Business Executive of the Year: Past winners hard acts to follow

The search is on for Tyneside and Northumberland's business executive of the year

Mark Squires (left) with Andrew Hodgson
Mark Squires (left) with Andrew Hodgson

The search is on for Tyneside and Northumberland’s business executive of the year.

One gifted business leader will be selected from the region to go head to head with two similarly talented individuals from Teesside and Durham and Wearside in the finals of North East Business Executive of the Year Awards in November.

Run by The Journal in association with the Evening Gazette on Teesside, the awards recognise great role models of the business world who have led their companies to fresh achievements over the previous 12 months, sometimes in the face of adversity.

Last year, Tyneside and Northumberland’s champion – and indeed the overall North East winner – was Andrew Hodgson, chief executive of Wallsend’s SMD. Joining the company in 2008, after private equity investor Inflexion acquired a 60% stake, the former BAE Systems strategy director transformed the company’s fortunes, trebling its turnover to �130m within just a few years.

Under Hodgson’s leadership, the engineering firm witnessed significant growth across all its key business areas, including remotely-operated vehicles, trenching, mining, renewables and nuclear.

Staff numbers likewise doubled from 250 in 2010 to more than 500 and Hodgson has been noted for his commitment to supporting apprenticeships.

Last year the company opened its fourth factory at the Oceana Business park, Wallsend. Chairman of judges last year, John Mowbray, said Hodgson had been the unanimous choice of the panel.

“The judges who went out to visit all of those shortlisted spoke very highly of what they found,” he said.

“At a time when manufacturing exports were being touted as the great hope for the future of the UK economy, it was quite fitting that the North East’s exceptional endeavours in this area were recognised with an award for an individual who has played a key role both within his own company and the business community in general.”

Hodgson was following in the footsteps of 2011’s Tyneside winner, Michael Sandford-Couch, of North Shields company Potts Print (UK).

Cementing the business’s reputation as a leading print, packing and direct mail firm with strong international, public sector and corporate clients, Sandford-Couch had spearheaded growth of 33% within a year.

Under his leadership, the company also saw turnover grow significantly to the point that it was able to launch a 10-year growth plan with a goal of £25m turnover.

A similar success story also won the judges’ favour in 2010, when Andrew Esson, managing director of the Ashington-based oil and gas sector provider ContiTech Beattie Ltd earned the Tyneside and Northumberland title.

Esson, who was appointed in 2004, managed to double the company’s exports to �23m in three years and was hopeful of doubling turnover from £28m to around £60m by 2016.

The 30th North East Business Executive of the Year Awards will be held on Thursday, November 14, at the Newcastle Marriott Hotel, Gosforth Park.

To make a nomination, reserve a table or find out more, see

Regular updates can be found on Twitter, using the hash tag #businessexec

Alternatively, contact events manager Lesley Hampson on 0191 201 6435 or email

The judges who went out to visit all of those shortlisted spoke very highly of what they found


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer