man with ice cream sitting down smiling

Frozen Dessert Machines CEO’s Warming Story of Triumph

When Justin Fischer made the call for his business, Brüllen Pty Ltd, to start producing frozen dessert machines in 2016, he did so having recognised a key gap in the market, one that could be filled with a series of reliable, high-performance, and high-quality soft serve ice cream machines. Today, Brüllen has solidified itself as an industry leader, selling, installing, and servicing soft serve ice cream makers, as well as frozen yoghurt and acai dessert machines, on a global scale. The journey Justin has undergone to get to this point has been inspiring, emotional, and reassuring all at once, and as a result of his unwavering commitment to the cause, we are proud to bestow Justin Fischer with the rightful title of Most Influential CEO 2024 – Australia (Frozen Dessert Machines).

“Write your dreams down and never stop chasing them.” This is the sentiment of Brüllen Pty Ltd CEO and Founder Justin Fischer, who has spent more than a quarter of a century traversing the often-tumultuous path to turning his wildest dreams into reality, overcoming any hurdles that have stood in his way. These efforts have more than paid off, and today, Justin serves as a pioneering and dominant figure in the world of frozen desserts. Headquartered in the beautiful Australian city of Sydney, his business is swiftly becoming one of the leading frozen dessert machine manufacturers on the planet, a distinction it has earned in part as a result of superior craftsmanship and worldwide appeal.

This international affluence spans more than just its consumer base, with the parts used in the creation of these machines being meticulously sourced from renowned and reputable manufacturers in European countries such as Germany, Italy, Denmark, and France, ensuring they wholly adhere to the company’s overarching commitment of providing nothing less than the best that the industry has to offer. Germany is also home to the company’s engineering epicentre, and in German, Brüllen translates to “raw”, with this name representing the relentless dedication and no-frills approach that has been put into the business to ensure its success.

Moreover, although these machines are assembled in China, they embody the innate mastery of German engineering, and the company is incredibly proud of its Australian heritage, boasting the claim of being 100% Australian owned and operated. Once these machines are assembled, they come complete with a genuine, worldwide 12-month warranty, a standard part of Brüllen’s encompassing after sales service. Bolstering this further is Justin’s drive to hire only exceptional people to work for his company, with this amazing team standing as a united front and working tirelessly to make sure that the company’s reputation for excellence is upheld at all times and in all of the worldwide territories in which it operates.

Despite today being an incredibly successful CEO, and even appearing on the popular television series Married at First Sight, the road for Justin has not been easy, and like many business owners, he has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. His story begins when he got his first job at McDonald’s as a teenager, and upon noticing how frequently the company’s ice cream machines would falter, he spent countless hours teaching himself how to service and repair them, a skill that would prove incredibly beneficial in the long run. A few years later, Justin would quit the company and take a leap of faith, starting a business where he would independently service these soft serve machines himself.

Initially, everyone told Justin that he was crazy for giving up his job on such a whim – after all, who would pay him to clean and service ice cream machines when companies such as McDonald’s have its own staff to do this? Justin was in the midst of a successful career when this decision was made, as at just 17 years old, he was a franchise owner of a successful McDonald’s branch, the youngest manager in the country, and the recipient of almost every award the company had to offer. Undeterred by the negativity of those around him, Justin set about contacting other franchise owners for jobs, battling through the rejection and even highlighting his unparalleled work ethic by carrying out his services free of charge.

After those he had worked for began to notice that months had gone by and their machines were still faultlessly running, word of Justin’s stellar services soon spread across Queensland, and the business began to grow exponentially, with more than 30 people on the payroll at the height of the business’ success. Unfortunately, Justin’s personal life took a major hit after his relationship ended, and he was forced to sell the business as part of a settlement deal. One of the terms of the contract he signed meant that Justin was unable to trade in Queensland for five years, so he up and left to start a new life, in Sydney.

After drifting for a short time, including taking a car sales job at which he lasted just one day before quitting, Justin’s future was severely lacking in direction, and he felt it was again about time to take a second crack at getting a soft serve machine service company off the ground, this time in a new area with a fresh client base. However, a chance encounter with his brother, Scott, ultimately resulted in the pair deciding that a much better investment would be utilising their expertise to create frozen dessert machines of their own, products that would exude manufacturing prowess, consistency, and reliability in equal measure. Thus, Brüllen Pty Ltd was born to fulfil these very obligations.

Aside from their reliability, the company’s machines too boast the claim of being incredibly easy to use, and a series of training videos can be viewed online that cover the areas of assembly, cleaning, set-up, and configuration, or training with a technician is available either online or at a customer’s place of business, whichever is more convenient. As a result of these combined elements, Brüllen’s soft serve ice cream machines are highly distinguished in this space, boosted by the fantastic control and flexibility afforded to each of the items in the range, resulting in a final product, whether this be soft serve, frozen yoghurt, or acai desserts, that are consistent and embody the premium quality synonymous with the brand.

The exemplary nature of Brüllen’s machines and services have caught the attention of some of the biggest names in the worldwide hospitality space, and Justin has personally overseen the supply, service, and installation of a wide range of equipment for such iconic brands as Burger King, Wendy’s, IKEA, Subway, Pizza Hut, and countless others. In somewhat of an ironic twist that represents the cyclical nature of Justin’s journey, his company’s machines are now also used in many branches of McDonald’s across the business’ native Australia and further beyond.

On the back of such triumphs, Brüllen has come to be globally accepted as a leader in the frozen dessert sphere, currently ranking as one of the top three soft serve equipment manufacturers in the world, a remarkable feat that has only been possible thanks to the knowledge, experience, and dedication of Justin, Scott and every subsequent member of this expert team. From day one, improving and growing the company into the worldwide force that it is today has been a top priority, and still very much at the helm, Justin and Scott now possess a combined 40 years of experience in this area, know-how they are constantly applying to fortify Brüllen’s frontrunner status.

Justin’s career and more than 25 years of involvement have proven exceptionally valuable in not only the design and engineering of these machines, but also in the wider managing of the business, something Justin prides himself on undertaking to the highest possible standard across his CEO duties. When it comes to managing a business, Justin prides his three-fold ethos – which necessitates passion, pride, and profit – in that order. Aided by this demonstrably impactful mindset, Justin has not only succeeded in a business setting, but he has used this platform to give something back to numerous global charities that cover both humanitarian and wildlife causes, highlighting his selfless nature and drive to help others.

Over the past several years, the business has gone from strength, and as a result of the robust nature of its machines and an unwavering commitment to expanding its presence in the market, the company is stronger now than it has ever been before, having escalated to cover such bases as cruise ships and mobile food vans in addition to its storied partnerships with a series of famed restaurants and cafes. Such sustained success has been made apparent most recently by the business’ heavy presence at the 2024 Australian Open, where the company’s i95 PRO machines made it possible for partner company Peach Melbourne to serve its signature blend of ice cream to spectators across the tournament.

Brüllen’s i95 Pro serves as just one of its signature offerings, with this floor standing machine offering two flavours plus a twist setting and can produce an impressive 440-880 80g servings an hour depending on the product. One of the most popular machines in this range, the i95 Pro is available in four bold colours, black, white, pink, and teal. Eight additional machines complete the line, and across this selection, machines comprise either countertop or floor standing variants, with each boasting a different capacity and varying features based on size and model. New machines are regularly being introduced by the team, with one such new variant being the Baby Brüllen, a pint-sized offering perfect for small events/businesses.

Of course, there is more to owning a machine than just the item itself, but Brüllen has this covered too, and its online store stocks everything that a customer could possibly need to maintain their machine effectively, from a plethora of tune up kits that are available for every model, through to standard staples such as cleaning solution, universal cleaning brushes, sanitising tablets/powder, and lubricant. Remember, this is all in addition to the aforementioned warranty, which is guaranteed to straighten out any issues within 12 months of purchase, in the unlikely event they arise that is.

Whether a customer is just starting out in the field of frozen yoghurt, soft serve ice cream, or acai desserts, or is simply seeking reliable hardware to expand their current set-up, Brüllen is confident in its ability provide the right solution for them, with its machines possessing the ability to aid a customer in the crafting of their own unique and exciting flavours that are sure to impress their intended audience. Aside from the multitude of colours that are available on machines across the range, Brüllen’s customers are also afforded the ability to choose their own custom colour, one that reflects the image of their brand or corresponds nicely with the décor in the setting where these treats will be served.

For those who are just starting out in the field, Brüllen’s handy profit calculator on the company website enables a prospective customer to assess the profits that they can potentially make from soft serve, the fastest growing segment of the dessert industry on an international scale. Thus, not only is soft serve delicious, but it is in the process of becoming an increasingly viable business opportunity that could see in excess of a 400% gross profit given the right setting and business model.

Regardless of what the future of this industry holds, Justin Fischer’s story is incredible, and serves as a testament to what can be achieved when one follows their dreams and never gives up. A textbook example of what a good CEO should be, across the decades-long journey he has undertaken to get to this point, Justin’s primary aims have been unflinching and remain a constant, with him striving to deliver exceptional customer service, spur on innovation in the field, and constantly expand his enterprise worldwide. With Brüllen Pty Ltd, Justin has more than achieved this, and is continuing to do so, and as such, he is rightfully deserving of being crowned as Most Influential CEO 2024 – Australia (Frozen Dessert Machines).

