NISSAN drove off with the title of Wearside’s best business at the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2011.
The car-maker, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Wearside this year, swept the board, being named Business of the Year and also picking up trophies in the Manufacturer and Large Business – more than 50 employees categories.
“It is a company that has put the city on the map for so many great reasons, indeed a company that has become synonymous with the city of Sunderland,” said our judges.
Quality assurance general manager Colin McVay collected the Business of the Year trophy from Coun Harry Trueman, deputy leader of main sponsor Sunderland City Council.
“It has been an excellent night,” he said. “This is particularly special because it is local and we are being recognised by the people of the North East.”
First category to be presented at last night’s Stadium of Light ceremony was our training award. Gary Hutchinson, head of venue and events with sponsor Sunderland AFC, presented the award to Fred Hood, managing director of McNally and Thompson.
“This successful electrical contracting business puts employee training at the heart of its business, investing in the last two years alone more than £20,000 in training for both apprentices and electricians,” said the judges.
“I am absolute elated,” said Fred. “It is the first time we have entered anything.”
Nissan’s first win of the night came next, with HR director Greg Penn collecting the manufacturing award from Jim Symonds, managing director of sponsor Datawright.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant celebrated a record year of production in 2010, further cementing the company’s status as the UK’s number one car producer.
“The winner of the Manufacturer of the Year award scored 10 out of 10 on all counts,” said the judges.
The award was a tribute to the plant’s workforce, said Greg.
“This is for of all those employees who are so committed and work so very hard,” he said.
Rainton Bridge-based SaleCycle was the winner of the technology award, with managing director Dominic Edmunds accepting the trophy from Karen Hindhaugh, operations director with sponsor CES.
The fastest growing part of our inaugural business of the year, the Leighton Group, SaleCycle helps on-line retailers target potential customers who have abandoned their purchases.
“Quite simply, this company stood out from the crowd,” said the judges.
The business is only 18 months old and Dominic is looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
“The most exciting thing is seeing what is going to happen in the next 18 months.”
The best businesses recognise the importance of looking after their employees and our Employer of the Year award recognises those which go the extra mile.
Barclays picked up the trophy for the second year in a row, with head of site Christine Allenson joining Andy Bradley, centre director of sponsor The Bridges on stage.
“Our winner demonstrated excellent achievements in all areas and there was evidence of superior performance in all aspects of employer engagement,” said the judges.
“We are delighted,” said Christine. “We are always looking at continuous improvement and what can we do for our employees.”
Every business needs those star performers whose dedication goes above and beyond the call of duty.
This year’s Employee of the Year is Adam Moses, of Rainton Bridge-based IT specialist Test Factory, who collected his trophy from Stuart Birkett, managing director of the Echo’s parent company North East Press.
“There are some fantastic employees working across Wearside,” said our judges, “however, one candidate stood out from the rest.”
Adam had not even been aware he was up for an award.
“My company told me we were up for the technology award and the business award, so it’s quite a shock actually,” he said.
“I am very pleasantly surprised, shall we say.”
Businesses are increasingly aware of their impact on the world around them and our Green Business award recognises those at the cutting edge of making the world a cleaner place.
John Mowbray, director of corporate affairs with sponsor Northumbrian Water, presented the trophy to Gordon O’Brien, founder and majority shareholder of winner G O’Brien and Sons.
“The winner has recycling and green issues at the core of its business,” said the judges.
Gordon was another winner who had not realised he was in line to pick up a trophy, with grandson Nathan having submitted the nomination.
“I was not even aware we had entered but I am very, very proud to win this,” said Gordon.
Sunderland’s flourishing creative sector is a key element in the economic development of the city, a fact reflected by our Creative Arts award, sponsored by the University of Sunderland. “Our winner is creative not only in terms of its product, but its marketing and advertising,” said the judges.
Peter Daykin, director of quarterly football journal The Blizzard, led the team up to receive the trophy from Graeme Thompson, Dean of Arts, Design and Media, and paid tribute to his squad.
“It was an idea that came from the pub and, like all ideas that come from the pub, it created extra work for somebody else,” he said.
“Nina, Gareth and Michael are the people who have had their job descriptions added to and this recognition is really their recognition.”
The university also sponsored our new Graduate Business of the Year award. Mark McKenna and Dan Makavelli, of Media Savvy Training, collected the award from David Donkin, assistant director of Research, Innovation and Employment Engagement.
“Young, passionate and extremely determined” is how the pair describe themselves and our judges couldn’t have agreed more.
