The British Small Business Awards 2017 ceremony is the leading UK celebration of the SME sector. The event, organised by SmallBusiness.co.uk and sponsored by Travelers, will be taking place on November 1 at the magnificent Grand Connaught Rooms, London.
Here, we are delighted to showcase our judges for the Awards. These established entrepreneurs and industry authorities will have the difficult task of deciding the winners in each of our 18 categories, mulling over the contenders from Sole Trader of the Year through to Technology Provider of the Year. Over the coming months until the event, we will be meeting the judges, who will share their views on the UK’s small business landscape today and how companies can succeed. The full list of judges can be found here.
Sir Rod Aldridge OBE, founder of Capita and The Aldridge Foundation
Sir Rod Aldridge OBE is a social entrepreneur with over 40 years’ experience in the public, private and third sectors. In 1984, he founded Capita, leading it until his retirement in 2006, and turning it from start-up to a FTSE 100 company.
In 2006, Sir Rod established The Aldridge Foundation to further the work of his charitable trust. The Foundation helps young people to reach their potential and improve their communities, principally through the sponsorship of entrepreneurial academies and colleges. These have been established in the North West, London and southern coastal communities.
He was awarded an OBE in the 1994 New Years Honours List, for services to the computer industry, and was given the freedom of the City of London in 1996. In 2006, he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 2012, he received a knighthood for services to young people.
Sir Rod is also the Founding Chair of Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, a government and industry co-sponsored initiative to address the digital skills gap many UK technology businesses face. Announced by the prime minister in December 2014, the College will be the first newly incorporated Further Education College since 1993 when it opens to students in September 2016.
The importance of building a great team
Sir Rod says that a great strength of his over the years has been his team-building skill. ‘I have no fear of appointing people who could be better than me, because I can learn and develop from it.
‘That’s a big thing for some entrepreneurs to come to terms with,’ he adds.
He also stresses that a business idea must be well thought out. ‘Business planning is important. A lot of people [today] say you’ve just got to get it started and that’s absolutely right, but you must start from a foundation of knowing that you’ve got something that is different, and that’s something I have done.’
Rob Law MBE, founder, Trunki
Trunki is the brand behind the much-loved children’s ride-on suitcase, and the company is forging a new retail category of children’s travel products, offering a whole range of innovative solutions that help families on the go.
Rob is a passionate business speaker with a fresh approach to leadership, instilling innovative thinking across his organisation, as well a committed champion of British manufacturing and design rights.
How it began
In 1997, Rob was a 19-year-old studying industrial design in Newcastle. He was asked to enter a national luggage design competition, and the idea for Trunki was born. ‘I looked at the existing toys on the market and thought about how a piece of luggage could alleviate children’s boredom while travelling,’ Rob says.
It took seven years to get the product to market through licensing. Over the years in the interim, Rob was working as a professional product designer, during which time he learned a lot about the power of good branding. ‘I finally licensed it to a toy manufacturer in 2003, but became frustrated with the deal because it wasn’t really selling.
‘So when the company we licensed the product to went into liquidation in 2005 I decided to have a stab myself.’
Rob quit his job, bought a first container of Trunkis into the UK and started trading in 2006.
Since its launch, Trunki has sold 2.8 million suitcases in over 100 countries with consumers spending more than £100 million on the brand. Trunki employs 30 people at its head office in Bristol called The Mothership, and a further 44 people at its manufacturing and distribution facility – Magma Moulding – in Plymouth.
The company has itself won over 100 awards within the design, trade, consumer and business sectors.
Charlie Mullins OBE, founder, Pimlico Plumbers
Charlie Mullins decided at the age of nine that he wanted to be a plumber, after noticing his local plumber was well respected, had a great lifestyle and money. So, he began bunking off school to earn two bob a day working with him.
After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications and completing a four-year apprenticeship in plumbing, Mullins began with a second hand van and a bag of tools. In 1979 he started Pimlico Plumbers from a basement of an estate agent in Pimlico. Pimlico is now London’s largest independent plumbing and service company, providing all trades and serving all of London, with a workforce of over 200, 160 vehicles and a £20 million turnover.
Mullins regularly appears on TV, on various news channels, Daily Politics, Panorama etc giving his response to the latest topics and featuring in debates. He has also featured in several TV documentaries including Channel 4’s Show Me Your Money and The Secret Millionaire, BBC’s Young Plumber of the Year as a judge and BBC 1’s Posh Plumbers.
The importance of the right people
Charlie Mullins feels that one of the hardest challenges small companies face today is getting the right people on board; he says not having the very best staff nearly cost him his business.
‘In the early 90s we nearly went bust because of the recession. We didn’t have the right structure in place or the right people on board. Eventually we replaced some people and decided the best way to go forward was to employ better staff,’ he adds.
‘At the beginning we weren’t thorough enough in the interview process. Now, though, we understand that you have to take on staff that go above and beyond – similar people to you. Make sure you have the right people from the start – it’s the only way to grow your business.
‘Originally we took on one guy and expanded slowly, but in the last ten years we’ve grown a lot more rapidly, more and more people are coming on board because of the reputation of the company, and we’ve expanded geographically too.’
Nominations are now closed for the British Small Business Awards, but you can still book tickets to attend the event by emailing Shane Ryan on email@example.com, or by calling 020 7250 7022.