Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2007: Soaraway Silvertops

Pardon our ageism, but this is our salute to grey power: the older hands among our Top 100 Entrepreneurs list who, far from retiring, keep pushing their enterprises to new heights

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

29. ALAN DICK, 68 - Alan Dick & Co

This is the man who makes those mobile phone base stations that look like trees. He founded Alan Dick & Co in 1971, initially erecting TV transmitters for the BBC. But the firm really got going in the 1990s mobile phone boom, when demand soared for its commercial antennae.

Dick developed a range of specialised structures with a low environmental impact. Rumours that a sale was in the offing a couple of years ago, based on a £200m valuation, have so far proved unfounded. Meanwhile, Dick is refocusing on overseas expansion with a £46m war chest, as his British business has hit a downturn. Yet he still made £2.5m profit on £178m sales in 2004-05.

46. HAROLD MARTIN, 71 - HW Martin Holdings

Crawling along past lines of traffic cones in motorway jams is no fun, but when it happens to Harold Martin, he can afford to smile - they're probably his own. This low-key entrepreneur makes a fortune from roadworks; his traffic management division handles everything from motorway contraflows to urban road closures and city festivals.

Similarly lucrative lines include safety fencing, plant hire and maintenance, and recycling and waste management. His Derbyshire-based company, HW Martin Holdings, founded in 1976, is headquartered on a 13-acre site beside the M1. Clients include the Highways Agency, HM Prison Service and the MOD.

In the year to July 2005, sales of £47.8m (up nearly £4m) yielded profits of £5.7m.

50. SIR ARNOLD CLARK, 79 - Arnold Clark Automobiles

He may be pushing 80 but car salesman extraordinaire Sir Arnold Clark shows no signs of taking his foot off the gas. His Arnold Clark Autos pushed profits up by 25% in the first half of 2006.

Clark opened his first car dealership in Glasgow's Kelvinside in 1955 and his firm is now the largest independent car dealer in the UK, with more than 100 branches in Scotland and at least 30 in England. Clark has invested heavily in the regeneration of Glasgow's West End and in the Glasgow Training Group, which runs a sales exec course called Arnold's Academy.

His racing yacht Drum is a common sight on the Clyde, and when he's not sailing it, he lets it out for hire. In 2005 Clark's business turned in profits of £54m on £1.7bn sales.

=75. JOHN RANDALL, 77 - Kanes Foods

John Randall bought Kanes Foods from the quoted Hazlewood Foods for £3m in 1990. It proved a shrewd investment; in 2004-05, Kanes' parent KF Investments made £6.4m profit on sales of £67.4m. Randall still owns all the shares.

Success has not been without its trials, though, for the Vale of Evesham-based producer of chilled salads, stir-fry vegetables and sauces and coleslaw. Kanes has run into local protest over plans to expand a 20-acre production and distribution site. The current boom in the popularity of functional foods should help to keep Randall's business going strong for a while yet.

79. BRIAN & ALAN STANNAH, 71 AND 67 - Stannah Family Holdings

As the owners of Stannah Holdings, brothers Brian and Alan Stannah know all about grey power. The demographic shift is accelerating demand for the Andover-based firm's products engineered expressly for the chronologically challenged.

The company makes and maintains lifts, stairlifts and powered chairs for the elderly, as well as all types of passenger and goods lifts. It recently invested £3.5m to build a new 64,500 sq ft factory in Newcastle. Joseph Stannah founded the business in 1860, trialling hand-operated lifts. Nearly 150 years on, Stannah remains a family business, run and owned by the fourth generation.

It has subsidiaries in Holland, Italy and North America and operates in more than 50 countries. In 2005, profits hit a record £11.17m on sales of £137.5m.

83. IAN SCARR-HALL, 68 - GSH Group

In 1895, George Hall set up a small company in Stoke-on-Trent to look after the boilers and kilns of the numerous factories of the Potteries. He had just five employees. Today, the kilns have gone, but the business - now called GSH - remains, controlled by his descendants.

GSH provides facilities management services to large corporate clients, including HBOS, Ikea and M&S. Ian Scarr-Hall is president of the firm, which floated on the stock market in May 2005, valued at £40m.

Two years earlier, he'd made Scottish headlines when he joined forces with the inhabitants of the Hebridean island of Harris to buy the Amhuinnsuidhe estate for £2m. He took over the castle, grounds and fishing rights and left the rest of the 55,000-acre estate to be run by the locals.

88. JOHN GUEST, 79 - John Guest International

A generation of DIY enthusiasts has come to thank John Guest for its most famous innovation - the plastic push-in pipe fitting. The Speedfit fittings have proved popular with the trade, too, and the firm won a Queen's Award for Innovation in 2005 as a result.

The West Drayton-based business was started by John Guest in 1961, and is now one of the world's biggest makers of plastic pipe fittings for the plumbing and car industries. The family-owned operation is chaired by Guest, and his three sons are directors. In 2005, it made £5.9m profit on £85.4m sales.

The business has operations worldwide, including the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. About 60% of production is exported and the firm spends roughly 10% of its sales figure on capital investment.

89. DAME MARGARET BARBOUR, 66 - J Barbour & Sons

Margaret Barbour has managed to keep the waxed cotton jacket - first produced by her forebear John in 1909 for motorcyclists, submariners and outdoorsmen - at the forefront of county fashion. When another Dame, Helen Mirren, wore a Barbour for her title role in the movie The Queen last year, she helped sales of the famous waxed jacket to soar round the world, particularly in America.

When her husband John died tragically young, Margaret Barbour took over the reins at the South Shields business and has overseen huge expansion since. In the year to December 2005, profits soared to £4.8m on sales of £54m. Results for 2006 should be even better.

100. CHRISTOPHER DUNCAN, 67 - Numatic International

Christopher Duncan owns Numatic International, best known for its Henry range of domestic vacuum cleaners, cheery machines that are liked by many in the trade, too. Somerset-based Numatic, founded in 1969, also produces industrial cleaners and floor polishers.

In the early days the firm employed six, the factory was tiny and its most sophisticated piece of equipment was a drill. The first designs, knocked together like something from Scrapheap Challenge, incorporated oil drums, suitcase handles, furniture castors and washing-up bowls.

With steady profits and a strong balance sheet, Numatic is the sort of industrial business the nation could do with more of. In 2005 it made a profit of £3.2m on sales of nearly £78m and showed net assets of £27m.

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