1. TIM GRIFFITHS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, WILLIAMS LEA.
In print there aren't that many contracts worth $1bn, but Griffiths' Williams Lea sealed a deal worth that amount, the sector's biggest of the year, last September. The firm is not only handling but, in its own words, re-engineering the direct mail process for Reader's Digest Association in 19 countries. It's a huge task - likely to bring in £80m of turnover - but one that the former professional rugby player sees as the way forward. Williams Lea is thought to be on the verge of winning a huge chunk of work from banking group HBOS, and with a new injection of cash from its largest shareholder, Deutsche Post World Net, the print market is expecting more big deals. But if Williams Lea is the corporate face of print, its chief executive has a heart, too - he led bidders at a company charity auction late last year that raised more than £100,000 for bereaved children's charity Winston's Wish.
2. YOLANDA NOBLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, DSI CMM
A year ago, Noble did not even figure in this list. But she has shot up the rankings after two major acquisitions made her firm, Dsi CMM, the biggest UK mail producer by turnover. In April 2007, while still chief executive of Corporate Mailing Matters, she led the buyout of Direct Solutions International to create a group with sales of around £80m. Then in January, she swooped to buy the struggling but respected digital specialist K2. The acquisition of the Manchester firm again pushed up turnover, to around £120m, but was not without its controversies; just two months later, K2 co-founder Kevan Coleman and his two children left in supposedly acrimonious circumstances.
3. STEVE VAUGHAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, COMMUNISIS
Communisis was in tricky straits when Vaughan took the helm in the autumn of 2006, but he has since turned things around. As well as a new transactional mail site in Liverpool, he has overseen the integration of Communisis' Altrincham direct mail facility into its Leeds plant, making that one of the biggest in Europe. Moreover, he added high-margin services such as data handling and archiving, transforming the company's financial performance. His sometimes negative view of print management has grabbed the headlines in the past year: he even dared to suggest publicly that print had become a commodity.
4. ROBERT WHITESIDE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ADARE
Like Vaughan, Whiteside has set about an overhaul of Adare, merging its two major direct mail sites and splashing the cash on agency acquisitions. On the direct mail production side, he has overseen the closure of Adare Lexicon and the transfer of its operations to Park Mill. It means Adare has a single DM hub with a £45m turnover, 300 staff and the capacity to produce digital and long-run litho printed work. Elsewhere, he has sharpened his firm's focus on DM by selling off Kall Kwik, Prontaprint and beer label printing specialist Darley. His acquisition of Example, the agency arm of recruitment giant Adecco, means Adare is increasingly active in the creative field.
5. LUKE PIGGOTT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HOWARD HUNT GROUP
Luke Piggott's colleagues describe his enthusiasm for Howard Hunt Group as "infectious", and that has been reflected in last year's growth. Turnover rose by a sixth to almost £54m and household names such as Alliance & Leicester, B&Q, Virgin Holidays and Butlins have handed the Dartford-based company work for the first time. Part of the attraction has been Piggott's insistence on Howard Hunt Group using the latest print technology; in the past year, around £5m has been spent, notably on the UK's first installation of a Xeikon 6000 digital press. Piggott also focuses on issues the printing industry has a habit of ignoring, such as training and the environment.
6. NICK DIXON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, HOWITT
It has been a mixed 12 months for the ever-genial Dixon, who dealt with legal wranglings over the closure of Croydon-based Olwen Direct Marketing. At the same time, he led a rebrand of Howitt Digital to Dialogue Solutions and still found time to run Lateral Group, his data-led marketing agency in London, and Howitt, the Nottingham-based direct mail printer. The developments at Dialogue Solutions have been impressive: with help from MD Jeremy Walters, the plant has swung away from pure printing and moved into full campaign management. It has attracted some high-profile clients, too, most notably Yell and the gym chain LA Fitness.
7. ALASTAIR WATSON, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC SOURCING, RR DONNELLEY GLOBAL DOCUMENT SERVICES
Watson has joined this list following the departure of Bob Nelson last summer. It has been a relatively uneventful year at RR Donnelley GDS, with the focus on existing accounts such as ING Direct and taking on much of Barclaycard's statementing work. But for Watson, who was previously head of procurement at Williams Lea, the focus remains on keeping costs down. He recently told a group of print managers they could still take costs out of the production process through better buying practices. Whether he implements the idea himself remains to be seen.
8. NOEL WARNER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, AND WES DOWDING, CLIENT SERVICES DIRECTOR, INC DIRECT
The past 12 months have been momentous for Warner and Dowding. Although their company is relatively small - with turnover of around £3m in its last published accounts - Inc Direct's influence is growing. So much so, in fact, that it has been able to attract Steve Rowe, a graphics and direct mail expert, from Tesco into the new role of operations director. Inc Direct won Supplier of the Year at the Connect Awards 2007, beating firms many times its size. But the pair are not content to rest on their laurels. As well as searching for acquisitions in the print market, last summer they invested £1.5m in additional digital printing kit after winning work that could double Inc Direct's turnover. If more growth comes, expect Inc Direct's directors to push their way up the rankings next year.
9. GILLIAN LYALL, CHAIR, DMA MAILING HOUSES COUNCIL, AND COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS DIRECTOR, NB GROUP
Lyall may be softly spoken but her tones belie the energy she brings to her DMA role and her day job. As chair of the DMA's Mailing Houses Council she has led the PAS 2020 environmental initiative. She has also been working with the BSI to help mailing houses achieve the ISO 14001 environmental accreditation. Her other activity for the year has been working on a producer responsibility scheme for the Scottish government. That's all on top of speaking at last October's Mail Show conference on the impact of zonal pricing, and working for NB Group, the Gateshead-based print and mailing house.
10. CHARLES GRANT-SALMON, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, 4DM
Grant-Salmon is gradually becoming one of the grand old men of direct mail and his slip in our rankings this year is partly down to that. He has, after all, taken something of a back seat at Kettering-based 4DM after his management team bought a controlling stake in the firm via an MBO in November. But we certainly haven't seen the last of him. He and previous fellow shareholder Les Ritchie have retained shares in 4DM, and Grant-Salmon's hand will be on the tiller for a while yet. He was instrumental in March's acquisition of marketing agency Direct Link, and as long as he considers 4DM his "train set", as insiders have suggested, Grant-Salmon is unlikely to relinquish control any time soon.