Our Judges

We have developed our judging over 18 years and our judges, all top business people within their chosen arena, have cited our awards as both the most transparent and professionally executed. Each application is scored by up to 4 different judges from a panel of up to 30 judges, all applications are seen by different members of the judging panel. The judges spend several hours and score not only their own sponsored category but several others too, this ensures transparency. The first page of questions is designed to give the judges a real feel for your business, followed by several questions that are scored from 1 to 5. It is worth noting that although all judging is computer based please ensure you upload images or screen shots of all important pages. There are no site visits or presentations involved. The finalists are chosen by adding all the scores and up to 16 entrants can make it through to the final, however if scoring is low, less entrants make it through. Should you wish to read our Top Tips, please click HERE

Steve Axtell

Director of Blue Switch Marketing Ltd | Owner of it’seeze Northampton

Steve owns and operates the Northamptonshire franchise for it’seeze websites a leading national website design agency. Since starting the business in 2010 Steve has become a go to for SMEs in the Northamptonshire area when it comes to website design and online marketing advice.

With a 30 year background in corporate sales, marketing, business development and management with brands such as WD-40, Energizer and Red Bull to name a few, Steve’s depth of knowledge in mainstream and niche marketing techniques means that his clients can tap into this experience.

Steve has extensive business connections throughout Northamptonshire which enables collaboration, which in turn benefits local business.

Outside of business Steve volunteers as a Parish Council Chairman, is a poor musician but a very good poker player…beware!

Simon Pratt

Operations & Strategy Director; in-house Legal Counsel | Portman Asset Finance

Simon is responsible for the development and implementation, alongside the MD, of the Portman Finance Group’s strategic growth initiatives and operational efficiency. Simon also acts as Portman’s in-house legal counsel, being a qualified and practicing UK Solicitor. Simon has a diverse corporate and commercial background. Simon holds an MA from the University of Cambridge, and has founded a successful property development company with strategic landholdings in the London commuter belt. In addition he is a qualified City solicitor, having worked at both a White Shoe US Law Firm and an UHNW litigation firm in central London. Latterly in his career, Simon developed and led several strategic growth initiatives for a Top 150 City law firm named in the top 50 of the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, working directly with the CEO and President of the firm. Simon therefore brings a wealth of commercial experience to Portman’s senior leadership team, with extensive expertise across a range of legal and commercial areas.

Alex Read

Managing Director | Portman Asset Finance

Alex founded Portman Asset Finance in 2007, and has given dynamic leadership to the Portman Finance Group since inception, growing the business to become one of the largest and most respected commercial finance brokers in the UK. Alex is a serial entrepreneur, having founded a range of profitable businesses such as Boost Trampoline Parks, a Commercial Property company, a residential development and lettings business as well as two commercial finance lending businesses, namely Portman Leasing and Portman Commercial Finance. Alex is able to draw on a wealth of business experience across a range of industries to ensure that Portman continues to deliver exceptional service for its clients, innovation and growth.

Greg Guilford

CEO | HR Solutions

Greg Guilford has been a senior executive within local businesses for many years, and also volunteers as a governor in several local educational establishments within the county.

Greg is passionate about working within the county, and supporting small business through the services that HR Solutions provides.

Throughout his career Greg has also worked in central government, FTSE 100 companies, as well as having spent several years working in the Middle East.

Greg’s current role as CEO of HR Solutions sees him liaising with SME’s across the country, and nationally, as well as providing strategic direction for the company.

Ashley Riley

Managing Director | Ashley Riley Communications

Ashley is the Managing Director of National Award Winning Ashley Riley Communications.

He is regarded as an expert and thought leader on communications and how to use communication to be successful in business and in life.

With over two decades of global experience working in business, in the public sector, in the political world and mentoring some of the most successful organisations on how they communicate Ashley is regularly asked to share his journey, his knowledge and his passion with audiences across the UK.

His keynote speeches deliver thought disrupting, challenging and inspiring content in a captivating and highly energetic manner with a focus on how those listening can practically put what they hear into practice.

Ashley has worked in the NHS as a Children’s Nurse, was an Adviser to an Member of Parliament in the Blair Years, co-authored a book that changed the landscape for school meals, led international campaigns for a global charity in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US and Directed the Communications at London Stansted Airport which was home to over 10,000 staff and saw 23 million passengers a year pass through their gates.