For business enquiries, contact Justin Fischer from Brüllen Pty Ltd on their website –

man in glasses and suit smiling

Redefining Addiction Recovery

Dan Hostetler of the Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, has been honoured with the title of Most Influential CEO 2023 – Chicago (Non-Profit Organization Management). We wanted to find out a little more about the history of this outpatient addiction treatment facility, and the man at its helm.

Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center is a licensed (Level I and Level II) outpatient addiction treatment facility with a focus on serving the communities, both at large and those who are disenfranchised, in West Chicago. It is a not-for-profit organisation, funded privately which ensures no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay for treatment. The treatment centre was built by an artist/builder using repurposed materials to create a uniquely modern, eclectic industrial space. The building is inhabited by original furniture pieces and art. The clinic believes that many of these discarded pieces retain value, and can be transformed into something useful and beautiful. This is very fitting as it’s the same sentiment the facility applies to the lives of its clients, believing they too can be transformed. Its goal is to offer a place that evokes order and pride in the people it serves. 

The clinical services it provides are conducted in group sessions, as well as on an individual basis. Its certified and licensed counsellors and clinicians are a handpicked team, all solidly grounded in the traditional techniques of addiction therapy. Its CEO Daniel Hostetler has more than 30 years of experience in corporate consultancy and non-profit management under his belt. This includes serving as president and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southern European Division of an International Consultancy for 10 years, where he managed more than 300 consultants. In the light of his award announcement as Most Influential CEO 2023 – Chicago (Non-Profit Organization Management), we have taken the opportunity to catch up with Dan, and dig a little deeper into his past.

“To be honoured with this recognition is quite strange to me. I accept it with deep gratitude and humble disbelief, both, because the role I fulfil as CEO looks very different than what I believe most onlookers would expect.”

Dan explained what a long journey it’s been for him, beginning when he was a young boy at the Cub Scouts. When the Den Mother asked who would like to volunteer as the leader, the Den Chief, Dan raised his hand. He looks back on that moment now as the beginning of his life in, mostly, inglorious servitude to his masters. He can imagine now how his business school professors might scoff or even openly mock this vision of his young self. But ever since that first tentative step forward, Dan has continued through the epochs of many leadership opportunities.

Even as a ‘leader’, Dan has always answered to someone else, a higher human power as it were, whether this be the board, a president, a donor, benefactor, or constituencies. It is very rare that he has ever had time to indulge in other interests, as the rigours and constant vigilance that come from being a conduit for someone else’s mission has never allowed for such an indulgence. In the 40 years or so that Dan has spent tackling challenges and fulfilling a wide variety of leadership roles across the United States and the world, he’s learnt a few things. He’s been able to clarify his primary role as being that of a balancing pole between defining reality and providing hope; sharing credit and taking responsibility; providing a living wage and being able to keep the doors open; simultaneously serving the stockholders and the constituencies; being a boss while remaining a human being.

The key for Dan has always been to stay centred and true to himself, but he has borne witness to many colleagues become unglued and lose their footing over shifting principles and wavering loyalties. For him, the gauges of progress and success have always come from the attitudes of his constituencies, something that has always been easy for him to read. His guiderails have always communicated their satisfaction or dismay loudly and clearly. The only thing that’s not been so easy to pin down is how their satisfaction was won. In the end, age and experience has revealed the answer comes down to his employees and designees. He’s realised if they’re happy and satisfied in their job roles and environment, that positive energy will be transmitted vicariously to the constituencies. This creates a win-win sort of contagion, spreading joy on contact.

This means that for Dan, his primary and overarching purpose as CEO is the long-term, measurable, and sustainable well-being and outcomes of his patient populations. The secondary priority is the overall well-being of his staff, something that is obviously well-served by successful achievement of the primary priority. In fact, this is very much a chicken/egg situation, so closely linked are the outcomes dependency on each other. Dan sees it as a paradox on most modern perceptions of leadership.

The other factor to consider for any company is of course the need for survival in good fiscal and governance health. Without satisfying the stockholders, the auditors, and the ogres of compliance, all other endeavours are rendered meaningless. This is another set of skills requiring constant monitoring and balancing, ensuring the pressures and anxieties of the business side of operations don’t invade or infect the provision of the services. One side usually doesn’t understand the other, so they both stand at bay to one another, leaving Dan as the middle-man connector and balancing pole once more.

This strategy has become Dan’s go-to policy, with the majority of his attention being focused on the superior functionality of a well satisfied staff. This is the key to producing unequivocal business outcomes throughout all constituencies, almost without exception. He has also found it works equally as well in both for-profit and non-profit settings. In his moment of reflection on past leadership positions, Dan has been filled with gratitude for all the many thousands of lives he’s had the opportunity to improve. His positions have included President and Board Chair of an International Business Consulting Firm, Operations and Finance Director for a national refugee resettlement non-profit, and Executive Director and Spiritual Leader of a 100+ year old international spirituality organisation. And now, of course, there’s his current position as CEO of one of the most innovative addiction treatment centres in the United States and maybe the world.

Throughout it all, the most consistent key to untangling the collective messes he’s been faced with has been to put his ego aside and work in deft, intuitive servitude to those around him. He has a need to help those that depend on him to navigate the dense fog of uncertainty and doubt, and deliver them to a better destiny without any personal gain or self-aggrandisement. For Dan Hostetler, the gains and rewards he’s received have exceeded his expectations, and reassured him that whatever gifts he possesses they have been put to good and proper use.      

For business enquiries, contact Dan Hostetler from Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center on their website –

Industry pipeline transport petrochemical, gas and oil processing

Shar Woehl: Supporting Women’s Success in Oil and Gas

Established in January 2023, Atta Gurl Consulting is a sales agency that offers both full-time and contract-only representation to companies within the oil and gas industry. As well as providing its clients with the support they need to thrive and succeed, the agency aims to advance the representation of women in a largely male-dominated field. At the helm of Atta Gurl Consulting is Founder and CEO Shar Woehl, who has recently been named Oil & Gas Consulting CEO of the Year, Texas, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023.

Historically, the oil and gas industry has been dominated by men at all levels, from leadership positions in major corporations to manual labour-based jobs in mines and oil rigs. The sector has been slower than many others in embracing gender diversity, which may be attributed to the long-standing stereotype that physically demanding jobs should be reserved for men. Due to the persistence of this outdated view, women have long been hindered in the oil and gas industry, preventing them from advancing in or even entering the field.

Shar Woehl, Founder and CEO of Atta Gurl Consulting, experienced this struggle firsthand. Having gained experience in a variety of client-facing roles, she decided to leverage her outstanding customer service skills to pursue a career in sales. Being based in Texas, known as the heart of the USA’s gas and oil production, Shar eventually entered the oil and gas industry, taking on sales positions at numerous companies in the sector. Whilst she was confident in her abilities as a salesperson, Shar always felt that she was underappreciated in these roles. She soon found herself unable to advance, held back by her gender.

Inspired by her past experiences and determined to be a catalyst of positive change, Shar set out to establish Atta Gurl Consulting in 2023. Her goal was to create a sales agency for the oil and gas industry that would focus on hiring talented women to create a workforce that consists almost entirely of women in sales roles. She hoped that the business would not only increase female visibility in the oil, gas, and mining industry, but also provide women with a unique working environment in which they are supported and empowered to succeed.

Being based in Midland, Texas, Atta Gurl Consulting primarily serves clients in the Permian and Delaware Basins. The company caters to almost every niche in the industry, including drilling, completions, production, construction, maintenance, pipeline, facilities, and plants. Over the last 12 months, Shar has worked hard to establish close relationships with many vendors in these fields, spanning across Texas and beyond. Through this, she ensures that Atta Gurl Consulting is equipped to serve as a one-stop-shop for everything related to oil and gas, offering the best prices to customers and driving business growth for vendors.

Shar created this distinct strategy, known as The Vortex, while she was working in the real estate industry. It features three elements: the vendor, the customer, and the sales representative. The strategy outlines that, if all parties pull their weight, are honest, and are not greedy, everybody will achieve the outcome they want. This means that the vendor will gain increased sales, the customer will get the best price, and the salesperson will receive a healthy commission for their work. By utilising this strategy, the agency aims to make the journey for all vendors and customers less expensive, more efficient, and as profitable as possible. Shar came up with the name “The Vortex” when she noticed that all three elements strengthen each other, contributing towards their collective long-term success.

In everything it does, Atta Gurl Consulting strives to maintain the highest level of integrity whilst delivering the best standard of customer service. To achieve this, Shar invests significantly in the personal and professional development of her excellent team of “Atta Gurls”. With a rich background in sales, she understands the importance of rigorous training and is passionate about ensuring that her sales representatives are equipped to reach their full potential. As part of the agency’s intense training programme, they are not fed to the wolves but rather armed for battle, mentored, and inspired to do their best.

As well as personally overseeing the training of all Atta Gurl Consulting’s representatives and consultants, Shar utilises her diverse experience and abilities to equip her senior representatives with the skills they need to train future juniors. This fosters a culture of knowledge-sharing and mentorship throughout the organisation, enabling all Atta Gurls to thrive and help each other succeed.

