EVERYONE’S a winner!
A capacity audience celebrated success at the Examiner Business Awards last night.
There was ecstatic applause as the winners stepped onto the stage at the John Smith’s Stadium to receive their trophies and certificates.
The glittering black-tie event honoured the winners in 10 fiercely-contested categories, including ones for new businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises, exporting, innovation and enterprise.
Sectors represented by the winners and a crop of high-calibre runners-up included manufacturing, IT services, retailing, hospitality, business services, property development and food production.
The prestige award of the night – Business Person of the Year – went to a delighted Nick Brown, chairman of FMG, the fleet performance improvement specialist.
The award was presented by Jeremy Garside, managing partner of law firm Chadwick Lawrence, which sponsored the category as well as being sponsor for the overall awards.
Mr Garside praised Mr Brown for his commitment to the business he built from small beginnings, its workforce and local community causes – and quipped: "A die-hard Spurs fan, his loyalty in all other things is to Huddersfield!"
Mr Brown worked in the insurance, catering and clothing industries before running a small vehicle leasing company in partnership with a local dealer and then going on to represent the firm in the south of England.
Returning to buy out his partner, he expanded the firm’s interests to encompass a wider range of fleet management services before realising an ambitious plan to build a new headquarters in 2002 at St Andrew’s Road.
Today, the company he built is the UK’s leading independent fleet performance improvement specialist – working with loyal and long-standing customers including GE, DHL, Carlsberg and Royal Mail across its two key service areas of fleet incident management and roadside repair and recovery management.
Said Mr Garside: "Under his leadership, the company has grown to become the hugely successful and respected name it is today.
"With his entrepreneurial determination, our winner has led by example in driving himself and his people to find new ways of resolving business challenges for its clients."
Accepting the award, Mr Brown said: "I feel very humble. In the last 15 to 20 years of developing the business we have had many more successful years than this one. It has been incredibly tough as it has for everyone.
"But the reason we have been successful is that we have an incredible team of people, incredibly committed from the friends I have on the board to the front line personnel."
Guests at the awards ceremony were welcomed by Examiner editor Roy Wright, who remarked: "It doesn’t seem 12 months ago that we were last here to celebrate the successes of our hard-working, enterprising local companies. But good things just keep on coming and the 2012 awards have brought another crop of high-calibre businesses to the fore."
Click on the link below to open a picture gallery from the event featuring all the winners
On a night of highs, guest speaker Gerald Ratner recalled his lowest moment in business. The former head of jewellery chain Ratners recounted what was later called "the worst moment in corporate history" – when he gave a too-honest appraisal of one of the firm’s products, which he described as "total crap".
Mr Ratner, who recovered to establish successful online jewellery businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, said: "I became the tabloids’ punchbag."
He found himself Number 1 in a list of the 50 Worst Mistakes in Business and "Doing a Ratner" became a stock phrase for putting your foot in it, big style.
But he joked: "I’d never won an award before. And I am only known for that one mistake 20 odd years ago but I have made many mistakes that I am not credited for because that one was so big."
He told the audience he had applied for 20 jobs and got 21 refusals, saying; "It dawned on me that I would have to be my own boss."
When he wanted to open a health club, he went to the banks but nobody was listening. So he advertised memberships and got 800 people to sign up before he’d even secured the premises.
Three years later, he sold the business for £3.9m.
Mr Ratner started selling jewellery on-line in 2001 but found he couldn’t even use his own surname. So he called the business Gerald online, hired publicist Max Clifford and got three million hits generating sales of £35m in the firm’s first Christmas of trading.
The awards ceremony was hosted by BBC Look North’s Harry Gration who said: "I have seen these awards grow over the years and they are now one of the business occasions of the year."
Guests included category sponsors and award judges, several past winners of the Business Person of the Year Award and leading figures from the local business community.
Now find out the winners from the night by clicking on the next page