21 September 2014

“Any questions?”

It was a Monday morning. Sitting on the auditorium stage, facing the eyes of the entire company, I could feel the offer starting to sink in.

“Ask me anything – any burning questions – and I’ll answer them, right now.”

A brief moment of silence. Maybe it was that typical British politeness, maybe it was because the clock hadn’t yet reached 9am and the coffee hadn’t kicked in, I’m not sure, but it took a few seconds for the team to find its voice.

But it did…

I found myself answering questions about challenges, about the economy, about the future of the company; its direction, its appetite for innovation. They all seemed to come down to one core concern – what lies ahead?

Whilst it’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, I think it’s so difficult to answer. In all honesty, I’ll hold my hands up and admit, I don’t know. We have ambitions and dreams that we will strive to achieve, but who really knows what the future holds? What is over that next hill? If we knew the answers to questions like these, we would probably make much better decisions, but where’s the fun in that?

When I look at my own role within this business, it’s clear that I’m an operator through and through. I always have been. Perhaps it’s down to my rugby days as a fly half, where it’s your place to really keep everyone motivated, but I think that’s where my strength lies. It’s up to me to make sure everyone in the team knows that they’re empowered to make a difference because they’re the ones at the coalface, making this thing happen! If there’s something that needs changing, they are much better placed than me to know about it, and to make that change happen.

When I look at the people who have been with us – shoulder to shoulder – from the very early days in the smallest office to where we are now, part of our evolution is down to those people identifying when they need new challenges. Is this the secret to keeping hold of great people?

Personally, I think there’s something to this, as when people feel like they have done all they can do in a certain role, you run the risk of them becoming bored. In life, nothing stands still; you’re either growing or you’re dying. It’s the same with people. We always need to be moving forwards and feeling like we’re developing. So making sure people know that they can step up and take on new challenges is really important. For UKFast, which is made up of teams of internal entrepreneurs, it’s integral. It’s in our blood.

The future of UKFast, in my opinion, will be determined by the people within it. As long as we manage to maintain this amazing culture we seem to have built up then we will keep growing and developing. Whilst I understand that for some people, our culture might not be for them, for the others – the crazy ones who love to get out there in the mountains on a pair of skis despite the fact they’ve never skied before in their life – the ones who find themselves dancing in ski boots with a vin chaud in their hands – for those people, this is the company for you. Every time we expand and invest, it’s for you, and the future is for you to decide.

From the outside, people think we’re just a technology company, but we’re so much more than that. We’re a construction company that builds its own data centres; we’re a publisher, an interior designer, an events and hospitality organiser. The possibilities are limitless. This isn’t to say we’re perfect. In fact, at times we’re completely imperfect. We’re so far from being the finished article, but this has been – and will continue to be – one heck of an incredible journey.

See you out there on the road.

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