For her innovative spirit and her exceptional leadership of Atta Gurl Consulting, Shar Woehl has been named Oil & Gas Consulting CEO of the Year, Texas, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023. In the years to come, she plans to streamline the agency and its work by splitting its team into specialised divisions with expertise in a particular niche. Each of these teams will be headed by a long-time expert in the field, enabling the agency to better serve its clients and fulfil their needs.

We are thrilled to congratulate Shar Woehl on her success in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023 and look forward to seeing what the future holds for her and her team at Atta Gurl Consulting.

For business enquiries, contact Shar Woehl from Atta Gurl Consulting on their website –

Shar Woehl
man in suit smiling

Investment Management Bolstered by the Lucky Number Seven

In 2019, Seven Investment Management (7IM) welcomed Investment Management CEO of the Year 2023 – London awardee Dean Proctor into the role, based off of his 25 years of direct experience and true passion for the industry. 7IM was established more than two decades ago back in 2002, driven by the goal of helping individuals, families, and advisers to efficiently manage their capital in order to fulfil all financial needs and aspirations. From the beginning to today, this has been achieved through an ethos that focuses on listening to what it is that clients want, and then tailoring these services to fulfil those specific needs. We have the pleasure of catching up with Dean, who tells us more about his career, experiences, and successes within the investment sector.

7IM has established a stellar name for itself within the investment and wealth management sector, and in just over 20 years of operating, has proudly amassed more than £23 billion in client assets. Just like every business, 7IM has its financial metrics, and the company starts out each year with a business plan and the necessary goals to reach these. The finished result is the output of a team’s effort, but for CEO Dean Proctor, it is the input that a company should concentrate its efforts on. He explains, “it’s important to have the right culture, values, and behaviours, of which you want yourself and your colleagues to embody, and we’ve done a lot of work with that over the last few years.”

Dean understands all too well just how varied the role of CEO can be but recognises that at the heart of the position is a responsibility to direct the firm and provide leadership, as well as operating at all times with a high degree of accountability. The emphasis, however, should be on helping all parties, whether these be clients or colleagues, on a daily basis, fully understanding the company’s purpose and giving the relevant direction to help it in the achieving of its aims. Taking over directly from the founders, it was initially difficult to navigate this period of change, but more than four years later, Dean is proud to be in a position where his colleagues are driving the change and leading from the front.

Leadership style is often something that evolves with time, and this is certainly the case with Dean, who explains, “I suspect when I first entered management roles, I was probably a little bit more directive than I am now.” This does not mean that he has sacrificed on any of his values, though, and Dean remains as driven now as ever. “I like the idea of 7IM being the best company in our space. I like the idea of it being the best place for colleagues to work  and clients to entrust their money with.” Aiding the company in achieving this aim is something called “Vision, Purpose, Values, and Personality (VPVPs)”, something which 7IM’s colleagues collectively built and continue to live by.

The company serves both B2B and B2C clients, with 7IM’s B2C offerings focusing primarily on private client work, having a network comprising more than 6,000 private clients, whereas its B2B services consist of a range of intermediary solutions that are designed to support the c. 6,000 financial advice firms, and their financial planners, in the UK. Even though these services are primarily intangible, Dean is determined for the firm to successfully demonstrate its ability to differentiate. He elaborates, “you can differentiate in many ways, but for us, one of the key things is to make sure that our people are fully equipped and of the highest quality to deliver to our customers the outcomes and experiences that they would expect.”

At present, many of the issues that 7IM is facing stem from the fallout of global and macroeconomics, impacting everyone living in the UK. These include such areas as the cost-of-living crisis, a reduction in the disposable income of people, and increases in interest rates, with this trio combining to have a massive effect. The market has also faced its fair share of difficulties, and whether this be the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic or some of the international events taking place at present, there are rightful concerns about what the future of the market may look like.

It is for these reasons that Dean and the team strive to constantly provide a clear proposition that takes all of these contingencies into account. Dean eloquently explains, “after a relatively benign decade, that last two to four years have been far from that”, with massive changes in the landscape being felt as a result. An increase in demand has been apparent, especially in the digital sphere, with people aiming to access their wealth, view their portfolio, and have access to guidance and support on a 24/7 basis. Technology thus needs to change at an increasingly faster rate to keep up with this demand.

Moreover, regulation is too an area where change is being felt, with this ever-evolving field requiring extensive management time to understand and ensure that the most up-to-date policies are present across the business and its practices. Last but not least in painting a relevant picture of where the financial services space is at the moment is competitiveness, with this nature driving increasingly disruptive behaviour. For Dean, this results in “better customer proposition, product, and outcomes. So, when things come together, you generally see an industry that is involved in some pretty rapid innovative change.”

Looking ahead to the next 12 months and even further beyond, 7IM is currently preparing for completion of a sale, with its current majority owner Caledonia Investments PLC having agreed to a sell to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, an investor on a global scale, that, pending approval, will become the firm’s majority owner in the near future. With this sale comes new opportunities for growth and development, yet Dean remains clear that, “our focus is always on our clients, to make sure we are delivering the service and performance levels that we aspire to for those clients.” It is thus an exciting time for Dean and the team, and it will be a great achievement for them to secure a new majority shareholder that is sure to support the firm’s strategic ambitions.

As for his career specifically, Dean has no plans to go anywhere for this next chapter in 7IM’s story and is both excited and committed in the continual carrying out of his duties. A fan of management and strategy books, Dean is always seeking out new ways to implement what he has learned, as well as learning through observation, recognising the work done by other great leaders in the industry. Dean continues, “I’m naturally a bit of a change agent. […] I believe leadership has a responsibility to keep driving positive change to ensure better outcomes.” In summary, Dean tells us, “there’s nothing better than knowing you’re doing right by your colleagues and your clients.”

Ultimately, 7IM is a unique firm, providing clients with the necessary advice and plans to meet their goals, with the services and solutions for advisers and planners to make their businesses more efficient, delivering the best possible outcomes overall. With plans to significantly invest in cutting-edge technology, the next few years are sure to be as pioneering for the firm as these first 20, and with Dean Proctor at the helm, trusted and long-standing relationships are sure to be formed, the digital age and all of its avenues fully embraced, and clients left happy and confident with their choice. For these reasons, Dean is more than worthy of this award, and we wish him and everyone at 7IM the best of luck for the future.

For business enquiries, contact Dean Proctor from 7IM on their website –

silhouette of business man over office background

Transforming Businesses with Salesforce

Supporting clients in over thirty industries across both the UK and Europe alike, Performa IT is a registered salesforce consulting partner that has long since recognised the value of bespoke approaches. As opposed to a reseller, it sees itself as a tailor who intricately adapts salesforce to the specific requirements of each client. Guided by CEO Ben Coleman, proud holder of the title of Most Influential Salesforce Software CEO 2023 – UK, Performa IT has overseen client prosperity in droves.

Since its inception, Performa IT has been providing essential services and salesforce solutions to clients from all walks of life. Often regarded as a one-stop-shop library of services, from implementation and integration to support, training, and digital transformation, the collective truly embodies the very meaning of service provision. Performa IT is a strong believer in the notion that its product is its people, and has therefore built its foundation around support, positivity, and togetherness both within and outside of its internal working structure.

In order to deliver steadfast Salesforce services to clients, Performa IT recognised that, first and foremost, it must foster the brilliance of its staff. Spearheaded by CEO Ben Coleman, the collective boasts a working environment that’s simply brimming with opportunity. At every turn, each individual member of the team is presented with the chance to develop their innate skillsets in new and exciting ways, ultimately leading to a resounding brilliance that’s woven into the very fabric of the company. Learning and developing are the values that underpin Performa IT – ones that, in their own right, have served to help the business prosper.

Fostered and nurtured by none other than Ben Coleman himself, Performa IT’s empowering internal structure has paved the way for many forms of excellence. However, to best realise just how this came to be, we must delve into Ben’s personal approach to leading. And what an approach it is – Performa IT operates with a horizontal leading structure that has drastically evolved since its initial inception. Within which, Ben leverages over two decades of industry experience to guide each staff member through their own personal journeys. Imbuing them with specialist insights, while supporting their growth, is where Ben flourishes as CEO, leading to a collective of constantly growing individuals.

Clearly, Ben has spent his years honing his leadership style in order to reach the point he finds himself at today. Now, he’s surrounded by passionate people who are each continuously improving themselves for the betterment of both their work and personal lives. As such, clients greatly benefit from engaging with a collective of exceptionally skilled individuals. Ben even goes as far to express that – “Every member of our team loves what they do, and puts tremendous amounts of effort and care into delivering the best support for our clients. We could not be happier with the dedication and hard work of our colleagues, and seek to compensate this devotion with rewarding career opportunities and continued professional development.”

Combined with Ben’s passion for maintaining an outstanding level of corporate social responsibility, Performa IT has become a safe space for clients and colleagues alike. From becoming a certified carbon neutral collective, to earning itself recognition for being a disability confident employer, Performa IT has demonstrated an unapologetic love for being the right thing for the right people. Under Ben Coleman’s watchful eye, the company has managed to succeed in astounding ways, fundamentally resulting in what we see today. Not only does it have an award-winning CEO guiding it, but Performa IT also boasts a strong workforce that will surely continue to oversee its success in the years to come.

