This time last year Stephen Kennedy was the awards night guest speaker, with a rousing, tough-talking message that “the age of average is over”.

Well, he has since proved that as a business personality he is far from average.

When he first arrived at CPP in Holgate Park, York, in February, 2005, he promised to change nothing for 100 days while he listened and learned. But from day 101 he has inspired continuous development.

Today, CPP employs 1,400 people in the UK – more than 1,000 at York – and has transformed the company into a marketing services business, underpinned by a portfolio of market-leading “life assistance” products to help customers cope with stolen credit cards or even their identities.

Double-digit growth has been delivered every year he has been there.

UK profits last year exceeded 16 per cent growth at £29 million, and while, like many, CPP has had to resort to redundancies as part of necessary cost-cutting in the face of the economic downturn, growth this year is forecast to be more than 11 per cent, driven by new products, new markets and new business partners.

It was staff at CPP who nominated Mr Kennedy, because knew just how inspiring he was – a firebrand off the speaking circuit as well as on it.

Like all the other finalists, Mr Kennedy was taken to lunch by the judges - and even as he was battering them with an effortless charm offensive, the business he steers so firmly was on the upward march, soaring up the rankings by 47 places to 107th in the latest Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 250 league table, based on latest audited sales.

It takes a man who is far from average to achieve that…

Business Personality Of The Year

Winner: Stephen Kennedy, of CPP York

Finalists: Michael Hjort of Meltons Restaurant and Ruth Snowden of Easingwold Bathrooms and Interiors