23 July 2012

I am the busiest I have ever been recently. With our latest data centre signed off, there are 101 things to finalise. We are mid expansion and halfway to our goal of adding 100 people to our team, and we have just moved into a new floor at City Tower. The list is endless. How did we ever get so busy? When did we ever get so busy?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in situations where you are trying to achieve more than looks humanly possible. Yet, there are people who manage it. Branson describes how he does it very calmly, saying, “it’s the people around you that make all this possible.” And Tony Robbins. Whilst I have never heard him utter the same words, I have met his people, and I have become great freinds with Richard, his top telesales trainer and manager. Richard describes his recruitment policy as “we look for skills in people you cannot teach.” It’s a great way of looking at it and, actually, what he is saying is the people thing again. Jonathan Bowers, my Managing Director, commented recently that if we employ weak managers we find ourselves making more work for ourselves.

So, what’s the secret? How do we run a business that one day becomes a phenomenon? How do we guarantee that, when everyone else gets distracted, we remain focussed on the journey ahead?

Well, I am still looking for the answer to that one. And, actually, the harder I work, the more I realise that the outcome doesn’t matter as much as I might have thought. Don’t worry, I am not going soft on you.

As I have never been to business school or had higher education like an alarming number of entrepreneurs, I like to read business books and autobiographies. I am in the middle of reading Steve Job’s book. It’s the second time, but I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything first time around. He was a funny one; he only employed exceptional talent yet he seemed to spend a great deal of time berating them with his famous one liner, “this is shit!” But if you read between the lines and look at the things he doesn’t tell you, you can see the A players he hung out with, worked with, competed with. Bill Gates was his biggest adversary, yet they worked with each other from a very early age. It’s clear they both drove each other hard and, at times, mad.

I can’t help thinking there was more to Jobs than the book unveils. We’ll never know, unless someone closer writes another one.

So, with the business back in the UK at full speed ahead, I find myself on a terrace, overlooking the most beautiful view of Cap Ferrat in the South Of France, far from the madding crowd. It’s a great place to unwind; fresh food, fresh air and the bright lights of the Med. Picasso chose this area to paint because the light is so incredible and lasts for so long. If you want to get creative, where better than at the the home of an artistic revolution? And what better time to be in France than around Bastille Day? An occasion steeped in history which marks a cultural change, born out of determination and passion, driven by fear and anger, but guided by unyielding focus.

This is why I am here. My calm before our storm, getting ready for the next stage in our journey. If you want to revolutionise something, you can’t do it sitting down and just hoping you might make an impression. You have to go out there and do something radical. All the great business people I have been fortunate enough to meet are all very different. They have styles of their own that make them unique, but they are all resolute in their task. You can’t copy someone’s style and expect that it will make you successful. You can get some quick wins, especially now with online marketing, and although Steve Jobs highlights Picasso’s quote, “good artists copy, great artists steal”, I don’t subscribe to that.

People who steal eventually get found out and there’s nothing more rewarding than being genuine.

I think the great artists of the past are seldom appreciated whilst working away on their vision. In fact, they often get a huge amount of opposition from people who see them as a threat. Business is no different from art or politics in this vein. But isn’t this what drives them to new heights? I believe it’s this that actually makes them great.

When I reflect on what we have been doing at UKFast, I realise that there is so much more I could and should have done. And, whilst I don’t subscribe to some of Job’s tactics, I am definitely writing my Jobs’ List.



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