By Alex Evans, Editorial Director, National Business Awards

The proliferation of high performing start-ups and enabling organisations in UK plc was evident from this year’s National Business Award finalists.

There were hundreds of examples of excellence among the entries to this year’s National Business Awards, but the most prevalent business types among the 150 plus finalists for 2011 included, within e-commerce, online dating, e-tail, price comparison, mobile apps and accessories; specialist recruitment (finance and healthcare); digital media and marketing; hosting and cloud computing; publishing (print and online); food and non-food retail; energy and greentech; pharmaceuticals; childcare; and specialist manufacturing.

“As an economy with a massive focus on services we would expect many of the new companies showing up in the Awards to reflect the UK’s world class status in the sector as companies seek to exploit and profit from revived and new growth opportunities,” commented Professor Dominic Swords, Business Economist and Co-chair of the National Business Awards.

“As an economy, the services sector accounts for some 75% of total annual GDP; and the spread of services is huge. There are those sectors which have a largely domestic focus - such as retailing and distribution - those that support our large tourism industry - such as hotels, restaurants, travel and visitor attractions - and those that are in the especially high value added end - such as the creative industries, design, consultancy and financial and business services. Together these sectors make a major contribution to growth, innovation, employment and wealth creation.”

Agility versus resource

While these sectors are well-represented among this year’s finalists, the size of organisations performing best varied considerably. “It was fascinating to see start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) punching above their weight because of the enabling power of the web and a much quicker expansion overseas, while the big organisations have become leaner and more productive - nurturing innovation by developing staff and investing in R&D around the customer”, observed Alex Evans, Editorial Director of the National Business Awards.

“There are some excellent examples of agile, innovative and disruptive start-ups and SMEs in categories like the Huawei Customer Focus Award, WorldPay Online Business of the Year, and the Orange Innovation Award. While at the other end of the excellence spectrum, larger organisations dominated in categories like Transformational Change of the Year, the Croner Employer of the Award and the Excellence in Marketing Award.”

Year of the Enabler

A new breed of high value business service organisation has also emerged, added Evans. “By helping businesses to become more profitable, more productive or offer better customer service, these B2B enablers are helping to strengthen the UK economy. Some excellent examples came through in the BlackBerry Business Enabler of the Year award, but excellence in their own performance shone through in categories like the BlackBerry Growth Business of the Year, the Santander SME of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year."

“A more consultative service culture has emerged, with specialists working in both the public and private cross-pollinating ideas and processes through a more collaborative approach. It’s a fundamentally generous thing to do to share ideas and this philosophy is at the heart of the National Business Awards.”

All winners of the National Business Awards in partnership with Orange will be announced on 8th November at the Gala Dinner — which will be attended by 1,200 of the most influential people in British business, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer. To book your place or reserve a table call 0207 234 8755, email Anthony.akoto@ubm.com or visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk for details.