported, and in many cases career changes offered where the organisation ooked outside the ‘normal career routes’ to continue nurturing talent with both the individual and organisation in mind.”

Second: Vail Williams

Property consultancy based at Thames Valley Park which has evolved into a creative, modern-thinking company with agile working and an uber-cool office environment.                                                                                                             

Judges’ view: “They were able to demonstrate a level of staff turnover well below their industry norm. “Outside of excellent work training and career development, they showed a real interest in their staff’s personal development by having a separate pot of money that people can use to fund learning, development and interests away from the workplace.

 “Their values run through the core of everything they do, both internally and externally, but this is probably no surprise as the values were born from asking what the staff thought they were, rather than being pushed upon them. They hold regular meetings to update staff on business performance and have awards ceremonies for people that demonstrate great performance around the core values.
“They also have a dedicated ‘fun fund’ that has to be spent on fun socialising activities – encouraging team building across their many disciplines.”

Third: Roc Search

Reading tech and engineering recruitment firm that now operates out of six offices, and always puts its people first. It has been accredited with Investors in People Gold and is regularly listed in the Sunday Times ‘Best Companies To Work For’.

Judges’ view:

“What made Roc Search stand out is the way in which it has evolved its culture and working environment to retain and attract talent in what is traditionally an incredibly competitive, high turnover industry.

“Roc has many of the usual incentives (plus many more!) which are found in a sales business, but what set them apart for the judges was the depth and substance which underpins their sales culture.

“This is reflected in, amongst other things, the significant investment made in in-house training and other support functions. Roc also makes a conscious effort to involve partners and families in all company celebrations, which is quite unique in the industry.”

Highly Commended: Blake Morgan

Law firm with offices at Apex Plaza, Reading, and five other southern locations. Corporate responsibility is an integral part of the firm’s philosophy as is listening to its staff and putting people first.

Porterhouse Medical  

Reading-based scientific and medical communications specialist, which promotes pride, passion and a feeling of family togetherness among its 45 employees.

Ridge & Partners

Theale-based property and construction consultancy, committed to expanding skills and putting trust at the heart of what it offers clients. Ridge aims to attract and retain the best people by encouraging them and making them feel they are an integral part of the company’s vision.

Community Legacy Award sponsored by Peter Brett Associates

JOINT WINNERS: AWE and STL Communications

AWE employs 5,000 people at Aldermaston and prides itself on being ‘a good neighbour and responsible business’ with education initiatives involving 80 schools; STEM activities in colleges, science challenges and more.

What the judges said . . .

 “AWE’s programme is well established, managed very professionally, and the employees clearly have great enthusiasm for the initiative. They have helped inspire many children since the programme began and will continue to do so for many years to come. What’s particularly impressive is the way they constantly seek to improve the programme and reach new groups of children from all areas of society. A true legacy for the community.”

Based at Witney, STL created the twin-town challenge, a car rally between Witney and Le Touquet raising £500,000 to help the charity SpecialEffect.

What the judges said . . .

“STL embodies a strong culture of giving, they are passionate about helping SpecialEffect and, through the charity, any children in the local community who may need the specialist support it offers. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they have united local and national businesses in a fundraising effort that could endure for the long-term.”

Third: Charles Russell Speechlys

Launched its community fund in October 2016 to support projects in and around Guildford focusing on employment, training and skills.

Judges’ view:

“Their Community Fund is a perfect example of how to do this right. The Fund has been established in a thoroughly professional manner, all due diligence has been done, great communication and enthusiasm exists in the workforce, and the programme is set up to help as many local charities and organisations as possible. The strategy behind the Fund ensures that it will continue long into the future making it a true legacy for the community.”

Highly Commended: Jansons Property

Andy Janson set up the Alexander Jansons Foundation after the death of Alexander from myocarditis when he was 18 years old. All money raised goes to the Royal Brompton Hospital to fund further research into the illness.


Based in Maidenhead, this privately-owned company specialises in aggregates, waste management and renewable energy organisations and supports organisations throughout Berkshire through sponsorship, commitment and use of its land.

Dynamic Business of the Year sponsored by NatWest

WINNER: R Collard

Eversley haulage, waste management and demolition expert, growing significantly year-on-year, including an 84% increase in wastes processed.

What the judges said . . .

“Our winner is a rapidly growing company which has significantly diversified to create new revenue streams, reduce costs and enhance its existing service offering. Its commitment to its key goals is extremely impressive, and has driven recent technological investment and acquisitions to further enhance business growth in a sustainable way. Commitment to long-term employee development is at the very core of the business ethos, evidenced by second generation family employees.”

Second: Ridge & Partners

Multi-discipline property and construction consultancy provider operating on a global scale.  A £54 million turnover company that has won an extraordinary number of industry awards in the past few years.