For business enquiries, contact Performa IT via email – [email protected] or on their website –

Ben Coleman
man in hat and glasses smiling

Delighting Donors Equals More Donations

With more than seven years of CEO experience under his belt, Donation Platform CEO of the Year 2023 – Canada Josh Bloomfield heads up Givecloud, a human-first tech company that serves to empower nonprofit organisations across the world, utilising pioneering fundraising solutions that not only change, but enhance, interaction with a brand, resulting in delighted donors that are proud to advocate for a cause and donate generously to it. Bolstered by world-class technology and a stellar, dedicated workforce, Givecloud achieves profit goals while putting the fun back in fundraising. Josh tells us more about this noble cause and the triumphs that have led to him receiving this title.

At the very heart of Givecloud is an ambitious team who possess a shared desire to do their best work alongside like-minded individuals who do the same, ultimately contributing to making the world a better place. As CEO Josh Bloomfield aptly puts it, “great people, helping great people, do great things.” It is the overarching ambition of the team to make the dream of a world where nonprofits are free to focus all of their time and efforts on making a true impact into reality, using state-of-the-art online software to streamline the fundraising efforts of such organisations, raising their profits, building effective, lasting donor relationships, and keeping their resources focused solely on the mission by handling the rest.  

Despite being immensely proud to head up this operation, Josh has never been a huge fan of the idea of leadership, a concept that seems to have followed around his whole life, as the eldest child, frontman of a band, and the most outgoing member of his faith community. As he explains, “I was well into my early 30’s by the time leadership transformed from a weight I carried on my shoulders to a gift I cherished. I began to see the difference I could make in the lives of others – being able to see treasures in others they couldn’t see themselves and nurture that treasure.” When one possesses qualities such as this, people have a habit of following.

It was 2017 when Josh was faced with somewhat of an ultimatum, start a company, or become a minister. Through the latter, Josh believed he would be trapped within his local community, unable to fulfil his ambitions of making a limitless impact, something that both thrilled and terrified him in equal measure. On the back of limited business experience, having worked jobs in everything from government grant management to enterprise commerce, grocery supply chains, and property appraisal services, a range of tech and market experience would become the foundation that Givecloud was built atop of. Whilst Josh was used to relying on himself, it was the relying on other people that initially troubled him.

Josh tells us, “if Givecloud has taught me anything, it’s that the most fulfilling and sustainable business success comes not at the cost of people, but for the sake of people.” Today, Givecloud has an internal culture that prizes true care – for customers and each other. This new foundation quickly replaced Josh’s experience and is stronger and more stable foundation to build from, as it seeps into the company’s values in a way that a poster on the wall or a training manual never could, it is in the heart of the team now and a necessity for every subsequent team member that will be hired. Josh explains, “it bleeds into our customer interactions, into our product, into our code, into our partnerships, into everything we do.”

This makes Givecloud special, but it is not the only way that this company has distinguished itself, with key emphasis being placed on what can only be called an obsession when it comes to providing the premier donor experience. Across the space, many of the competitors the business faces are focused solely on facilitating an online transaction. Things are a little different at Givecloud, as Josh describes. “Our passion lies in the nuance of creating online experiences that really connect with the heart of the donor. A delighted donor is a more devoted donor. A devoted donor donates more, donates quicker, donates again, and tells their community about it.”

Central to this passion is the aforementioned team, with everything reverting back to integrity, hard work, and initiative. When it comes to what is expected, Josh admits that an almost impossible balance has to be struck – “a grit to do their best work, a humility to grow, and a deep care for our customers and their co-workers.” For Josh, “seeing and helping others do their best work, whether it’s a co-worker or customer, amplifies a sense of deeper purpose. The outcome is we build a better product, drive higher profits, […] invest in people.” Through this commitment, a pecking order has been solidified that puts people first. People, product, profit is an ethos that Josh and the team remain steadfast in their commitment to.

Operating within the fundraising sector is not easy however, and with many nonprofits being operated by ambitious individuals with plans to change the world, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and so on, it seems almost counter-intuitive that society makes these individuals beg for money from those in suits. Oftentimes, those who provide their money to such organisations expect regular updates on how this money has made as a difference, hindering the owners of such nonprofits who work tirelessly to try and execute the core mission of their organisation.

Trying to remedy these issues is a challenge that the team face constantly, and something that can be achieved to an impressive degree by Givecloud’s patented Causemos technology. Technology of this calibre has allowed donors to donate to causes with confidence, while simultaneously empowering the organisation to use a process of social fidelity (leveraging such indispensable elements as social media channels) to verify a donor’s impact, ensuring the donor feels a connection and that they have truly made a difference to the cause.

A programmer by trade, Josh has relished the opportunity to create and hone such technology, but other elements of running the business have certainly taken him some getting used to. He tells us, “learning how to lead, trust, and empower others has been a challenge – especially when they’re far more seasoned at their trade than myself. It’s been very uncomfortable hiring senior leaders, from lofty companies like Shopify, Blackberry, and Lightspeed, then feeling the pressure to live up to the standards of leadership and execution they’re accustomed to.”

Of course, it has been essential for Josh to do so, so what is it that has spurred him on in this mission to lead a team towards doing their best across the board? He tells us, “humbly coming to terms with the immeasurable value in my unique vision of the world, in my hopefully optimistic vision for people and my impossibly ambitious vision for our product has unlocked my confidence to lead with clarity and conviction.” Josh continues, “being really clear on where I’m strong, however uncomfortable that might be to embrace, and where I’m weak, which is easier for me, helps me leverage the strength of others.”

This is something that is being worked on continuously by Josh and looking ahead to the next 12 months of not only Givecloud but his own career, there is an emphasis on learning and improving, with Josh seeking to empower those around him to eventually outshine him, fostering a bright future for nonprofits and Givecloud alike. Moreover, as Josh has discovered over the course of his career, it is vital to seek out entrepreneurs who fully understand the value of a tech-enabled business strategy, and he has been blessed to have a had the opportunity to work alongside such firms, as well as honing his personal development by working closely with his faith community.

It was his wife that inspired Josh Bloomfield to start his own business, suggesting he focus on helping an entirely ill-resourced market apart from just one ill-resourced entrepreneur at a time. Building off of the network he had formed and the knowledge he had, this would be no easy feat and no overnight task. Today, Josh seeks to embody the same “slow and steady wins the race attitude” that has been there since the beginning when this idea was planted. Even as it expands, Givecloud remains, “focused on values; focused on making the world a better place; [and finally] focused on seeing others flourish.

For business enquiries, contact Josh Bloomfield from Givecloud on their website –

server room with zeros and ones all over

DataFlowIQ: Connect Systems, Centralise Data, and Gain Visibility

Based in Hull, DataFlowIQ is a software company dedicated to driving the digitalisation of manufacturing companies by providing them with an easy-to-use digital infrastructure that integrates seamlessly with their processes. The company is headed by skilled IT professional Craig Douglas, CEO, who has been named API & Data Integration CEO of the Year, East Yorkshire, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023. Here, we speak to him to find out more about DataFlowIQ.

Having served as the backbone of the world’s economies for centuries, the manufacturing industry is no stranger to transformation. It has been forced to adapt and evolve continuously in order to keep up with the endless developments in automation, labour practices, and technologies. With digitalisation on the rise, it seems that data and analytics may be the next agent of change in manufacturing.

With over 15 years of experience in its field, DataFlowIQ offers a holistic suite of digital services that manufacturers can utilise to seamlessly incorporate technology into their processes. For example, it offers a next-generation integration platform designed to empower factories with efficiency and innovation. Through this user-friendly, affordable, and effective solution, the company facilitates sustainable manufacturing practices through optimised processes, resource utilisation, and machine energy monitoring.

With DataFlowIQ, clients can leverage integration options for almost any scenario, including OData, REST, SOAP, Excel/CSV via Email/SFTP, HTTPS scraping, MQTT, AMQP, OPC, and SQL. This enables them to seamlessly connect their systems, services, and data. From cloud platforms to on-premise, from IoT devices to PLCs emailing CSVs, and from Databases to SFTP, the platform makes it easier for clients to manage and control their manufacturing processes and operations.

Moreover, with DataFlowIQ’s integrated database, clients can compile their business data into a single managed data store. This allows them to easily gain insights into their operations and inform their decisions by connecting Business Intelligence platforms or integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning tools with this database.

Lastly, DataFlowIQ allows clients to view their operational data in real-time from anywhere in the world. They can do this through web dashboards, on their phones, or on live screens in their factories, call centres, sales floors, and any other KPI driven team environments. The platform also sends alerts by email and SMS. On top of this, it can connect to physical signal towers and control buttons, enabling clients to gain visibility like never before.

As CEO of DataFlowIQ, Craig Douglas is tasked with spearheading the company’s mission to empower manufacturers with scalable and robust digital backbones, enabling seamless integration, real-time insights, and a platform for innovation and optimisation. He shares, “Our industry outlook emphasises the strategic use of IIoT, integration solutions, and advanced data analysis to optimise operational workflows and drive sustainable growth.”