“Trading for a year, this business has built up a strong network of contacts within the voluntary sector community and displays an infectious can-do attitude which readily enthuses its clients,” they said.
The duo admitted that working in the public sector meant they had not expected to win.
“We just tended to think that because of our social objectives, we would not be looked at beside other businesses,” said Mark.
One of the most important roles for the Portfolio Awards is to recognise the exciting new businesses which are thriving across the region.
Gemma Ganley, of winner Love Lily Cakes, collected the trophy from Justin Hickman, general manager of sponsor Seaham Hall.
“This winner researched their chosen line of business, meeting with some drawbacks but working through how to overcome it,” said the judges.
“The result is a highly-successful young company which is really going places.”
Gemma learned to cook from her late grandmother Lily and was looking forward to sharing the news of her win with grandfather Albie Thompson.
“I can’t wait to go and show my granddad tomorrow,” she said.
Corporate social responsibility is an increasingly important part of any business’ profile and our Special Community Award, sponsored by Gentoo, honours those helping make the North East a better place for everyone.
Michael Oliver, Katherine White and Toni Kirby, of Olivers Dental Surgery, collected the trophy from Deborah Piggett, director of organisational development.
“This company works throughout the community to help deliver its messages in a fun and interactive way,” said the judges.
“Dedicated staff work on specific projects with local people and look after everyone from the very young to the elderly in a bid to bring home their important messages.”
Katherine said: “It is fantastic to be able to go out and teach the children of Sunderland about the importance of healthy teeth and the importance of healthy eating.”
This year’s toughest category was our Small Business (under 50 employees) award, which attracted a record number of entries.
Roy Kenny, project manager with sponsor Verum Victum, presented the award to Darren Williams, of the Harland Corporation.
“A previous Portfolio awards winner, The Harland Corporation goes from strength to strength with its e-commerce business, which sells hair products and hair extensions,” said the judges.
“The company’s ability to anticipate new trends and grow its markets has led to it being one of the leading internet hair product retailers in the country.”
Darren was delighted to be a winner again.
“I am really, really excited but we could not have done it without the help and support of each and every one of our staff,” he said.
So tough was this category that the judges felt moved to name two runners-up.
Harry, Nicola and Rachael Collinson, of Collinsons the Jewellers, and Ron Elliott, managing director of NTE Ltd, collected the certificates.
“The introduction of new marquee product lines has been particularly successful,” the judges said of Collinsons, while NTE was honoured for having “a wide range of products, helping retain business strength.”
Harry said they were “really pleased, as a family business from Sunderland”, while Ron was delighted to be flying the flag for East Durham and looking forward to claiming the trophy outright next year.
Nissan picked up its second award of the night as Russell Borthwick, managing director of sponsor Press Ahead, presented the award for Large Business – more than 50 employees to director of production control Nicholas Toes.
“In the 25 years since production began, Nissan’s Sunderland plant has rewritten the record books for UK car production,” said the judges.
Nicholas was pleased to pick up the award in the plant’s silver anniversary year.
“I think it is recognition of the work Nissan has put in during the last 25 years,” he said.
Our Entrepreneur of the Year category honours those individuals who have that special something to succeed where others cannot.
In fact, winner Ian Smith, of Surreal Creative, is so busy that he was unable to make it back from a business trip to Holland in time for last night’s ceremony and wife Jackie collected the trophy from Anne Ganley, of sponsor Thompson’s Building Centres.
“Giving up a six-figure salary to go it alone, our winner has built a successful business with a European reach,” said the judges.
“Allowing each member of the eight-strong team to play to their individual strengths has produced a business which is stronger than its parts, a fact which is reflected in glowing testimonials from clients.”
Jackie was delighted to collect the award on Ian’s behalf.
“He will be very proud,” she said. “It’s just a shame he can’t be here to collect it himself after all the hard work he’s done.”
Anne Ganley found herself back on stage unexpectedly moments later, as Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith presented her with the award for Outstanding Contribution to the City.
Sunderland City Council’s reasons for choosing this winner to be the recipient of their Outstanding Contribution to the City award extend beyond her entrepreneurial success,” said the commendation.
“They recognise an ability to push forward and motivate others outside of the boardroom and also someone who is a long-standing environmentalist who cares passionately about their community and is also highly regarded within their own, very competitive, industry.”
Anne was astonished to receive her award on a night which had also seen daughter Gemma honoured.
“I honestly never had a clue,” she said.
“I had no idea this was going to happen – I am so proud.”
* See tomorrow’s Echo for more coverage of the Portfolio Awards