Director of the Year Award 2016: The best in business

Louise Gulliver and Dame Stephanie Shirley Director of the Year Awards

From owners of small firms to chief executives of global powerhouses, Britain’s best business leaders were honoured recently at the IoD Director of The Year Awards 2016. Over the Christmas holidays, Director brings you highlights from the day and reveals the all-important winners

Few occasions in the business calendar are as uplifting as the IoD Director of the Year Awards. Celebrating the very best business has to offer, the ceremony is the culmination of a year-long, nationwide search for the leaders whose companies are making the most notable impact on the UK’s enterprise climate. This year’s lunchtime awards, held at the London Lancaster hotel on 21 October, once again honoured the achievements of companies of all sizes, from a multitude of sectors.

More than 80 finalists had come through the IoD’s tough regional awards process. Every area of their businesses had been put under the microscope, upholding the IoD’s values – as set out in its 110-year-old Royal Charter – including its responsibility for better directors and corporate governance.

The task of selecting the winners was in the hands of 30 distinguished judges, including IoD joint managing directors Tom Christie-Miller and Louise Gulliver, Robert Moore – head of direct and intermediated partnerships at event sponsor, Hiscox – and Jo Bertram, regional general manager (UK, Ireland and Nordics) of Uber. The panel also included Marie-Therese McGivern, principal and chief executive of Belfast Metropolitan College, and Stewart McNicholl, managing director of Askams. Judges were tasked with selecting winners they felt best showed excellence in financial performance and financial growth, employee and community engagement, innovation and product development, reputation management, education and training and ethical behaviour.

On the day, as finalists and guests gathered – many steadying pre-ceremony nerves with a glass of champagne – Director’s pop-up photo booth proved a hit, while the social media timelines buzzed with messages of support.

Welcoming the audience ahead of a three-course lunch, Christie-Miller spoke of the IoD’s commitment to business excellence. “This focus on quality and directorship is something I know we share with all of you,” he said. Praising “some of the highest-quality applications we have ever received”, he added: “I am humbled when I read these applications and am reminded of what really great leadership sectors look like.”

The ceremony was hosted by television presenter Mark Durden-Smith – known for anchoring ITV’s Rugby World Cup coverage and the more raucous reality TV spin-off show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Now.

In addition to the hotly contested business prizes, three new chartered directors were shortlisted – but with this award based on exams and interviews it was not a matter for the judges.

The year also brought a new category to the ceremony – Mental Health Awareness Director of the Year – as the IoD and members championed the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace. The penultimate award will come as no surprise to readers of Director’s November issue. Cover star Dame Stephanie Shirley – the former child refugee, tech pioneer and philanthropist – received a standing ovation as she accepted the Director Lifetime Achievement award from Gulliver.

She recounted Shirley’s career battles to smash the glass ceiling and her groundbreaking move in 1962 to form a computer programming firm staffed mostly by women. “The constant theme throughout her life has been a determination to do things differently, to break new ground and challenge convention,” said Gulliver. On a personal note, she revealed she had been a fan of Shirley since watching an interview with her a decade ago, shortly after being appointed to her first board position and becoming a mother. “I was thrilled to be invited to present this,” she admitted. “Until [seeing the interview] my mum was my exclusive role model, but from that moment on Dame Stephanie Shirley muscled in on the act.”

Shirley, who joined the IoD early in her career, has spoken of her appreciation of the institute’s training services. She shrugged off Durden-Smith’s question of retirement, recounting the enjoyment she gets from her philanthropic foundation and its research into autism and information technology.

The afternoon drew to a close with one of the category winners named the IoD’s overall Director of the Year. But who took that and the other prizes? Click here as we put the first of our worthy winners under the spotlight to see why the judges crowned them the best of British business. And check back every day, as we profile more Director of the Year Awards winners.

Slideshow: click to enlarge

Director of the Year Awards: on the day

What we ate

Smoked Scottish salmon and pâté with pickled beetroot, caviar cream and rye bread crostini

Chicken supreme, gratin potato, green beans and a tomato, pancetta and mushroom cream sauce

Chocolate with a raspberry sorbet

What we drank

Quinta Denidela Airen, Bodegas Gallegas 2014
Quinta Denidela Tempranillo, Bodegas Gallegas 2014

Fact of the day

Roger Tilling, the ‘voice’ of University Challenge, was the event announcer.

For details of next year’s awards, including how to enter, contact your local region

About author

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett is an associate editor who writes about entrepreneurs, SMEs, FTSE 100 corporations, technology, manufacturing, media and sustainability.

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