Moving Mountains

31/10/2011

By Marcus Leach

When you meet Lawrence Jones, founder and CEO of UKFast, his energy and enthusiasm for motivation and success are immediately apparent. He tells me that to become successful in any walk of life, you have to go over and above what is considered normal or acceptable. He applies this to sport, music and business.

So, what does it take to motivate people to reach the top of their game?

Jones’ epiphany came when he found himself trapped under 15ft of snow and the lights quite literally went out. Miraculously, he was revived by a courageous group of snow-boarding friends, including a thoracic heart surgeon and a casualty doctor. He quickly learned the value of surrounding himself with the right people.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t got that particular team of people with me,” says Jones. “The two doctors were priceless as they managed to get me breathing again, but the boys who dug me from my ice-cold, dark, lonely grave with their bare hands and make-shift shovels deserve a great deal of the credit.

“They are amazing people, intrepid explorers, great men. One of them had rowed across the Atlantic single handed. These are people who are not going to give up on a task, not ever.

“You need these sorts of people when you are building a business. I look for people who are prepared to stretch themselves and go out of their way for their teammates, people who will soldier on regardless.

“It was team work at the very highest level,” he recalls. “If you had witnessed the event, I am sure it would have changed your life, like it changed mine. If anyone of them stopped for a split second I was dead.”

It was this moment ten years ago when his business, UKFast, truly came alive. His realisation about increasing potential when combined with a common purpose started an amazing journey which rocketed his business from nothing to £80 million in a decade.

“It was very clear that I had been given a second chance. It is my duty to make a difference to other people’s lives,” says Jones.

Having started life as a piano player, Jones grew a previous entertainment business into one of the North West’s leading event organisers, eventually selling it to Granada. He describes his time with the media company as invaluable, but he quickly felt the itch to lead his own team again.

“I realised I needed to start again and apply my philosophies to everything I had learnt,” he says. “This time though I needed a business that spanned a much wider audience.”

He found himself in New York in 1999 at a time when the internet was at the forefront of everyone’s minds and the ideas that led to UKFast were born.

The internet hosting company was set up later that year when Jones struggled to get decent hosting from the UK’s leading suppliers. Appalled by the lack of customer service and creativity, he decided to fill the niche.

“Although we’ve turned a profit every year since inception, it’s been tough and it’s only in the last few years that it is beginning to get interesting,” he admits. “We are now generating large amounts of cash, enabling us to take the team and business to a new level.”

The last five years have seen 680% growth across the business with team members increasing from 25 to over 135.

“The challenge was never about the money,” Jones says, “it was then, and still is, about making a difference to our clients and each other.”

According to the Welshman, one of his best investments is Castell Cidwm, a 1000 acre estate in Snowdonia. Each member of the team visits the training centre as part of their induction. They quickly find themselves out of their comfort zone, deep in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park.

“It’s a competitive environment, but this one’s not about winning, it’s about supporting team mates through pain barriers and challenges they face in the mountain terrain,” says Jones.

“UKFast is about passion and effort. I look for people who not only give 100%, but do it with a smile on their face.”

The experience gives him an accelerated view of how people will fair within the business later down the line.

“I try my hardest to never dilute the mix,” he says. “I have a responsibility to introduce people who will thrive within our culture. With all the right people onboard, we can drive the business anywhere we want to go. UKFast is not just about hosting, it’s about service. I’m developing a team that will excel in all environments. I don’t know what UKFast will be selling in ten years time, but I am confident I can predict every single one of the people on my left and right.

“It’s worth spending quality time with your team,” he continues. “We have regular dinner parties, trips to Verbier, Las Vegas and even Necker Island. They need to get to know me as much as I want to learn about them. The stronger the bond between us all, the greater the result.

“I like Steve Jobs’ description of business where he used the Beatles as an analogy saying “the total was greater than the sum of all parts.” Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.”


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Lawrence Jones will be speaking at Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! 2011 on 15th November. Book now at www.freshbusinessthinkinglive.com Plus, we have ten free tickets to give away for the event - just drop an email to events@freshbusinessthinking.com saying why you want to attend, to be in with a chance of winning.


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