Giles Bolton

Head of Grosvenor Corporate Finance | Grosvenor Leasing

Passionate about fitness, cooking, football, rugby and running, Giles is highly experienced in B2B sales, having joined Grosvenor Leasing in 1997.

After an initial spell at Grosvenor, he then spent 7 years working for other leading automotive brands. At Pendragon Contracts, a large dealer group that also owns a vehicle leasing company, he was responsible for new business and building dealer referral channels.

He then became regional manager for Alphabet GB, one of the UK’s largest contract hire and fleet management businesses, owned by BMW.

At ALD, another major fleet specialist and a bank-owned leasing company, he was instrumental in building a branded ‘Vauxhall Leasing’ product, working with their dealer network.

He returned to Grosvenor Leasing in September 2011 as head of corporate finance, and is responsible for new business opportunities, setting up their dealer referral channel, manufacturer introduced business and broker relationships.

As an avid networker, he is recognised across the fleet industry and highly respected for his longstanding expertise in B2B sales and customer relations. Through his personal interests, he is also well-known as someone who is an active participant in Northamptonshire’s sporting and social circles.

Shaun Redhead

Head of Grosvenor Personal Leasing | Grosvenor Leasing

Shaun showed his flair for business very early by progressing through the ranks of a Northamptonshire supermarket and being promoted to assistant manager at the tender age of 18.

With a keen interest in retail, he then joined Croyland Car Megatore, the used car supermarket in Rushden (which is owned by the Grosvenor Group), where he began his career in automotive sales.

Six years later, Shaun joined his family’s business, a specialist instrument retailer, helping to set up their eCommerce platform and turning it into one of the UKs largest online instrument retail sites at the time.

By 2015, he was looking for a new challenge and to develop his skills further he re-joined the Grosvenor Group; this time with Interactive Fleet Management, its specialist fleet management business in a B2B sales and account management role.

With his blend of B2C and B2B being seen as a key strength, he was promoted 4 years later to head up Grosvenor’s new personal contract hire division, managing a team that is responsible for significant growth as well as operational excellence and standards.

Mohammed Rahman

Solicitor | Borneo Martell Turner Coulston Solicitors

Mohammed is an experienced, highly regarded Commercial Solicitor that has been with local firm, Borneo Martell Turner Coulston Solicitors since 2019. Although Mohammed can advise and assist on all aspects of property transactions, he has particular interest in commercial property.  He routinely deals with sales, purchases, and leasehold transactions for both landlords and tenants, assignments of leases, business sales and purchases, commercial re-mortgages and advising Guarantors.

Mohammed prides himself on providing excellent client care and has strong local connections.  He is very familiar with the issues that SMEs face with commercial premises.  He has also personally been involved in family run businesses, so understand the requirements of small and medium businesses from a practical perspective as well as legal.

Tom Bodkin

Solicitor | Borneo Martell Turner Coulston Solicitors

Tom is an Associate of the Commercial and Litigation Department at local Law firm, Borneo Martell Turner Coulston Solicitors.  Tom provides advice on a broad range of litigious and corporate matters and his practice covers all elements of commercial civil litigation and corporate transactions.

Tom considers that his strengths as a lawyer are giving straightforward and transparent advice to clients whilst also having a huge energy for getting the root of a problem and resolving it in the most efficient and cost effective way.

Kerry Lewis-Stevenson

Publisher | NN & MK Pulse Magazines, Business Times and Business MK

Kerry is a relative newcomer to awards judging, but as a serial entrepreneur herself and with her fascination for how small and medium-sized companies contribute to the local community, it’s been a real pleasure to see what talented business owners can do.

Kerry studied graphic design, so she has creative flair and a great eye for detail which she has used to provide a laser-sharp focus to the marketing materials of some of the country’s leading food and consumer brands in retail and business to business (B2B) environments.

Together with her husband, who has won awards as a super-heavyweight body builder, she has also run a successful online business focussed on sports nutrition.

For almost 15 years Kerry has published the popular Pulse magazines in the Northampton and Milton Keynes areas which continue to fulfil her vision to create local magazines unlike any others. Reaching over 50,000 households every month, they have found their place in the community as a friendly source of local information and are trusted by many loyal advertisers.

Not to be deterred by the coronavirus restrictions, the magazines continued online until they could be safely welcomed through letterboxes again. At the same time, Kerry embraced the opportunity to take over the reins at Northamptonshire’s popular business newspaper, Business Times. Since then, she has also added the Business MK title to her publishing portfolio.


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