Judges’ view:

“We were particularly impressed with Ridge’s recent investment in staff systems, which have seen staff retention levels increase beyond the industry averages. Furthermore, multi-office engagement and inclusion processes had a positive effect on working relationships across all areas of the business from the newest of apprentices to the director levels. The business is now highly recognised as a quality service provider on a global arena, evident by its success in winning key government frameworks.”

Third: Hawkins Group of Companies

Based in Banbury, Hawkins Group operates in the construction industry, specialising in project management, steel fabrication, roofing and cladding services.

Judges’ view:

“The business has an impressive staff-focussed ethos and has consistently invested in apprenticeships as well as loyal and longstanding employees. The company continues to diversify into new services and this has been one of its most notable achievements that facilitated strong organisational growth. Robust processes and sound operational rhythm have maintained reliability of services, and led to an impressive 92% level of repeat business.”

Highly Commended: Clean

UK market leader in the commercial laundry sector, employing more than 1400 people, it delivers over 130,000 workwear items and 5 million linen items each week.

Sun Mark

The largest distributor of international branded FMCG products in emerging markets. It has won the Queen’s Award for five consecutive years – a record.

Thomas International

Marlow-based provider of psychometric assessments with a presence now in 60 countries.

Wilson Partners

Growing dynamically, while never forgetting that its success as a Maidenhead-based accountancy and advisory firm is built on its clients’ success. The Dynamic Business of the Year award is now in its 11th year. This year NatWest will focus on dynamic businesses that have demonstrated a clear vision for the development of their staff, systems, products or services throughout the year.

Business of the Year sponsored by Gateley plc

WINNER: Westcoast 


The Thames Valley’s largest privately-owned company, Theale-based IT distributor Westcoast is one of the fastest-growing in the UK with a turnover now of £2.15 billion.

What the judges said . . .

“Along with an impressive balance sheet they also give back through various charity events such as their annual Palace-to-Palace cycle ride which last year raised £50,000 for the Princes Trust. They support West Berkshire secondary schools by running financial workshops and have worked with the Education Business Partnership developing a Year 8 programme at the local Theale Green secondary school enabling students to understand the wide variety of jobs and careers within their organisation. Their CSR strategy is clearly integrated into their business vision.”

Second: CV-Library

Started with a loan of just £9,000, it has grown to be the UK’s number one jobsite. Has a database of 12 million CVs, growing by nearly 200,000 a month.

Judges’ view:

“This company has cemented its place as the UK’s fastest growing job-board. Their growth over the last 12 months has been incredible and they have outpaced many of their competitors, by uniquely placing customer service at the forefront of everything they do. Alongside their impressive financial performance they work hard to give back, by regularly holding bake sales, sponsoring members of staff in charity sporting events, and assisting clients who may be doing the same. Born and bred in Fleet, Hampshire, their managing director, Lee Biggins, is extremely passionate about giving back to the local community. In recent years, Lee has engaged with local schools and colleges to meet with young people, share his story and give them advice on starting their own careers. Their outstanding performance as a business and enthusiastic team make them our very close runner-up for 2017.”

Joint Third: Roc Technologies

Newbury-based IT and business solutions specialist enjoying 98% growth in turnover over the past year.

Judges’ view

“Roc Technologies has been named the 17th fastest growing business in Europe according to the 2017 Financial Times Growth Report. They work with West Berkshire Council as part of its apprentice programme for which they have won awards. They also encourage all staff to get involved in the strategic direction of the business and make sure they understand their role in the plan.”

Joint Third: Sun Mark

The largest distributor of international branded FMCG products in emerging markets. It has grown from £10m to £200m revenue in 15 years and is the only company to have won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for five consecutive years

Judges’ view

“Sun Mark has a “family” business culture and offers apprenticeships that develop skills and provide a real taste for international business, plus direct work experience on an international scale. The company also supports three major charities: Combat Stress, The Prince’s Trust and Age UK. They also donate to educational establishments, including a £40,000 donation to the London Thames Valley University helping towards the construction of a new library, and a £250,000 donation to London South Bank University towards a new centre for entrepreneurship.”

“Both companies incredible growth and contribution to the community have made them our chosen joint third place for 2017.”

Highly Commended: Benchmark

Furniture makers, based at Kintbury, pioneers in their industry with ambitious growth plans.

CenterpriseBasingstoke IT reseller and solutions provider with £70m turnover and 176 staff, growing organically and by acquisition

Complete IT

Bucks-based tech company, supporting clients and the community – and constantly training and developing its in-house team.

The NAV People

Aims to be the best service provider in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV industry. It is enjoying 51% growth in sales year-on-year.