With extensive experience in IT, software development, and managerial positions, Craig is well-equipped to lead DataFlowIQ. Throughout his career, he has orchestrated numerous multi-million-pound projects within the manufacturing sector, developing solutions and platforms for cloud-based services. Furthermore, he has led multiple technology roadmaps and worked to develop strategies for a number of large manufacturing companies, integrating and streamlining their processes. In this, he has successfully increased their turnovers from £20 million to £800 million.

“My career trajectory has been shaped by significant roles at Wren Kitchens and ilke Homes, where I orchestrated transformative technological advancements in manufacturing and construction,” Craig comments. “As CEO, I’d like to believe I embody the qualities of strategic foresight, adaptability, team leadership, and a deep-rooted understanding of the industry and customer needs. These qualities, I believe, are crucial for navigating the complexities of our dynamic industry landscape.”

Craig prides himself on his unique style of leadership that combines strategic guidance with empowerment to create a work environment centred around innovation. He also draws inspiration from the experiences that drove his own personal and professional growth, which highlighted to him the importance of open communication, collaboration, and adaptability. He believes that fostering these qualities amongst his employees enables them to effectively navigate challenges and embrace opportunities.

Furthermore, at the core of DataFlowIQ are four key values: innovation, reliability, customer-centricity, and adaptability. Firstly, Craig believes that innovation is truly the cornerstone of the company’s ethos, driving his team to constantly push boundaries and deliver groundbreaking solutions. Moreover, reliability underscores its commitment to consistency and quality in its services, whilst customer-centricity guides its team to tailor their offerings to meet clients’ unique needs.

Lastly, DataFlowIQ’s values have evolved over time to also encompass adaptability, which enables it to effectively and efficiently respond to developments in the industry. As an IT company, this is particularly important since technology is continuously advancing. To stay ahead of competitors, Craig ensures that DataFlowIQ is always engaged in research and development. He also leads the company to proactively adopt emerging technologies and customise its solutions to meet the diverse and evolving needs of manufacturers.

In recruitment, Craig seeks individuals who resonate with these values, fostering a diverse yet cohesive team. They must also fit in with the company’s culture of creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. “Staff members play a pivotal role in propelling our innovation, contributing their expertise and passion to the company’s growth,” Craig explains. “To aspiring individuals, I advise cultivating a strong understanding of both technology and manufacturing, fostering curiosity, and embracing adaptability.”

For his outstanding work as CEO of DataFlowIQ, Craig has been awarded the title of API & Data Integration CEO of the Year, East Yorkshire, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023. On the future, Craig shares, “Looking ahead, our plans for the next 12 months include an expansion into AI-driven analytics for predictive maintenance and quality capture, aiming to further optimise manufacturing processes. Additionally, we aim to enhance our integration capabilities across various manufacturing domains, ensuring a more comprehensive and seamless digital infrastructure.”

With ambitious plans, there is no doubt that Craig and his team at DataFlowIQ look towards a bright future, and we wish them the best of luck in the years to come.

For business enquiries, contact Craig Douglas from DataFlowIQ on their website –

Craig Douglas
boats on ocean

Bringing Yachting Concepts to Life

Concept Yachts is a firm anchored in providing innovative, high calibre solutions and services across the maritime industry, with the company priding itself on its ability to craft cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind yachts that bring together the sophistication and elegance of traditional design with the modern technology one would expect from a modern vessel. Yacht & Marine Solutions CEO of the Year 2023 – UK awardee, Kevin Viles is at the helm of this endeavour and his duties include steering the company’s vision, driving its strategy and initiatives, and ensuring that its series of tried and tested values are present across every element of the operation. We have the pleasure of catching up with CEO and awardee Kevin, who tells us more about the business and its distinction within the industry.

Built on the four pillars of innovation, craftsmanship, sustainability, and client-centricity, Concept Yachts possesses an unbridled commitment to push boundaries, crafting vessels that radiate a meticulous attention to detail and unmatched quality, all while minimising its environmental footprint, maximising its use of eco-friendly materials, and surpassing every expectation had by its loyal client base. Since its establishment in 2003, these values have remained true, shifting to manage industry demands.

As the leader of Concept Yachts, Kevin’s style of leadership is defined by guidance and collaboration, having shifted gears from an initially directive approach through to the inclusive and participatory style that today values input from those across the business. There are multiple reasons for this stylistic evolution, such as the invaluable feedback of his fellow team members and inspiration drawn from leaders and mentors from a host of industries. Kevin’s introduction to leadership as well as having to successfully traverse the tides of the ever-changing maritime industry have necessitated this more agile, and ultimately successful, leadership approach.

This has proven necessary, as the boatbuilding team cater to a host of clients across the industry, such as luxury yacht manufacturers, shipyards, and owners who are looking for a vessel boasting exceptional craftsmanship. The approach needed in serving this array of clients is thus complex and multi-faceted, and the team distinguish themselves from the competition in three main ways, by wholly embodying expertise, flexibility, and a client-centric approach. It is the fusion of these factors which comprises Concept Yachts’ unique selling point, with this dedication positioning the business “as the premier choice for clients seeking excellence and reliability in boatbuilding team supply within the maritime sector”.

Driving this success is the team, described by Kevin as being at the “heart of our success, playing an instrumental role in shaping the firm’s achievements and reputation”. All of this hard work and dedication has nurtured an internal culture that is defined by a shared commitment to the areas of excellence, innovation, and teamwork, with Kevin expertly playing his part by reinforcing this culture, leading from the front, promoting transparency, and engaging regularly with the team to listen to their diverse perspectives and foster an entrepreneurial spirit that empowers individuals to take ownership and contribute meaningfully.

Across the industry at present, there are several challenges that have spurred on proactive and adaptable strategies, with one such example being the cyclical nature of the marine market, whereby significant periods of downturn are experienced due to a variety of factors that can impact demand. To remedy this issue, the company has expanded its services to exceed traditional yacht building, with the ‘Concept Industrial’ brand being introduced to support work on larger contracts with the defence, offshore, and renewables industries, weakening the impact of these market fluctuations. Other issues include a skills shortage and an increase in sustainability/environmental regulations, which is why diversification remains steadfast for Kevin and the team.

Throughout his tenure, Kevin’s journey as CEO has been met with both challenges and remarkable opportunities aplenty, with a particularly notable moment being the acquisition of a shipyard in Hampshire, UK, which served to significantly enhance the company’s capabilities and allow for a dedicated production space and the facilitating of smoother operations. In a similar vein, the company acquired ‘the nearly 50-year-old yacht brand’ ‘Southerly Yachts’ which enabled the tapping of a new segment and an increased customer base, and its joint venture in partnership with ‘Infinti Yachts’, bringing to the market the Infiniti Powercat 60 with the state-of-the-art dynamic stability system.

Challenges inevitably surfaced however, particularly regarding the managing of organic growth and sustaining a self-funded business model. Kevin explains, “Navigating organic growth while maintaining quality, innovation, and meeting increasing market demands has been a balancing act. The need to allocate resources efficiently and sustainably scale operations, without compromising on our core values, has been a continuous challenge.” Manoeuvring through such difficulties has aided Kevin exponentially in developing his role, as a more visionary outlook was required while guaranteeing a consistent level of operational excellence and financial security was attained.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months and beyond, a series of exciting initiatives are in the pipeline for Concepts group of companies, with a particular emphasis being placed on expanding the availability of sustainable solutions, such as the designing of next-generation, entirely electric propulsion passenger ferries as well as hybrid car ferries. These endeavours are driven by this dedication to sustainable practise, and as Kevin describes, “These vessels will not only offer eco-friendly transportation alternatives but also showcase our dedication to pioneering technology in the maritime sector.”

An increase in the undertaking of defence contracts is also set to come to fruition in 2024, with the team able to further showcase their expertise by designing and manufacturing specialised vessels, contributing immeasurably to the UK’s defence initiatives through tailored services that rigorously adhere to even the most stringent of specifications. Moreover, there are plans to open new offices in the USA and Europe, expanding Concept Yachts reach and underpinning this commitment in the areas of diversification, innovation, and sustainability.

For Kevin personally, his plans remain largely unchanged, driving growth, innovation, and stellar leadership within the business, beginning with him further deepening his knowledge of the wider sphere, staying abreast of new and exciting technologies, the trends dominating the market, and the shifts making waves within the industry. By continuing to enhance his capabilities as leader, the team is further strengthened, motivated, and plan to spearhead initiatives. Identifying new opportunities is key in solidifying the business’ position. Kevin hopes to achieve this on a global scale, exploring avenues such as international collaboration, breaching new markets, and establishing the brand on a worldwide scale.

In summary, Kevin tells us, “My aim is to continue leading Concepts Group of companies towards greater heights, leveraging my experience, expertise, and passion for the maritime industry. By driving innovation, fostering a strong team culture, and strategically positioning the company for sustained growth, I aspire to build upon our current success and pave the way for an even more impactful and prosperous future.” With this dedication in toe, Kevin Viles has solidified himself as being a worthy recipient of this award, and we wish him and the entire team at Concept Yachts the best of luck for the future, and eagerly await the innovative solutions they pioneer next.

