Solent Business Awards honour best of the best

The 2019 Solent Business Awards celebrated the outstanding achievements of the region’s highest achieving and most dynamic companies.

Over 350 guests attended the gala evening at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl, hosted by BBC South Today presenter Sally Taylor. Guest speaker Conrad Humphreys shared some of his experiences as a triple round-the-world sailor enduring some of the planet’s most challenging conditions.

Peter Laurie, head of client relations at awards organiser The Business Magazine, said: “We received a record entry of 100 nominations and our finalists represent the cream of companies headquartered in this vibrant Solent and south coast region.”

The awards are sponsored by KPMG, NatWest, BDB Pitmans, James Cowper Kreston, Taylor Made Computer Solutions – A Peach Technologies Company, RoyaleLife, Hilton at the Ageas Bowl, Oberon Solutions and media partner Lee Peck Media.

Innovation of the Year sponsored by Taylor Made Computer Solutions

Winner: jisp 


“We’re overwhelmed to win. We wanted this award so much because we are a young company and winning it really boosts our confidence. Our technology brings online technology to the high street. We developed it by spending a lot of time talking to retailers to understand their pain points and how we can improve their customers’ experiences.”

Joe Carter, senior graphic designer, jisp

Judges’ comments:

Our winner is passionate about saving the high-street. It is bringing the online shopping experience to the high-street through innovative online shopping in a retail store location, focus on the customer experience – much more than just an app. A truly worthy winner.


Beyond Encryption – Taking secure email technology to the next level.

InstaVolt – At the forefront of electric vehicle charging technology.

Jisp – Clever app for charging purchases to your account that’s helping ‘save the high street’.

Serious Sport Group – Producing high quality personalised sports kit and teamwear in the UK.

Tekever – Developing drones for maritime use with life-saving and environmental protection capabilities.

Zylpha – Developing software products for the legal sector that cut the time to produce documents.

Corporate Social Responsibility Award — Sponsored by Royale Life

Winner: Fair Ways


“We’re delighted to be recognised by winning this award. I’m thrilled for everyone at Fair Ways who has been part of our success. Our sense of purpose is to be a company that staff are proud to work for and to retain them. We get involved in CSR projects in three main areas – local community projects, like running soup kitchens; overseas projects, we’re doing this in India; and projects that bring together our service users, like climbing in the Atlas Mountains.”

Mac McHugh, CEO, Fair Ways

Judges’ comments

For the life-changing work done by staff – be it towards the service users, the projects undertaken to help charities and the local community. For the focus in driving its social responsibility values through its staff training and opportunities. For its investment in the local community – working towards changing public opinion and bringing communities together through positive acts. For showing that you do not need to be a national or multi-million pound organisation to make an impact on society.


Dometic UK Blind Systems – Focused on energy saving in buildings and recycling waste, as well as charity initiatives.

Fair Ways – Invests in employee support and training as well as focusing on changing lives in the local community.

Irwin Mitchell – Carries out a huge amount of charity work and has a strong focus on diversity and employee wellbeing.

Silver Lining Convergence – Supports local community initiatives, including hospitals, as well as offering plenty of employee initiatives.

Southern Co-op – Sustainability and community initiatives set them apart, especially reducing levels of CO2 and refrigerator gases, also supports local good causes. 

Tops Day Nurseries – Focused on sustainability and cutting down on plastic use; encourages children and parents to learn about sustainability.

Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing – sponsored by Hilton at the Ageas Bowl

Winner: Anglepoise


“It’s a genuine shock to win and we’re very pleased that there is an award which recognises the importance of workplace mental health. It takes time to build wellbeing into your business culture and we try to do it from the start, at recruitment, and through things like team talks and information on our intranet. We also recognise that wellbeing isn’t just about work, but also at home. We make it personal by talking about it openly because that’s the way to end the stigma around mental health.”

John Purnell, managing director, Anglepoise

Judges’ comments

A focus on mental health and wellbeing is truly embedded in their business and is hugely benefiting the team. They have a variety of programmes for staff, as well as getting involved as a company, which demonstrated a real understanding that this topic must be tackled in all areas of the business and the lives of its employees. We were also greatly impressed with how their directors opened themselves up to their team and really led by example in a lot of the initiatives and also worked to get rid of the stigma attached to this subject. All of this in an industry that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be leading the field in mental health and wellbeing practices.


  • Advance TRS
  • Anglepoise
  • Mayflower Theatre
  • Paris Smith
  • Southampton Airport

SME of the Year sponsored by James Cowper Kreston

Winner: Highfield Professional Solutions


“We were surprised and very proud to win. It’s great to be recognised for all the hard work we’ve done getting where we are. And winning a local award really means something to us. As a recruitment agency we’re a people business and, for us, our staff are our most important asset. We want everyone to enjoy coming to work and we reinvest most of our profits to make the company better, including an office move 18 months ago.”

Andrew Davis, director, Highfield Professional Solutions

Judges’ comments

We were impressed by the company’s huge commitment to its workforce, with initiatives ranging from clearly defined career paths underpinned by solid training and ownership reward, to simply creating a truly first-class workplace environment. This has resulted in a strong and fast-growing business which is a significant contributor to the local community and economy. They have a passion for their business, which is second to none and an ability to shape the future of their industry.


Clearvision – Impressive in lots of judging categories, keeps its workforce engaged; strong growth potential with new products coming to market.

Highfield Professional Solutions – A solid SME with high scores for people and CSR and offers employee share ownership; strong innovation, profitable, and expanding into different geographies.

Landau UK – An innovative company with lots of ideas, high growth potential in the areas they are looking at, plus a high CSR score.

Paul Basham Associates – They have grown significantly in the last year, opened a new office, and continue to focus on people and CSR.

