5 April 2015
Since writing about the improvements we’ve made at UKFast recently, such as better maternity pay and the introduction of a share scheme, a few people have approached me to ask the ultimate question: why?
More specifically, why these specific changes and why now?
Answering this question is more difficult than it might seem, as with anything in life it’s a direct result of many different experiences and life lessons. I have gone all over the world trying to find the best business people, the best trainers and the best coaches so I can continually improve the business and the lives of the amazing people that live, breathe and work so hard for it.
Finding best practice in business is very important; however, it’s often a great deal easier than travelling far and wide, seeking out great leaders to learn from. There are fantastic books you can buy that are full of invaluable advice from equally inspirational people. One of the authors who helped shape UKFast massively was Jim Collins with his books Good to Great and Built to Last.
I remember reading one of these books in the Maldives on our vacation and being absolutely fascinated by it. It explained that Collins became a Stanford professor after he’d graduated from there and decided to stay on. He predicted that Apple was going to be a huge success (and obviously they were tiny back then in relation to where they are now).
One of the students challenged him and said, “How do you know this? Where is the information that proves this?” And Collins was a bit stumped as he didn’t have anything concrete, so he set about sending students to do some research.
Initially they looked at the Fortune 500, focusing on the most successful organisations and listing all the things they did that could potentially make a difference. Those things covered huge salaries, the type of CEOs they employed, the type of bonuses they gave out, and share schemes.
Yet, whilst these initiatives invariably have a positive impact, they were things that all of the big companies did so Collins and his team discounted them. Instead, they looked at the seven or so top businesses that were defying the FTSE 500 and growing much faster: Disney, Gillette, Sony and those types of companies. It turned out that those small numbers of businesses were doing extra things that the other ones weren’t doing.
I remember going through the list with Gail and realising that there was only one thing that we weren’t doing, so I spent the whole of that holiday trying to fix this missing gap. The bit that was missing was our purpose.
Collins explained that the businesses doing incredibly well had a long term vision – not a mission statement – but a purpose; a goal you could never hit.
People often talk about having a light bulb moment or a dawning realisation, and this was certainly one of ours. Writing our purpose was extraordinarily important and I think it has driven us ever since.
However, it dawned on me recently that whilst it’s important to make sure we were doing things like forming a purpose, what about the other list?
What about the bigger list of the things the Fortune 500 businesses were all doing? How many of these best practices were we doing at UKFast?
One of the things we didn’t have that stood out was a share scheme and I realised that it actually made a lot of sense for us to do this. But I don’t just want to ride on the back of two or three best practices; I want to get this business absolutely perfect, not just for the clients that we supply but for the people that work tirelessly for those clients, and for the wider UKFast family.
We have now put an incredible share scheme together and I can’t wait to get it completed for the end of the year. Giving people a share in the business, for me, is a wonderful thing to give back. It’s something for everybody because every single person makes UKFast tick.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are going to be even more best practices and not just from that list; I think we’ve also got to set the benchmark and maybe raise the bar ourselves as a British organisation, but I think a share scheme is the perfect place to start.
If you have any more great ideas to improve the business, don’t be shy. Speak up. I won’t settle until I create the best workplace in Britain, and I’d love you to be a part of it!