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Small firm’s global impact brings National Family Business Awards success

A company which is working to improve essential services for communities from Scunthorpe to Sarajevo has been voted the Best Small Business in the UK at this year’s National Family Business Awards.

Agencia Consulting Ltd, which is based in Hessle, East Yorkshire, overcame competition from more traditional small business sectors including biscuit-making, DIY retail and a brewery to win the award which was presented during a marathon ceremony at Wembley Stadium.

Judges, who included previous winners and professional advisers, recognised and rewarded Agencia as a small business which is making a big impact by applying family values to complicated, international, modern-day challenges.

Agencia was formed by Andrew Gibson, a clinical psychologist who had worked in the NHS. The company began as a healthcare consultancy, expanded into judicial projects because of client demand, and will mark its 20th anniversary in October.

Helen Gibson joined her father in the business eight years ago as a consultant and progressed to become joint Managing Director with her father. She became the sole Managing Director 18 months ago, when Andrew stepped up to Chairman. Helen’s sister, Joy Allen, is the Head of HR and Corporate Services Agencia’s UK projects include Active Recovery, which has achieved above average recovery rates for drug users in North Lincolnshire by combining clinical and psychosocial interventions. Indicators include a 15 per cent reduction in the cost of providing the service, securing £177,000 worth of additional external funding and 99 per cent of service users saying that they would recommend the service to others.

A pioneering service, Rewire, is working successfully to develop solutions to the growing problem of addiction to painkiller drugs.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Agencia is working with the state Prosecutor’s Office to increase its capability to tackle corruption, financial crime and money-laundering. In Nigeria, Agencia worked with RIPA International, part of The Capita Group Plc, on the reform of the justice system and the country’s Supreme Court.

Among Agencia’s clients are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, Home Office, Department for International Development, the EU, USAID and the American Bar Association.

The awards judges commented:

Agencia’s contribution back into society across the world, with their health and judicial work, is outstanding and speaks volumes about the culture and ethos of the family business which encompasses all that makes family businesses both special and unique.

The awards are organised by Family Business Place, which works to promote family firms of all sizes and in all sectors by publicising their achievements and celebrating their success.

Helen Gibson said the company, which employs 14 people with an extensive network of expert associate consultants, decided to enter in an attempt to raise its profile. She admitted that none of them expected to win the small business award outright – even after they were confirmed as winners for the north-east region earlier in the day.

Helen said:

We were delighted when we found out we were shortlisted in all three categories for the north-east. We felt like winners and we celebrated because the regional awards were presented during the first half of the ceremony.

“Some of the men had taken off their ties and some women had kicked off their shoes because it was such a long day, starting at 4pm. When the national awards came around and our name was announced we thought we had misheard. We were asking if it was really us. It took us a minute or two to realise we had won!

“We didn’t believe it. Now I think wow, fantastic, well done us because it’s nice as a small business with some pretty challenging things going on. Sometimes you ask yourself if it’s worth it and whether you should have an easier life doing something else but then something like this makes it really special. It’s so nice to be recognised and acknowledged.”

It’s another example of a small business making a big impact. Big-money auction prizes at the awards dinner included a spa day, a gin distillery tour and work experience at Fortnum and Mason. Some paid more than £1,000 for a bottle of perfume. Agencia paid £4,000 to sponsor a well for a village of up to 2,000 people and their descendants in Uganda.

The well is designed to provide safe, clean water for a lifetime, in a post-conflict country, and Agencia’s purchase prompted businesses to fund a further two wells.

Helen said: “Nobody else was bidding for it. We had a room full of 350-plus people, some of whom were large, multi-national companies, but it was just something I felt compelled to do. We could just hand the cheque over and get a picture, but we have people who would love to get involved a bit more. I suspect one or two of us will try and go there to help.

We showed some leadership in the auction and we demonstrated the ethos of our business.

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