16 August 2015

Businesses have been run a certain way now, since as long as I can remember. The City expects profits and shareholders don’t tolerate “wasted” revenue. Yet everyone talks of “great workplaces” and “investment in staff,” but below the veneer of a polished website that describes the utopian workplace, how many businesses are really throwing away the rule book and practicing what they preach?

If you want to create a successful business or make the business you already have more profitable, the obvious way is to reduce costs. Cut costs everywhere. Reduce headcount and make fewer people do more.

It’s simple.

Yet, whilst that might make you more money in the immediate term, it’s not sustainable and businesses that follow this form of short-sighted accounting soon find this out to their detriment. You do not want to create an environment where great staff leave, followed shortly afterwards by your valued customers as their experience has deteriorated.

Awesome day out for the UKFast team @ChesterZoo

Awesome day out for the UKFast team @ChesterZoo

I commented recently about Shell’s 6500 job cuts. How can you lose that many people and not affect customer experience?

You can’t.

If you overstretch your workforce, eventually people get fed up. They get tired, they don’t want to work longer hours for the same money, and why should they! Once you start getting disgruntled staff, it’s very difficult to remotivate them.

So what’s the answer?

And before you start pushing back saying, “Well we don’t have the budgets a business like Google has!”, it doesn’t cost a lot to make people feel valued.

The greatest way to ensure someone feels valued is through spending time with them.

This is the same whether you want to make a friend or family member feel valued, or a team mate.

When UKFast only had four people in the business, including me and Gail, we’d have Friday Fish and Chips at the pub around the corner and I remember spending lots of time with the team outside of work and also going camping in Wales.

When people feel valued, they are much more likely to want to work smarter for you.

There are clear and distinct parallels between running a successful business and running a happy family.

In a family environment you listen and value everyones opinion and time. The result, strong bonds are created and people feel relaxed in that environment.

Surely this is exactly what we want in an office or workplace environment?

Once you grasp this concept, you won’t have to go to business school or University to learn how to run a business. This is a simple concept that is transferable to any business in any sector. It’s much simpler than you might realise.

I have come across many people in business who like to create hierarchies where it’s impossible to talk with a director, or the managers behave differently from their team mates.

I am not a big fan of these environments. I like a flat structure where everyone can talk with each other.

You need managers and team leaders to do the day-to-day bits and pieces and make sure people are cared for and listened to, but there is no substitute from being actively involved and engaged with team mates from all departments.

I do concede that as a business gets bigger and your time gets stretched, it does become more tricky to balance. The best way to combat this is to throw a party or an event! After all we made our name through hosting, so why not extend that slightly from outside the data centres!

We have “Friends and Family” events at UKFast. We believe that if a business performs in a similar way to a family, surely the people connected to our team mates are just as important too? After all they are the people who help you get ready for work and they are the ones you work hard for, so you can give them a better life.

My father worked for Pilkingtons Glass. I never got past the car park, but I’d have loved to see what business was all about. Times have changed so much since then, and kids are very welcome at UKFast. We even have a creche and let people use the facilities at weekends if they want to throw a kids’ party!

A great friend, Charlie Hodgson, England Fly Half, shared with me his feelings after leaving Sale Sharks Rugby. He was so enthused by his new club Saracens.

“It’s just a massive family. The girlfriends and wives are welcome down at the club and they get them involved from day one.”

Charlie is still there years later and now looking at developing their recruitment and continuing that great tradition.

So why is all this on my mind on this beautiful summer day?

Well, in about an hour, we are setting of to Chester Zoo for the ultimate Friends and Family day. An experience we can all share together, wives, kids, friends, relatives, boyfriends.

I love the zoo at the best of times. It’s a place where you can learn, share great experiences, laugh, eat together. It’s the ultimate in quality time.

So when we won Chester Zoo as a client earlier this year, one of my team mates suggested, “why not a big trip to the zoo?”

In a normal business, this might not have had legs, but at UKFast, we even branded it up with ZooFari and invited everyone we could think of. The guestlist is now over 700 and I have a feeling that it could hit 1000.

I concede that as a business, it is not a direct cost that you’d ordinarily expect to see on your balance sheet. But what is the value on a 1000 smiling faces and a life time of memories?

You don’t want to be the richest man in the graveyard!

Go and have fun with your team and just see how much pleasure you get out of this for yourself too.

See you at the zoo!


Awesome day out for the UKFast team @ChesterZoo



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