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These are Last Year’s Business Heroes: Join Them in 2021

One of this year’s most anticipated categories is “Heroes in the Pandemic”. Sponsored by ThinkWow, this award recognises business professionals who have displayed extraordinary skills and leadership during the outbreak of COVID-19.


Click here to nominate a colleague or throw your own hat in the ring!


In 2020, we recognised five outstanding professionals for this award. Each of them went above and beyond to help their teams, customers and communities in a time of great uncertainty.


Today, we’re saluting them again for their achievements. Take a moment to read their stories below. If you’re inspired by their efforts and have your own story to share, enter the UK Business Awards now!


Our Business Heroes from 2020


1. Mark Jones, Greater Manchester Police


PC Mark Jones has been leading the OPTIK program for Greater Manchester Police almost single-handed. Although supported by an extended team on the ground, he has been performing far more than required. His dedication has been outstanding. Mark has been instrumental in driving the key decisions and future roadmaps for OPTIK. As a PC, not only has he been coordinating with HCL, but he’s also been liaising directly at multiple levels within GMP, including chief officers.


With several years of front-line operational policing experience, Mark has stepped out of his comfort zone and played a vital role in bridging the gap between Policing and IT. He has transitioned himself into more of a “tech cop”, bringing an ideal mix of technology and policing knowledge into the program.


Mark has played a crucial role in identifying the right candidates for OPTIK, transforming end-to-end processes, and introducing much-needed innovation. His approach and dedication have helped him earn both trust and respect from across the board.


Nominate Your Heroes for 2021



2. Rakesh Prusty, Solutions Architect at HCL Technologies Ltd.


Rakesh has been instrumental in setting up the right team and the proper process to get the project delivered on time, while creating value for the customers. He wore multiple hats in the program – being an architect, a scrum master, technical reviewer etc. Also, Rakesh guided the distributed teams to deliver the program.




3. Rachel Brooks, Operations Director at Swimtime


On March 17th, COVID-19 forced the entirety of Swimtime to shut down. A multimillion turnover business went to zero in one moment. It was an extremely difficult time for their whole team, arguably none more so than for Rachel.


Throughout the immediate period, Rachel led Swimtime’s operations to do a total shutdown. She communicated with 20,000 customers and 250+ venues, reassured staff and gave franchisees a massive amount of support, while facing uncertainty herself (as the company faced extensive financial headwinds). It was a task for which no training or procedures could have prepared her.


However, Rachel has achieved incredible results. The industry average for customer loss is touching 30%, but through Rachel’s actions, this has been less than 1% for Swimtime. Rachel Brooks is nothing short of a hero and deserves full recognition for her tremendous achievements.


Nominate Your Heroes for 2021



4. Ryan Brown, Operations Director at Franscape


On March 17th, COVID-19 forced the entirety of Swimtime to shut down. Their key technology partner FranScape faced several challenges. They had to quickly shut down major systems and maintain communication to clients across many channels (for example, by stopping the recurring payment run). Also, they had to ensure this did not cause additional stress and confusion for their customers.


Ryan Brown was exceptional during this period, going above and beyond to make sure that every process was designed, developed and tested thoroughly before launch. As a result of working with Ryan, Swimtime has continued to receive great feedback and they have retained many of their customers.


Ryan himself faced uncertainty about his future, but he showed true mettle and focused on the task at hand. He was an essential part of the project’s success and deserves to be recognised for his efforts.



5. David Hughes, CEO of The Association of Colleges


When COVID-19 hit, David immediately took up the challenge of keeping the further education sector focused, informed and progressing across the UK.


Highly visible from the start, he instantly engaged the 338 AoC member Colleges, hosting mobilisation webinars (even while waiting in the Heathrow arrivals lounge, hoping his daughter had made it back safely from Nepal!)


This clear communication approach early on - via webinars and social media - enabled him to gain the support of major publications such as FE Week for real-time messaging. Soon, the whole sector took part in webinars and #Loveourcolleges social media campaigns to showcase best practice, engaging key Ministers who were able to address critical concerns for the sector.


His lobbying for funding, efforts to bring leaders together, positive messages of support, and taking part in lockdown campaigns (such as #BakeOff, #GoTheDistance #WorldSkills) all qualify David to be a real hero for the sector.


Nominate Your Heroes for 2021