By Alex Evans, Editorial Director, National Business Awards

The best of the UK’s SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and big businesses prove there are winners in every recession, with this year’s finalists demonstrating genuine innovation, insight and a hunger to succeed across the board.

With the top ten finalists identified in all 12 standard categories, and all three nomination only categories, the UK’s best businesses are now competing for the ultimate prize — National Business Award winner for 2010.

Phil Forrest, Chair of Judges for the National Business Awards since their launch in 2002, said the quality of entries painted a picture of optimism after such a protracted period of uncertainty and pessimism about the future of UK business.

“This year’s entries present the judges with a stimulating challenge and all finalists should be congratulated on their achievements in the current economic climate,” he said. “The quality is once again high with categories like Growth Strategy in particular extremely competitive.”

Forrest observed that British SMEs rose to the challenge in greater numbers this year - already identified by the National Business Awards as the engine of recovery in specially commissioned research by economist Professor Dominic Swords. “There has been a very high response from the SME sector, whose figures on past performance and future outlook are in stark contrast to the observed situation from most of Europe where reported results showed a much sharper drop in performance over the 2008/9 period. This is indicative of the greater resilience to the effects of the economic downturn by the UK’s SMEs.”

All categories were well represented from most sectors, and from all geographic regions of the UK, added Forrest, who said: The National Business Awards is still the UK’s broadest based and most important national awards programme - with the manufacturing sector again having a very welcome representation. In the public arena, entries from sectors like education and policing among others show a growing recognition of awareness of the importance of maintaining best practice in categories like Employer of the Year and Customer Focus - whose criteria have equal relevance to them.”

Business barometer

Highlighting trends from this year’s crop of entries, Forrest observed a balance between resilience and re-emergence in some key sectors. “Technology and telecoms look to be in good shape for the period ahead,” he explained. “Entries from the banking sector this year were again few and far between but some entries were received after an almost complete absence last year.

“Predicting the future outlook for the UK’s business community in the present climate is still an inexact science, but if the forecasts of the 2010 entry in general, and the SME sector in particular, are indicative of the mood of UK plc then there is more than a little cause for optimism.”

It was a similar story for the larger private, mid-cap and large-cap companies selected as finalists for the Business of the Year categories.

“Finalist companies ranging from turnover of £25m up to well over £2bn have proved that larger businesses can adapt quickly,” said Alex Evans, Editorial Director and Head of Judges at the National Business Awards. “We have identified some extremely impressive performers across a range of sectors, with truly inspirational examples of leadership, staff engagement, and financial success. Perhaps most heartening in the wake of the global downturn is the new focus on measured and sustainable growth, and a demonstrable commitment to corporate responsibility. Today’s captains of industry are navigating a surer course on a much tighter ship.”

Full details of the finalists in each category can be found on the National Business Awards website at www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk

Celebrate success and network with the best Ticket sales are now open for the event of the year, with 1,200 of the UK’s most influential business people gathering at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 9th November 2010 for the National Business Awards Ceremony. Whether you are a finalist, would like to support a finalist or would simply like to rub shoulders with UK plc’s finest, reserve your place now to avoid disappointment. For information on table bookings, contact Anthony Akoto on 0207 234 8710 or email Anthony.akoto@ubm.com

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