Few can resist the annual Sunday Times Rich List. It arouses a potent mix of admiration and envy. I know one person who even goes through it highlighting people who have slipped down a notch over the year. The industrialist now worth £100m instead of £110m may still be 100 million times wealthier than they are, but it’s still a source of satisfaction!

For some, The Sunday Times Profit Track report, which ranks UK businesses by earnings growth in the past three years, may provoke similar feelings to the Rich List. But I found it heartening that in the latest edition “one of ours”, a timber company, made it into the top 100. In fact, International Plywood was at number 11, with a 2004 to 2007 profits increase of 85%.

The company modestly downplayed its success by saying that 2004 had been one of its tougher years. But, it was still an impressive performance. Moreover, despite the sky-is-falling-in economic doom-mongers, International Plywood is confident it can continue to advance. And the secret of its success, it maintains, is keeping a lid on costs, giving customers what they want, when they want it, and defending its margins.

Further evidence that, given these ingredients, the UK timber market is still a place people want to be and believe they can turn a profit comes in our focus on Dutch and Belgian suppliers. The timber businesses of these countries have long had a special relationship with ours and they clearly intend to build on it. Like International Plywood, they all put a strong stress on stock and logistics and rapid order turnaround.

Among them, Carpentier has expressed its faith in the future of its UK business with the appointment of a dedicated rep, while Martal, Voorderhaak, Dekker Hout and Vandecasteele also have ambitions on the market. The latter’s plans are backed by what must rank among the largest undercover timber storage facilities in Europe. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it on one of those ‘top 100’ lists somewhere.