For business enquiries, contact Kevin Viles from Concept Yachts on their website –

man in suit smiling for photo

Maintaining the Utility Services Essential to Modern Life

For the last decade, Sapphire Utility Solutions Ltd. has been providing award-winning services to several important sectors, including clean water, wastewater, gas, digital networks, and highways. Over the years, it has become the partner of choice for many clients, having earned a strong reputation for its exceptional work. Here, we speak to Founder and CEO Michael Patel to find out more about the company in the wake of his success in winning CEO of the Year, Lancashire, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023.

Having worked for several larger contractors in the past, Michael established Sapphire Utility Solutions in 2013, aiming to create a company that would provide a more flexible and tailored service to its clients than his previous employers. His mission was to act as a catalyst for change, introducing new ways of thinking, approaches, and technologies in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the utilities sector.

In its earliest years, Sapphire Utility Solutions primarily subcontracted to larger Tier 1 contractors, but Michael’s vision was for the company to operate as a Tier 1 in its own right. In working to achieve this goal, he risked alienating the contractors that the business was currently working for. To avoid this, Michael planned to continue supporting them whilst identifying and bidding for areas and contracts that they were not pursuing. This approach enabled Sapphire Utility Solutions to secure multiple main contracts, whilst maintaining its strong relationships with existing contractors.

Having operated as a subcontractor for six years, Sapphire Utility Solutions had worked tirelessly to develop its systems, processes, and capabilities. Eventually, it was awarded its first main contract with United Utilities, a company that provides water and wastewater services to the northwest of England. This served as a solid foundation for it to win further opportunities. Today, the company holds six main contracts with United Utilities.

By maintaining direct relationships with its clients, Sapphire Utility Solutions has gained a far deeper understanding of their needs than its competitors, enabling it to better tailor its offerings to support them in achieving their business objectives. For example, utilising a key account management approach, Michael personally led the evolution of the operating model in delivering wastewater activities with United Utilities. Through this, he has helped the company to significantly enhance both its customer experience and regulatory performance.

Since establishing Sapphire Utility Solutions, Michael has been working to achieve his overall strategy for business growth, which was to initially serve as a leading supplier focused on wastewater and highways drainage works, then to expand its capabilities into other complementary sectors. In line with this strategy, Michael has been working to expand the services offered by Sapphire Utility Solutions and increase its client portfolio in order to reduce its reliance on United Utilities. As a result, whilst United Utilities accounted for more than 80% of the company’s revenue in 2018, this figure has been significantly reduced to less than 50%.

Whilst he is proud to have been at the helm of Sapphire Utility Solutions and its success in the last decade, Michael understands that the business would not be where it is today without its workforce. Over the years, his focus has been on creating a high-performing and diverse team, fostering opportunities for everyone. Today, the company operates with a directly employed workforce that genuinely represents a cross-section of society, led by a leadership team that consists of 40% ethnic minority and female employees.

In addition to this, with people at the heart of Sapphire Utility Solutions, Michael has worked to ensure that all staff members feel heard and have a voice. For this reason, he set up an employee forum that consists of elected representatives from across the business who encapsulate the team’s diversity. Michael meets with them every month to hear their ideas and understand any issues or challenges that directly impact the company’s senior leadership decision-making processes.

“We treat people as individuals,” Michael adds. “Everyone has their own life story, their own personal situation. We respect that and collaborate with our employees to deliver a working environment that helps them to fulfil their potential.”

To achieve this, Michael invests heavily in training, aiming to provide his team with the opportunities and support they need to truly excel in their roles. He is wholly committed to facilitating their personal and professional growth and development. He explains, “We wanted to take a completely different approach to people management and talent development. We want people to work for us not because they’re the finished product but so we can help them develop. We’re focused on empowering our people to be the best they can be.”

Moreover, if Michael’s passion for employee development is strong, his desire to ensure the personal wellbeing of each worker is indestructible. Many members of the Sapphire Utility Solutions team have received accredited mental health training, and every employee is provided with free 24/7 access to counselling services to help them deal with any issues they are facing. On this, Michael shares, “Mental health is so important, and we want to ensure our whole team can be open about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. What our people think lies at the centre of our business, shaping the way we progress.”

To dig deeper into the extent of Michael’s excellence as a leader, we also speak to his daughter, Shanaz Patel, who currently works as Payroll Manager at Sapphire Utility Solutions. She believes that her father is truly committed to looking after his team and emphasises his commitment to providing opportunities to those who may otherwise struggle to find employment.

“He is a keen advocate of Apprentice schemes and supports offenders, ex-military, and the long-term unemployed, realising that they all have potential if given the right tools and help,” Shanaz explains. “Mental health is a huge subject for my father, who initiated many schemes within Sapphire that help all employees. They have access to personal counselling at any time and are encouraged to look after their mental health as a priority.”

Shanaz also mentions that her father is hugely popular amongst both his employees and the community. With genuine compassion that goes beyond supporting people in the workplace, Michael builds affordable housing in his local area through another company that specialises in construction projects. She adds, “Our family would be so delighted to see him get recognition for everything he has achieved because he has done so much and helped so many people.”

In light of his outstanding accomplishments, both in business and beyond, it is truly no surprise that Michael Patel has been awarded the title of CEO of the Year, Lancashire, in the CEO of the Year Awards 2023. In the years to come, there is no doubt that he will continue to lead Sapphire Utility Solutions Ltd. to success, with ambitious plans for growth and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. We wish him and his team the best of luck in all their endeavours.

For business enquiries, contact Michael Patel from Sapphire Utility Solutions Ltd. on their website –

Man in blue suit smiling

Changing the Way People Think About Insurance

In early 2020, Companjon was born from scratch during the pandemic. Although a challenging time, CEO, Matthias Naumann had the opportunity to build up a company remotely. It was quite an endeavour, to say the least, and Matthias remains grateful for the support of a main investor and leading Swiss insurer who helped the company through this tough time.

Today, Companjon is a team of 65 people from 25 different nations with operations based in Dublin, Ireland, and we are delighted to be celebrating Matthias Naumann as its founder and leader. As he is named our Insurance Services CEO of the Year 2023 – Ireland, we speak to Matthias himself to learn more about his role and the company.

Who is Matthias Naumann?

Matthias Naumann is the CEO of Companjon, Europe’s up and coming insurtech that specialises in unique embedded insurance solutions. His passion for innovation and enhancing lifestyles through digitisation sparked the beginning of Companjon, an idea that brought a successful business model from Asia to the European market.

What does Companjon do?

Companjon is a leading B2B2C insurtech start-up specialising in fully digital, modern embedded insurance. Our end-to-end AI-driven insurance solutions seek to change the way people think about insurance by creating seamless and positive experiences when things in their lives don’t go as planned. We pride ourselves on building a solution that enables our business partners to be “right there when life happens”, as is our motto.

Companjon enables companies to delight their customers and drive more business value from stronger brand loyalty and new ancillary revenue opportunities. We dynamically design, build, and underwrite our innovative solutions using AI-technology on a scalable, cloud-based platform that automates the claims process and provides instant payouts. Our solutions recently earned us recognition from FinTech Global as one of the world’s most innovative insurtechs for the third consecutive year.

What is your role as CEO of Companjon?

As a CEO, I am responsible for making this company successful. Together with our team, we want to break boundaries and take Companjon – and as an insurtech, the larger insurance landscape – where no one has gone before, or as we say internally, “We are on a mission to Mars”.

My role is to make sure that my team has the freedom and motivation to take on this challenge and push boundaries to outperform. I give the people a direction but also challenge them on the outcome, give them all the levers they need to be successful.

“From the beginning, we have valued curiosity, ownership, ambition, and empowerment. These core values still fit our mission and who we are.”

What does it take to lead a start-up company?

The leader of a start-up business needs to be much closer to the people than in the traditional corporate world. Especially in our environment, you need to motivate people to be innovative and to take calculated risks. During the pandemic, we tried to channel this energy to give the people guidance and provide air cover so they could experiment without falling off the cliffs.

How has your leadership changed in the last four years since you started the company?

What we do is brand new; so in the first two years, we had to build everything from scratch. I had to do a lot by myself, as was to be expected. I was already deeply involved since I had a vision and idea of how it could work. Obviously, this has changed now with scale and a strong team who has experience, shared vision, and drive. Hence, I can focus on other things. As much as I like being involved hands-on, now I can rely on our people. Sometimes, I catch myself rolling up my sleeves, falling back into old habits.

Now with proof of the business model and our fast scaling up, this pressure has decreased; you get calmer, sleep better at night, and can focus on the challenges of the next phase.

“The experience [starting a company] made me more hands-on, especially in the beginning. I also learned that everything takes longer than you think, so I have become a bit more patient. And I still believe that you can only reach your goals if you are ambitious and aim for high targets.”

What value does Companjon create for its clients?

Our business partners operate in e-commerce, travel, fintech, telecom, etc. We enable them to build completely new ancillary offerings for their end customers by embedding our modern insurance solutions into their systems. These frictionless product enhancements meet the needs of their modern end customers in innovative ways, while also creating value for our business partners’ bottom line.

