iod-kent-newsFive Kent business leaders have been named as finalists in this year’s London and South East Director of the Year awards run by the Institute of Directors (IoD) and sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Stephen Grix, Principal and Chief Executive of MidKent College, has been shortlisted in the Director of the Year in the Large Company Category; Lisa Clayton, Managing Director of Sittingbourne-based Avenue Lettings, features in the Small and Medium Company Category; and Guy Whitehead, Group CEO of Sevenoaks-based Armourcoat, is a finalist in the Global Company Category.

Jim Gardner, Chief Executive of the Kent Union at the University of Kent, is shortlisted in the Public and Third Sector Category, while Jonathan Neame, Chief Executive of Shepherd Neame, features in the Family Business Category.

Stephen Grix first joined MidKent College as a 15-year-old bricklaying student having left school with no qualifications. He returned as principal/chief executive in 2005, helping transform the College into one of the biggest and best providers of further and higher education in the country.

“I am extremely proud to have been nominated for this award, which is recognition for all the hard work put in by MidKent College staff every day,” he said.

“We have invested a lot of money in our facilities and workforce despite tough economic times, ensuring we continue to grow and improve for the benefit of our students and local employers.

“The on-going £23 million refurbishment of our Maidstone Campus, which follows the opening of our £86 million Medway Campus in 2009, shows MidKent College is not one to rest on its laurels.”

Avenue Lettings manages homes from the private sector used by councils across London and South East for families in need.

Lisa Clayton said: “Welfare reform means we are faced with difficult challenges this year. Being a finalist has boosted the whole company’s morale.”

Armourcoat is a UK based, high-end decorative products group that has become a global brand operating worldwide in 73 countries. More than 50 per cent of group revenues are now exports.

Guy Whitehead said: “As Group CEO and a long time member of the IoD, I am wholly supportive of these excellently managed IoD awards.”

Jim Gardner is Chief Executive of Kent Union, the students’ union of the University of Kent, a registered charity that provides a wide range of services for students at the University. It has more than 500 staff, 2,500 volunteers and an annual turnover of around £11 million.

Jim said: “I have been in post for almost 12 years and have worked in the Third Sector for more than 20 years. I am absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award.”

In addition to his role of Chief Executive of Shepherd Neame, Jonathan Neame is a non-executive Director of the St Austell Brewery Company and Chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association. He is also a Trustee of the Leeds Castle Foundation and a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

“I am delighted and honoured to be nominated for these highly prestigious awards,” he said.

“This year, 300 directors names were put forward, from which we had 100 entries to consider for the awards,” said Rodger Broad, Director of the IoD South. “After some difficult decisions, these were whittled down to 19 finalists across seven categories.”

John Minards, South East Regional Leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, major sponsors of the competition, said difficult times made it all the more relevant to reward success.

He said: “During these continuing tough economic times the importance of dynamic and strong leadership has never been more important.

“PwC are delighted to support an event that celebrates the success of those Directors in London and the South East who have differentiated their companies in the market place in such a positive and inspiring manner.”

Ian Tandy, Regional Commercial Director of HSBC, sponsors of the Director of the Year of a Global Company Category: “Supporting the Institute of Directors, Global Director of the Year Award gives the opportunity to celebrate those in business that are leaders in their field and are keeping UK business competitive, which is critical to our economy.

“It is extremely encouraging to see UK directors embracing international trade in export markets, particularly to markets outside of Europe.

“Our directors, from the smallest private firms to the largest public companies, have differentiated themselves from their competitors overseas whilst at the same time working with them. This has all been done during a harsh time for business which makes the award even more exceptional this year.”

The Kent finalists and others from across the whole of London and the south east of England will find out if they have been successful at the Awards Gala Dinner at the Landmark Hotel, London on Friday, April 19.

To reserve your tickets for the evening, please email

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