Yorkshire’s Fastest 50 in full: A year of surprises

Philip Jordan of Ward Hadaway
Philip Jordan of Ward Hadaway
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To many observers, 2016 was a year of surprises – the Brexit vote, the election of President Trump – so is 2017 continuing on in that vein? Well, as far as the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 is concerned, the answer is yes – and no.

Whilst it is perhaps surprising to see so many new entrants in this year’s list – 39 of the 2017 contingent did not appear in the 2016 rankings – it is unsurprising to see how well Yorkshire’s companies have taken on the many challenges posed by the unpredictable political and economic climate to emerge with their collective turnover considerably bolstered. After all, they don’t call it Yorkshire grit for nothing.

Full table: Yorkshire’s fastest 50 companies (PDF, 150k)
Figures compiled by independent economic researchers reveal that the 50 companies who make up this year’s list of fast-growing, profitable, privately-owned businesses have a combined turnover of £1.54bn, having increased that total by £753.6m over the past three years.

This is quite some feat bearing in mind the fact that some of the figures for this year’s awards include the period immediately following the EU referendum result when much of the world paused to gauge the effect of that decision on the UK and on the global economy.

However, if the bare figures are impressive enough, it is what lies behind the numbers which is arguably more important.

The sustained, profitable growth which the figures represent is what the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 is all about and is what businesses of all kinds strive to achieve.

It is this kind of growth which generates prosperity, creates and safeguards jobs, attracts investment and boosts business confidence across the region as a whole.

Having a vibrant, successful and growing regional economy is vital to the ongoing success of Yorkshire – not only is it important to the people who live and work here, it also sends out a positive message to those from outside the region about Yorkshire as a place where companies can flourish.

This is certainly the case with the overall winner of the 2017 Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 Awards.

Hisense UK is the British subsidiary of China-based Hisense Company Ltd, one of the world’s largest electronics and consumer goods manufacturers.

The company, which also won the award for fastest-growing large business of 2017, manufactures and sells a range of hi-tech consumer goods including televisions, refrigerators, freezers, laundry units, tablet computers and mobile 

It established its UK subsidiary in Leeds in 2012 and Hisense UK sales have grown exponentially since then, rising by an average of 104.5 per cent per year.

Hisense’s sales and visibility have been helped in the UK with its sponsorship of the Euro 2016 football tournament – Iceland’s progress in the competition another instance of 2016’s capacity to surprise, England’s failure in the same tournament perhaps less so.

Hisense UK is a great example of how Yorkshire can attract major global companies to set up here – and how those companies can prosper.

The winner of the fastest-growing medium-sized business award is also based in West Yorkshire, although its origins are a little closer to home.

Headoffice3 is based in Pudsey but casts its net across the country when it comes to the fit-out and construction services it offers to the schools, commercial and residential sectors.

The company specialises in providing a full service to clients so it can take on everything from initial design to final execution.

Its current work list includes everything from converting a call centre in its native Pudsey into a residential development to transforming a former hat factory in Bristol into luxury apartments.

Headoffice3 is also not the only property-related business to find success in this year’s Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50. Both the runners-up to Hisense UK in the fastest-growing large business category – Harris Construction Management and Patrick Construction Group – operate in the property sector whilst other businesses in the 2017 list include Triton Construction Ltd, Vallectric (Holdings) Ltd, Woodgreen Construction and RBA Moody Bros (Contractors) Ltd.

With the property sector often seen as something of a bellwether for the wider economy, it is encouraging to see so many property-related businesses making their presence felt in this year’s list.

Further signs of healthy activity levels in the Yorkshire economy can be seen by the number of recruitment companies in this year’s Yorkshire Fastest 50 list such as Navartis Ltd, Castle Employment and Caval Ltd.

And for a potentially surprising indication of growing prosperity in a region renowned for being careful with its cash, check out the presence of Harrogate luxury and prestige car dealer GC Motors in the final 50.

Yorkshire’s growing technology industry also appears to be thriving with this year’s fastest-growing small business having made its mark in the IT world.

Azzure IT is rated by no less an authority than global software giant Microsoft as its leading Microsoft Gold Partner in the UK. The Sheffield-based company is a specialist provider of Microsoft Dynamics solutions with over 20 years’ experience implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, particularly to customers in the manufacturing sector.

Perhaps unusually for a company of its relatively small size, Azzure IT has also developed an academy to teach skills in development, customer support, consultancy and office-based sales.

The company also works with local universities, schools and colleges to raise awareness surrounding IT careers and the importance of IT skills.

Such forward thinking is very welcome in the region and is sure to add further to the wealth of tech talent in Yorkshire as witnessed by the appearance in this year’s Yorkshire Fastest 50 of companies including Barnsley-based IT solutions company Osborne Technologies, Wakefield video and computer games studio Team 17 Digital and Hull-based smartcard technology specialist ESP Systex, the 2016 overall fastest-growing company which has now made it into three Yorkshire Fastest 50 lists in a row.

Alongside such newer industries, there is also room in this year’s list for some traditional Yorkshire strengths.

For example, as someone Hull born and bred, it is particularly pleasing for me to see the presence of city fresh fish merchants Copernus Ltd among the ranks of Yorkshire’s fastest-growing companies, demonstrating that quality food never goes out of fashion, a fact emphasised by the appearance of Grimsby’s Northcoast Seafoods in the Fastest 50.

Yorkshire’s long history as a centre of housebuilding excellence is also well represented with Harron Homes and Skipton Properties both in the final 50.

This mix of traditional strengths and newer industries bodes well for the future of the region and should stand us in good stead, whatever surprises await us in the coming years.

• Philip Jordan is a partner in the commercial team at Ward Hadaway in Leeds. He can be contacted at philip.jordan@wardhadaway.com or on 0113 205 6646.