With our business partners we take a collaborative, agile, and customer-centric approach, from matching development cycles to trialling and optimising solutions, which provides them with greater value. Supported by our dynamic product engine, business partners can change their products every 2-3 weeks if needed, which is not seen in the financial services industry. We also change with them; we are fast in terms of decision making, as well as adapting a very complex, fully compliant process at-scale using the latest technology.

“Entrepreneurial spirit means firstly being a calculated risk taker, not just taking risks for the sake of it. Secondly, you must be opinionated, i.e. have your own ideas and defend them. And thirdly, you have to run with the flag, i.e. take on responsibility and drive things forward.”

What role do your staff play in the success of the company?

Our staff is crucial to our success. At Companjon, we fundamentally believe in hiring the best, spending a significant amount of time in selecting the right individuals to establish and reinforce our credibility.

The biggest challenge is and will remain finding the right people. All the other ingredients – such as tech, capital, or product ideas – you can somehow find or buy, but you cannot copy your team. From the beginning, I have been convinced that this is our key differentiator. We spend significant energy on finding those that have an entrepreneurial spirit, who are top in their functional expertise, and fit into the team.

Retaining best talent is key for Companjon. Our performance culture is powered a so-called “apprenticeship approach”, where we put a conscious and thorough effort into training our people, to enable them to learn and grow. We believe in providing them with the right opportunities so that they enjoy what they do and then outperform, as this is beneficial for both parties. 

I am very pleased to work with our motivated and highly engaged team that is pushing the business forward.

To conclude, what are your plans for 2024?

In 2024, we will continue following our ambition to go where no one has gone before. This means we will again scale up the business, expanding further internationally to follow our business partners as per our strategy. Moreover, there will be novelties introduced on the solutions side during the first six months which the industry has not yet seen. We are also planning a collaboration with one of the larger traditional industry players, to help them provide solutions which they cannot do on their own. Finally, we will further exploit the benefits of incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into our solutions as we go where no one else has gone before.

To learn more about how Companjon is pushing the boundaries of insurance, please visit the company website.

For Business enquiries contact, Matthias Naumann from Companjon on their website –

two people stood in front of an open truck at the back, holiday a big piece of paper between them

Furniture Sustainability CEO of the Year 2023: Megan Draper

When undertaking refurbishment projects, one concern is always quick to present itself: What can be done with the leftover, decommissioned furniture? With a waste crisis currently sweeping the globe, there has never been a higher demand for alternative solutions that benefit both people and the planet alike. Enter Furniture Reuse Solutions, a women-led collective that aims to leverage its solutions and connections to empower disadvantaged communities across the world. Spearheaded by its Founder and CEO, Megan Draper, Furniture Reuse Solutions has brought a new meaning to sustainability and social responsibility.

Specializing in the art of repurposing furniture left behind following decommissioning projects, Furniture Reuse Solutions is a consulting firm that has already made its presence known throughout the United States and various other nations alike. With connections spanning from nonprofit to humanitarian organizations, the collective has managed to accumulate a vast reach that, to this day, continues to touch the lives of many communities across the globe. Despite only having three years under its belt, Furniture Reuse Solutions is consistently demonstrating an excellence beyond its years, resulting in a firm that has transcended the constraints of distance, age, and background to improve the lives of all who collaborate alongside it.

However, if one were to attribute the firm’s rapid success to anything, it would be to the decade of industry experience held by Founder and CEO, Megan Draper. Before launching Furniture Reuse Solutions in 2020, Megan had spent much of her life deeply immersed in the art of helping others. Initially raised in a small town in New England, Megan made the move to California in 2016, equipped with a unique perspective that gave her the boost she needed. After all, Megan had gone above and beyond throughout her career, resulting in her finding herself working in every corner of the US. Due to her on-hand experience and seasoned background, it was only natural for the creation of a firm such as Furniture Reuse Solutions to become the next logical step.

Megan Draper truly is a fascinating individual, possessing attitudes and ideals that completely transcend simply wanting to help. When presented with the choice to step away from committing to a plan that could ultimately spell disaster, Megan recognized the potential she held, should it not flourish in the way she’d hoped. She understood that, if she didn’t take the step, the chances of someone else doing so were incredibly slim. Megan had the necessary talents to reshape the world, and expressed how, when speaking with her peers about the possibility of founding Furniture Reuse Solutions, “We can’t just walk away from this.” It takes a great mind to identify one’s own capabilities, but it takes further dedication to commit these capabilities to a cause greater than any one person. Megan is one such person – someone who knew that she had something special and decreed to do something truly meaningful with the talents she had amassed.

Although, to truly understand Furniture Reuse Solutions’ impact under Megan’s careful guidance, we believe it essential to delve into some case studies. Available on the firm’s website, these case studies represent the best of the collective. Most notable is its partnership with San Diego State University in the summer of 2022. As an entity wholly committed to sustainability, when San Diego State University’s Chapultepec Hall underwent a complete refurbishment overhaul, it sought out a means to manage the surplus of decommissioned furniture. The answer was, naturally, Furniture Reuse Solutions, who was contacted to help divert almost 3,000 surplus items from the university’s dormitories away from landfills.

Taking the inventory into account was no straightforward feat. As expressed within the case study for San Diego State University, the resale value of dormitory furniture is practically indiscernible, and the disposal costs that partner such a staggering inventory are incredibly high. In addition, recycling the furniture is also a challenge, resulting in limited avenues for the university. It’s for this very reason that Furniture Reuse Solutions was contacted – the firm was already renowned throughout the local area, with word of mouth consistently praising it for its straightforward, charitable solutions. Though the volume was huge, the project soon found resolution using charitable reuse, wherein Furniture Reuse Solutions matched the inventory with nonprofit organisations within and outside the US.

The result exemplifies everything that Furniture Reuse Solutions, and Megan, stands for – the university generated 2,925 furniture items for reuse, ranging from bed frames and mattresses to dressers, chairs, and cabinets. By enlisting the assistance of Furniture Reuse Solutions, San Diego State University successfully managed to avoid producing 100 tonnes of landfill waste. In turn, this resulted in massive cost savings, while simultaneously maximizing the positive social impact of the team. Furniture Reuse Solutions’ team ensured these items went to domestic nonprofits for community and thrift store distributions, including shipments that found their homes worldwide – in Africa and the Caribbean.

This very outcome is just one manifestation of Megan’s ultimate dream for Furniture Reuse Solutions. Thanks to her eye for identifying who would benefit the most from the unneeded assets of others, she was able to lend a helping hand to every type of individual. Furniture Reuse Solutions fostered hope in ways that these people may have never expected, from those struggling with monetary challenges to schools and refugee aid programs. In particular, the San Diego State University project ended up increasing fundraising for affordable housing throughout California, Kansas, and Missouri, distributing furniture to disadvantaged communities in Oklahoma, providing for trade school student housing in Swaziland and the Dominican Republic, enhancing fundraising for addiction recovery programs in Lebanon, and assisting refugee aid in Spokane.

Furthermore, from May 30th to July 21st, 2023, classroom furniture was decommissioned from 20 schools in a northern California school district, meaning Furniture Reuse Solutions had a big job ahead of it. Furniture Reuse Solutions sent 36 shipments to charities and non-profit organizations across 12 countries for those eight weeks, working alongside the installation team in the intense summer heat.

This sustainable solution presented by VIRCO ensured that the school district could uphold its sustainability goals, which resulted in positive outcomes for the community and, of course, the environment.

Furniture Reuse Solutions has shipped a wide range of unique items, from Tripp Lites to recycling barrels and, more recently, sizeable folding cafeteria tables. Having already repurposed over 24,722 items across the Long Beach Unified School District alone with more still to ship, Furniture Reuse Solutions has been able to divert well over 290 tons of items and materials from landfills. Before the end of 2023, the business even found a charity able to use linens from UC Santa Barbara – demonstrating its commitment to the environment.

Thinking outside the box and finding new uses for everyday items is a unique challenge and talent. Overall, the team at Furniture Reuse Solutions has assisted in moving over 6,000 shipments, which is no small task!

Further expanding on the aid that Furniture Reuse Solutions has provided, the Jordanian Refugee School Furniture Aid case study exemplifies Megan’s determination to spread her firm’s kindness beyond the US’s borders. When a middle school in the Pacific Northwest opted to upgrade its furnishings, more than a thousand decommissioned items were left with no further purpose within the school district. As such, the school turned to Furniture Reuse Solutions, which connected with an international charity that is committed to providing disaster relief to international communities. Once all 1,161 pieces of furniture were loaded onto two 40’ ocean containers, they were set on their way to Amman in Jordan to be used in refugee schools within the area.

With such a pressing refugee crisis that is still ongoing to this day, Jordan has been in dire need of assistance in almost every vein. Included among humanitarian organizations such as Helping Hand for Humanity, Furniture Reuse Solutions has made it exceptionally clear that it is willing to go the extra mile to give what it can to communities that will cherish the items they receive, regardless of whether or not they’ve been used. So long as furniture is in good enough condition to confidently serve its purpose and withstand the transit, Furniture Reuse Solutions is determined to get it where it needs to be. Of course, this all stems from Megan’s initial wish: to create a conduit for making the world a better place than it was when she came into it.

