27 August 2017

There’s a fine line between success and failure. If there is one definitive element that separates them I believe it’s people. As an entrepreneur, manager or team leader it’s our job to hold on to talented teammates.

210-years-of-experience, 10 Year Club Teammates celebrating 210 years of experience @UKFast

10 Year Club Teammates celebrating 210 years of experience @UKFast

This week I joined UKFast’s Ten Year Club for a celebratory dinner. It was a proud moment and a little like stepping back in time!

Out of the 16 UKFast colleagues in the 10 Year Club, there is a collective 210 years of experience. Our first two, Neil and Rich joined us 17 years ago back in 2000. 

There really is no substitute for talented people, you either have them or you don’t. When you manage to attract great people, it’s essential to do your level best to both develop and keep them. Every business is unique and its culture is defined by the behaviour of the people who make up the team. If you have a large turnover of staff and don’t retain key teammates, it is very easy to create an unsettling environment. Our culture at UKFast is an extension of all the personalities of the guys in the 10 year club. These long-standing members of the team literally shape the way UKFast evolves.

I am great believer in celebrating success. This doesn’t just have to be in the form of winning new business. When someone reaches five years, this is a reason to celebrate!  To remind them how grateful we are of their contribution, they receive a £1,000 cheque, and we pay the tax on it. Reaching a 10 year anniversary is even more impressive and to thank our colleagues for a decade of commitment, we give them £10,000; again we pay the tax. It’s one of the most rewarding moments in the UKFast calendar and one I look forward to every year.

I get to stand on stage and get each one up and ask them what they are going to do with the money and it’s always something significant. It not only makes the person feel valued, it also sends a clear message out to the rest of the company that we are creating jobs for life for anyone that values this as much as us.

You develop an incredibly strong bond with people after working so closely for so long and this is worth celebrating.

Someone with 10 years’ experience is irreplaceable. While you can hire more talent, there is no substitute for the knowledge and camaraderie that is built up over time. The relationships I have with each and every one of my 10 year club colleagues is so special. Each one different, but each precious and invaluable.

Before writing off this idea as extravagant, consider the cost of replacing your most crucial teammates. How much would your culture be hit? Not to mention the physical cost of recruitment and training, of course.

210-years-of-experience, Taking time to recalibrate in the mountains with my two managing directors, Gail Jones and Jonathan Bowers

Taking time to recalibrate in the mountains with my two managing directors, Gail Jones and Jonathan Bowers

Leading the business

I have learned over the years that it is these individuals who go on to become the next business leaders. Whilst some now sit on the board of directors at UKFast, that isn’t the only way that longterm teammates lead the business. They don’t have to become managers or join the board. Leading the business means they lead by example – often from the coal face – helping to train new starters, driving product innovation or making sure our culture and beliefs stay on track.

Retaining talent retains culture

Long-standing teammates are also the greatest brand advocates you can ask for. They’ve lived, breathed and loved the brand for such a long time it becomes more than ‘just a job’.

There’s no replacement for shared experience and memories with each other. A decade ago, that would mean climbing Mount Snowdon, staying in a BnB or camping and sharing a beer or two around the campfire. It also meant fish and chips on a Friday lunch together. It was also coming together to tackle the issues that inevitably arise with any fledgling business, especially one in the technology industry. Back then it was all hands on deck, there weren’t the fancy offices or hundreds of team members – it was just us and we were all in it together. Luckily this camaraderie continues and is filtering through year on year.

There have been some tough times along the way. The toughest being the move from Telecity data centres to our brand new, custom-built, wholly owned MaNOC 4 data centre. It was this team that helped us move over 300 racks and 10,000 servers and devices.

What started out as a stressful situation quickly turned into an incredible team-building event with passion and determination that I have never seen the like.

We’ve never looked back since. The move was such a mammoth task that the team won a Data Centre Solutions award, one of the most notable awards in the industry, for the project.

210-years-of-experience, Being close to your managing director is hugely important.

Being close to your managing director is hugely important.

Part of the family

Most importantly, this group of people are incredible friends. I know their families, their friends, their children. Effectively, we’ve all grown up together and that’s something that you can never replace.

What’s exciting is I am getting to know the next generations coming through. I can see the same trends happening and already I can see the superstars for the future.

210 Years Experience

With over 60 people in the 5 year club, 16 in the 10 year club, I know my customers, apprentices and future teammates are in safe hands.

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