22 December 2013

Wow, what a year! 2013 is coming to a close and whilst I certainly  don’t want to wish the last few remaining days away, I do want to reflect on what has been a tremendous year.

Running UKFast is a challenge and whilst people see the top line results, anyone close to me knows the commitment and passion that runs through the veins of everyone in the business. Doing well in every field requires dedication and commitment and I have a team who embody these values.

I suppose this is one of the reasons why I went on such an epic mission to find and create the perfect home for the new era ahead. To say thank you for their ultimate sacrifice, their time, thoughts and energy. What looked like just another empty office building that I and hundred’s of thousands of people including my competitors drove past for a decade is fast becoming something very special. Deep below the shiny UKFast sign are 30 or 40 builders working around the clock changing every aspect of the building ready for 2014.

Work in progress as the builders get the UKFast lounge ready for opening

Work in progress as the builders get the UKFast lounge ready for opening

Moving office was a big thing, and its making a huge difference but the biggest change this year has to be from some of the things I have learnt along the way.

I spent my early life chasing my dreams and going nowhere, yet one day something changed, something connected and things started to work. What was that something and when was the tipping point? What started it all off?

The answer is there was no one point in time, there have been almost too many to list. They are best described as moments of enlightenment. They arrive when you least expect them, yet they are already with us, they are not new, they are plainly obvious for many others to see, yet they are camouflaged to us until it is our time to unravel them.

The problem is there is no one answer that you can apply to all businesses that guarantees success. Each enterprise has to be measured on its own qualities. Some ideas are just dumb ones and deserve to fail, others are just lucky. Occasionally even a dumb idea can take off! There is no guarantee, which actually is part of the charm of being in business.

All you can do is even the odds lightly in your favour from the way you behave. Your actions and behaviour have a direct knock on effect to the success and well-being of your organisation.

Put in its simplest form, a business is a competition. You have competitors and you compete to win over the same customers.

I believe most business owners and operators overlook their biggest asset, motivation. All too often I see business people going through the motions and their teams following suit. If you want to break all boundaries, the secret is in how you inspire your teams.

What are you doing to make them feel valued? Are you doing enough? Can you ever do enough?

I dont think you can….

If our job is to motivate a team, what are you doing to ensure you hit your goals and what’s the point?

Well the point is that a highly bunch of motivated people will always outplay a much larger complacent team of drones. So it pays to motivate.

So how do you do it?

Well it doesn’t have to start with money. Too often people associate motivation with monitory reward. Actually money is not a great motivator in my opinion. Its a great gift when someone achieves a target, but it wont necessarily drive someone to a target.

Jim Collins in his books Good to Great and Built To Last writes that he discounted motivating people through pay as some of the businesses who performed badly paid very well and therefore it wasn’t one of the key distinguishing facts.

The One Minute Manager describes motivation very well when he describes seeing a particularly dull ex-employee who never amounted to anything playing in a bowling alley. He watched as this usually ordinary unimaginative person jumped around and got incredibly animated about his scores as he played. The levels of hysteria continued as the scores mounted up. What he realised is that people need to see the fruits of their labour straight away.

An appraisal 3 months later where you find out you didnt do well 2 months ago is too late. Stick the figures on the board and turn it into a game and make work exciting.

Modern day business is too fast for a 3 month appraisal, you need to be on the floor understanding and working alongside your team.

Are you playing enough games and keeping sharp?

Are you playing enough games and keeping sharp?

The second part of creating the success is your own development on your journey. Are you reading enough books? Are you playing enough games? Are you open minded to change? Have you become a little complacent or lazy compared with the old days? Are you allowing others to grow and take on some of your responsibilities?

All the questions need honest answers and even if you are confident you are nailing all these areas, to what extent? Could you do even better? Of course you can.

The moment you sit on your laurels, someone will teach you a lesson or two about how it should be done. It doesn’t matter who you are. Microsoft was taught a lesson by Google and Facebook are now doing the same to them to Google. No one has a monopoly on a good idea and no one is safe.

Its this understanding and unsettled feeling from being in business that helps keep you fresh and on your toes.

I have learnt more this year than any other year. Most importantly there is so much more we can do to get inspired. There is certainly no way I can ever retire, because there is simply too much to do!

Besides I love going in to work. I love collaborating and I cant imagine a day when I’d want to stop. What else would I do?

One section of the UKFast gym at HQ in Manchester

One section of the UKFast gym at HQ in Manchester

Make 2014 an amazing year. Start getting inspired. Get into the gym now, don’t wait for New Years resolutions.  You need to get your energy levels to an all time high so don’t over eat and get plenty of rest. Approach life like a great meal and don’t gorge on it and regret hurrying through the best bits, savour every moment, every experience.

Most of all share in the trappings, you cant take it with you and you are going to need loyal people by your side in the future, so treat people well on the way.

Whatever you are trying to achieve in 2014, give it your best shot and have fun along the way.


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