PVC Building Supplies – This family owned business empowers staff to generate ideas like just-in-time overnight order delivery that wins contracts against larger competitors.

Veritech Systems – At the forefront in security software, committed to staff training and heavily involved in community initiatives.

Rising Star sponsored by Oberon Solutions

Winner: Avec UK


“Winning was really unexpected – we were here just to enjoy the evening. Our philosophy is to be adaptable and agile. We’re a self-reflective business that tries to improve, learn and adjust our path as we move forwards. Our retailer customers move at pace and our business model needs to move with them, so we can deliver faster and better than our competitors. We’re gaining momentum with overseas customers and will move into Europe post-Brexit.”

Becks Beere, MD and founder, Avec UK

Judges’ comments:

A thriving business whose revenue and profit has grown year-on-year since its inception. It has a fast-growing team of highly knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff who really seem to love what they do. The business is constantly evolving and has some exciting plans to continue to develop its product range and increase its client base across the globe. 


3R – Supports local recruitment businesses by looking at recruitment in new ways through funding, infrastructure and marketing; huge growth in the last two years.

Avec UK – Impressive 40% year-on-year growth and great staff attitude; have moved to larger premises and is expanding globally.

Helical Productions – A hugely ambitious and fun video production team that’s creating exciting content for a range of brands.

J Williams & Co – Disrupting the accountancy market with technology and has a good sales understanding; high people score and organic growth.

Paul Basham Associates – Expanded to a new office, offers a great graduate scheme, knowledgeable staff and strong organic growth.

RoyaleLife – An enthusiastic team expanding the business at a high rate, with new investment this year and an impressive approach to its bungalow developments.

Best Company to Work For sponsored by BDB Pitmans

Winner: Mayflower Theatre


“The best thing about winning this award is that it’s a reflection of our staff and their commitment to the Mayflower Theatre. An award like this recognises all their hard work, especially while we were closed for 15 weeks for a major refurbishment and after we re-opened. I think that as a manager you need to surround yourself with people who make you better, and who will rise to the challenges we face together. We always measure and review what we do – you can never sit still.”

Michael Ockwell, chief executive, Mayflower Theatre

Judges’ comments:

The leadership team has a genuine drive and commitment to ensure that it is a great place to work, empowering staff and giving them opportunities for personal growth. The business continually reviews and measures itself against its goals and is always looking at how to improve the experience both within the business and how it can deliver a positive impact to the wider community.


Bluebird Care Gosport – Shows a genuine commitment to employees, especially remote workers, in a challenging industry; offers plenty of training and competitive pay levels.

ITDev – Open, friendly, genuine approach with weekly staff polls to generate business ideas and new products; plus an impressive internship programme.

Mayflower Theatre – Passionate about employee engagement; has improved communication and relationships between back office and front-of-house staff following major refurbishment.

Management Team of the Year – sponsored by NatWest 

Winner: Diametric Technical


“Fantastic. We really didn’t expect to win. We’re quite a humble company and just try to look after everyone. Our philosophy has always been to be open with staff, share information with them and ask for their feedback. Without staff engagement you don’t have a management team. We’re particularly pleased to win in what was a difficult year for us as we diversified the business into new areas outside the automotive sector.”

Graham Steele, managing director, Diametric Technical

Judges’ comments:

Our winner has continued to make positive strategic progress over the last 12-18 months. And while their main customer markets have experienced some challenges, this management team has worked really hard to successfully develop their products for new customers and markets. The judges were particularly impressed by their focus on continuous improvement, and in the way that staff are fully engaged in the process, with their ideas readily acted upon. This aspect and the very strong staff engagement across different locations reflects the management team’s own journey within the organisation, and the positive and progressive culture they’ve created.


Biscoes Legal Services – Expanding through organic growth, acquisitions and moving into new areas, like supporting military personnel; good staff and client satisfaction levels.

Cobweb Solutions – The team has doubled turnover in the last two years with good strategic planning and developing new software services and tools.

Diametric Technical – Relatively new but very experienced management team is highly focused on growing the business, especially with large automotive manufacturer customers, in a tough economic climate.

Hendy Group – The team focuses on transformation and problem solving as Hendy continues to expand through acquisition; staff training and support delivers great customer service.

Mackoy – The team has grown the business significantly with a flexible business model and a workforce that meet client requirements.

Peach & Taylor Made Computer Solutions – Two great owners have harmonised the merger of these businesses and produced a clear onward strategy for growth.

Company of the Year sponsored by KPMG

Winner: Hendy Group


“We’re thrilled to win. There are some great companies in this category so we were up against quality opposition. As a retail company we rely on repeat business, so customer care and satisfaction are paramount – it’s in our lifeblood. This year, we integrated a major acquisition in just six months, which is a testament to both management teams. The quality of our people is so important to us, we keep investing in them and making them better. We’ve been in business 160 years and it’s great to receive this award.”

Paul Hendy, CEO, Hendy Group

Judges’ comments:

The winner particularly impressed us, firstly with their investment in customer service based on its strong family culture, supportive working environment and investment in developing talent internally. Secondly, by its strong financial position and track record along with the integration of a large acquisition that will be part of a near doubling of revenue. And finally, this is a third generation, Solent born and based business with a strongly recognised local brand.


3R – A fabulous business that spotted a gap in the market; a worthy finalist.

Cobweb Solutions – A Microsoft Gold Partner offering cloud services and tools that help SMEs improve productivity.

CV-Library – Impressive cutting-edge technology and new management team members at SBA 2017’s Company of the Year.

Hendy Group – Third generation family business that just keeps growing by acquiring businesses without getting indigestion.

Mackoy – A local business doing well with a range of Blue Chip customers by really understanding its market.

Mayflower Theatre – A strong Solent brand that has handled staff motivation well during major refurbishment.