Megan has helped make a difference for over 65 schools nationwide, with many more scheduled through the end of 2025. Whether she’s creating connections with nonprofit and humanitarian organizations in desperate need of the extra assistance or helping collectives with their furniture sustainability solutions, her ambition to look back and see that she’s done an excellent job is never-ending. Furniture Reuse Solutions is a selfless firm that has changed how individuals across the US perceive the process of relocating unneeded furniture items, with their decommissioned assets often restructuring the lives of those in need. What started as a selfless goal has transformed into a collective making a difference worldwide, spearheaded by Megan’s avid love for encouraging real change through furniture.

Though some may believe that having furniture in a space is a small concept, to some, it can mean the difference between having to learn in a barren space and being enriched by a fully furnished environment. Delivering a means to excel the quality of life of individuals around the world is what Megan has always wished to accomplish – something that has persisted over her time in manual labour and office work. It has flourished into something tangible; Furniture Reuse Solutions is bringing a new light to people’s lives and is truly becoming the go-to for furniture sustainability solutions. Used furniture serves no purpose in a landfill, but when given to the right people, it holds the power to provide them with new hope.

First and foremost, Furniture Reuse Solutions revolves around sustainability. Finding new uses for old furniture is where it has excelled in the past three years, and it’s clear that this talent has only grown as the firm has thrived. Though she would never claim it to be solely due to her leadership, it’s undeniable that Megan’s role as CEO has played a huge part in the firm’s success. From how she handles her staff, down to the collaborative efforts that she’s made with various organizations on both a national and international scale, Megan demonstrates an acute understanding of how to identify every person’s strengths. From there, she has expertly amplified the capabilities of her firm and workforce, resulting in a cohesive collective of highly skilled individuals.

This individuality, partnered with its women-led nature, sets Furniture Reuse Solutions apart as a firm concerned only with increasing the wellbeing of different communities across the US and the world. By proving that women are beyond capable of making such a staggering difference, Megan has become the role model that she wished she had when she was younger. Not only that, but she also brings a voice to women who are passionate about what they do while simultaneously protecting those who may have found themselves in unfortunate positions or circumstances. Megan’s work is important because it showcases that women can and should pursue their dreams. As such, it’s no wonder Megan has earned herself such renown as a female CEO.

Despite its young age, Furniture Reuse Solutions has served to completely transform the situations of disadvantaged individuals in many corners of the globe. With a fantastic reputation built on the mutual trust between the collective and its collaborators, it has garnered the power to provide furniture sustainability solutions to a myriad of clients. Of course, every firm has a heart, and Furniture Reuse Solutions’ heart is undoubtedly its Founder and CEO, Megan Draper. Megan has done something that no other CEO in her field has managed – not only has she helped some of the world’s most struggling communities, but she has done so with uncontested levels of compassion. Her aptitude is second to none, and we’re so incredibly proud to present her with the title of Furniture Sustainability CEO of the Year 2023: Megan Draper.

To close, we’d like to share some words from Megan herself on what she believes to be her crowning achievement throughout her brimming career: “Starting Furniture Reuse Solutions and watching it grow these past three years into a firm our clients respect and recommend and seeing the charities we partner with ultimately benefit from our hard work. Watching others become recipients of what can ultimately be perceived as a highly complex process that we break down into manageable steps is very satisfying.” With such impressive resolve backing her, we’re certain that Megan Draper will only continue down the road of greatness as we progress through the new year. We simply can’t wait to see where Megan takes Furniture Reuse Solutions next.

For business enquiries, contact Megan Draper from Furniture Reuse Solutions Inc. on their website –


Innovation Through Tradition: CEO Gianluca Di Tondo

Established in 1887, Barilla is a family-owned Italian food company that has grown to become a titan of the industry. Despite its meteoric rise, the business remains family orientated in its approach and is inspired by its rich history of delivering joy with great food. Dedicated to nurturing future generations, Barilla consistently pursues excellent recipes and prides itself on its ability to combine innovation and tradition. For his significant contributions to the business, CEO Gianluca Di Tondo has received our award for this year’s Most Influential CEO – Italy (Food Manufacturing).

Over 145 years and four generations, the Barilla family has served communities and brought people together with the joy of tasty and wholesome food. Its high-quality products are made with specially selected raw ingredients from ethical supply chains. The business is passionate about making quality the natural choice for a better future. Its core values of courage, curiosity, integrity, passion, and trust continue to provide the foundation upon which Barilla has built its success. These guiding principles define Barilla’s company culture and enable the business to protect the interests of all individuals and our planet. By working towards this shared goal, the team at Barilla can overcome challenges and develop sustainable solutions that contribute positively to our environment.

For around 30 years, brothers Guido, Luca, and Paolo have nurtured the company that first began with their great grandfather, Pietro Barilla. In 1877, Pietro opened a bread and pasta shop in Parma and began the company’s journey to become the world’s largest pasta manufacturers. In 1910, Barilla built its first factory which consisted of 80 workers who produced eight tons of pasta and two tons of bread every day with the company’s state-of-the-art ‘continuous baking’ oven. The business is a renowned innovator of pasta production and in 1936, it created six continuous cycle presses that combined the functions of a kneader, mixer, and press. As of 1952, Barilla ceased its production of fresh baked bread to focus on furthering the brand’s presence in the pasta market.

Over the years, Barilla has acquired many well-known international brands to expand its portfolio of tasty products including MISKO pasta in Greece, Pavesi in Northern Italy, and Harrys in France. In more recent times, the company has continued to innovate with 3D printed, customised pasta and in 2022, it launched Al Bronzo pasta, made from premium quality Italian wheat.

Gianluca Di Tondo, CEO of the Barilla Group, has worked alongside the Barilla Group over the past few years to further the company’s esteemed legacy. With over 25 years of extensive experience in the food and beverage industry, Gianluca has worked in sales and marketing positions for numerous brands. Among his roles, he assumed global responsibility for the Heineken brand, taking full accountability for the company’s profit and loss, long-term vision, and strategy. In March 2020, Gianluca joined Barilla as Group Chief Marketing Officer. His contributions resulted in the Al Bronzo line, the launch of new logos for Barilla and Mulino Bianco, and the establishment of the Barilla Acceleration Team, a centre of excellence for digital skills and advanced analytics in London. In April 2023, Gianluca Di Tondo was appointed Barilla Group CEO.

On his leadership, Gianluca shares, “I have three main priorities at the top of my agenda: to strengthen our brands even further in Italy and make them even better ambassadors of the Italian way of enjoying food around the world; to continue to nurture our values and diversity, to further improve the sense of belonging among our people, and to attract new talent; for our consumers all over the world to acknowledge us as the most trusted food company.”

Barilla has invested significant time and resources into researching and educating others about the food chain, from production to waste, consumption, and sustainability.

Consumers’ purchasing habits continue to evolve, and Barilla has dedicated teams to address customers’ changing demands. By leveraging the expertise and experience of its workforce, the business can continue to meet the needs of today’s consumers. Since 2010, Barilla has reformulated 491 products by reducing the fat, salt, and sugar content, increasing fibre, and creating new products with cereals, legumes, and dried fruit. To meet the growing demand for high quality products, the company has returned to the traditional use of bronze dyes with its Al Bronzo pasta. Barilla has established long-lasting relationships with farmers who responsibly grow the premium Italian durum wheat for its pasta.

By investing in sustainable agriculture practices, Barilla can guarantee that its products are ethically produced. The business supports 9,000 farms involved in regenerative agriculture projects and thousands of farmers across 13 Italian regions. 100% of the Mulino Bianco brand is produced using renewable energy, and its pasta factories are trigeneration plants, which repurpose the heat produced to generate chilled water for air conditioning and refrigeration. In Barilla’s 2022 Sustainability Report, the business revealed that 99.7% of its packaging has been designed for recycling. Since 2010, Barilla is proud to report 32% reduced greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of finished product and 24% reduced water consumption in its plants.

In the production of its pesto, Barilla works in collaboration with farmers in Northern Italy to protect biodiversity. The Carta del Basilico, a basil charter, was developed to ensure consistent quality and sustainable agriculture. Since 2020, all basil has been sourced responsibly, with each member of the company’s basil-pesto supply chain annually reviewed under the sustainability criteria of the ISCC PLUS Certification Scheme. The Carta del Basilico is also committed to preserving soil health by continuously rotating crops and biodiversity areas. Lastly, Barilla empowers farming communities by signing multi-year contracts which provide them with a safe income.

For over 146 years, Barilla have opened its hearts and kitchens in its mission to provide tasty, wholesome food to customers all over the world. Committed to creating high quality products from sustainable ingredients, Barilla has brought families together for generations with exceptional food. The business has made significant contributions to the food industry with its research on waste and sustainability.

Gianluca Di Tondo, the CEO of Barilla Group, has furthered Barilla’s revered legacy with his contributions and passion to drive the company forward. With his vision and experience, Gianluca has guided the business through transformative change to become even more competitive on the international scene. Alongside the Barilla brothers, Gianluca is dedicated to progressing the Barilla story to nurture future generations and create a brighter future. For his influential leadership, Gianluca Di Tondo has been honoured as this year’s Most Influential CEO – Italy (Food Manufacturing).

For further information, please contact Elena Botturi or visit