20 December 2009

A decade ago when Gail Jones (then Gail Everton) and I embarked on the journey of setting up a business on the Internet, I had no idea what lay ahead.

In fact if it wasn’t for a pretty horrendous experience when trying to register and host a domain called theGallery.com, we’d never have changed direction and set up a business in the hosting arena. And I suppose it was the “bad experience” which forged the direction we took to provide the very best in service right from the outset. It was this start which also gave us an understanding of exactly how a client feels when the hosting provider goes wrong or doesn’t listen.
If you are a client of UKFast and you ever have a problem, write to me or pick up the phone. I hate having matters left unresolved and I cannot settle when I know a clients server is down.

Although it is a decade ago, I remember choosing the name UKFast very carefully. The name needed to reflect exactly what we were about. UK, obviously for it’s location, Fast, because we hated slow service and slow connectivity, .net because we were a network and hosting related. Partly too because the .co.uk version had already been registered. It took us 3 years before we were able to acquire the UK TLD version of UKFast.

We must have trawled the who-is directory for 3 days trying every name possible. It was during the boom so the world and his dog were registering every derivative of every word. Design agencies were popping up everywhere linking colours to animal names. Blue Pig, Black Sheep etc. You can almost pin point a company and its date of origin from the style of the name.

So 10 years on what has changed? Well just about everything, in fact it is easier to highlight what has NOT changed. Neil Lathwood, then a teenager working in a computer shop, found by my wife on a search for someone who could network some machines I’d sold. He came in a for a days work experience and never left. He is now the IT director and one of the most well respected boffins in our industry. It is safe for me to say, I do not know a harder working man on the planet. His desire to continually learn and stretch boundaries is only matched by an identical skill inherent in my wife. Together we formed a solid senior management team and 10 years on we continue to disagree and challenge each other. We are considerably more beefed up now with Jonathan Bowers, communications director and Paul Harris, marketing director, yet we all still have to learn new skills every year to ensure we are capable of managing a continually changing business and horizon.

So what lies ahead in 2010. I am so excited by the challenge ahead this year. Even more so than usual. Last year saw UKFast able to compete with a bigger marketing budget. It is one of the challenges of funding a business privately and not borrowing form banks. We have seen many businesses fly past us on our journey, a lot now we have caught up, some we have overtaken, the others give me the challenge and the determination to continue to grow UKFast to be the best of the largest business to business hosting providers in the UK.

Last year we saw the benefit of the Castell Cidwm acquisition, a hotel at the foot of Snowdon in the National Park in Wales. It is an invaluable asset used for training and team building. It is a place where status is removed and replaced with rack-sack and compass, a place where team members can see their managers in as much pain as they experience themselves. We have run more than 40 trips touching more than 100 staff. Put simply it cements all the people who invest time and energy down there and lifts camaraderie when we are back in the office.

This coming year we are focussing on growing the business further and we have some exciting announcements expected in 2010. We are also exploring the opportunities of some potential acquisitions and some new services which will compliment our existing offering.

In the mean time, to everyone who has helped UKFast grow, people past and present, thank you for your ideas and contribution. To our amazing client base, thank you too. By having such a strong client base we are able to invest in infrastructure that ordinarily none of us would be able to afford singly. Thank you for having the foresight to choose UKFast and if you are not already a client I look forward to meeting you one day on our quest to speed up the Internet and improve the way we all do business online.

Happy Christmas.

Lawrence Jones

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