1 September 2017

UKFest UKFast 2017When we set UKFast up, Gail and I dreamt that one day we’d have a big business that helps thousands of people, full of passionate, hard-working teammates who feel the same as we do about standards and solving other people’s problems.

Waking up this morning and walking through our fields, it was one of those moments that I had to stop and pinch myself. The place was a mess! Thousands of empty bottles, pizza boxes, litter literally everywhere. Normally if you saw something like this, the natural reaction would be one of concern, but all I could do is smile, squeeze my wife’s hand and think, “Success!”

Picking up the litter with Gail and some of the early-rising UKFast happy campers and a team of helpers from the catering company, we set about clearing the fields.

Back in 1999, I could never have envisaged how UKFast would look 18 years later. And whilst we are not the size of Google, Facebook or some of these other tech brands that defied gravity, I’d not change this moment or swap my shares or change a single teammate from the family we have grown to date at UKFast.

What we are building is bigger, stronger and we are here for the long haul.

And, whilst some may scoff and say “Your profits pale into insignificance with the likes of Larry Page’s or Mark Zuckerberg’s,” they’d be right. But for me it’s not about how much money I make. More important are ethics. The way UKFast is designed to support people, businesses and communities at every level is a model I hope one day more entrepreneurs will adopt as they see it works.

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UKFast Space’s Joe taking on the huge fairground ride at UKFest

It’s easier to make a better decision!

I have blogged many times about global companies who take advantage of loopholes in our taxation system. A system that allows CEOs to move money from Ireland, to the Netherlands to the BVI leaving an impossible-to-trace chain of tax in a form of modern-day corporate money laundering.

Their answer to this abuse is “but it’s legal,” is not the right one. We all have the ability to do the same, yet we don’t. Hard working British people pay their taxes and contribute knowing we are building a stronger Britain, a better NHS, better schools. But fundamentally we are doing it together.

Simon Sinek writes in one of his books about how the CEOs of these large US corporations abuse these powers, explaining that they do it with consummate ease because the community and people of the countries they affect are so far away and they are so far removed. They do not see the pain they cause.

I am faced with tough decisions every day, but because we are so closely connected with the team and the people around us, it’s easier to make better decisions.

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It’s wonderful to see families enjoying themselves at UKFest.

So tonight shattered from the weekend, from long hours, lifting bales of hay and being on my feet for hours on end on litter duty, the sense of pride blended with exhaustion is one of the most rewarding feelings on the planet. It’s a feeling of a job well done.

A job well done

I have a team who work incredibly hard, some of them around the clock, supporting clients and businesses all over the world. It’s really important to say thank you for their endeavours. As the business has grown, this becomes increasingly and logistically more difficult. It’s too easy just to pay people more money or give them bonuses. I am learning it’s important to do other things to show your appreciation as well.

So, some years back, we had the daft idea to create a festival, called UKFest (with a play on the company name.) It was only small; we borrowed a field in North Wales and we camped and had a big party. It made a huge difference and people spoke about it for years.

The company has grown somewhat since then and so has our festival, UKFest. We’ve never limited the numbers of people the team can invite. Consequently, teammates bring mums and dads, kids, brothers, sisters and all their friends. The result, one huge campsite and thousands upon thousands of closely connected people all having the most incredible time.

If we do want to create a business that spans generations, it won’t be me at the helm, it will be someone from the next generation, someone from inside that field and I have to spot them.

It’s also imperative that the team understand the importance of culture and that we are trying to build something significant. There’s no better way than involving everybody’s families and letting them feel part of the journey too.

Ultimately, there will be plenty of better-paid jobs out there in the tech world. There are recruiters promising the land of milk and honey, but grafting and doing it the “right way”, ethically, is far more rewarding.

UKFest is all about shared memories

There’s a real magic in these shared memories. That’s what makes family, family, and there’s no denying that UKFast is one of those. By accident or by design, we’ve always had these shared memories; whether it’s over a beer at the end of the week or climbing Mount Snowdon, or bouncing around in a field with your friends.

The final day on Sunday, is my favourite day of the festival. It’s the family day. All of the little ones, grandparents, dogs, neighbours, everyone comes along to enjoy a day of family fun. We’ve got all the food and drink they could need. And there’s facepainting, adventure areas, pony rides, animals to play with, fairground rides. Everything you could think of as a kid! Parents can grab a drink on the prosecco lawn while the little ones run riot! I’ve hardly seen my daughters for the whole weekend!

It’s astonishing to see just how much our team continues to grow. Back when we first started, we were all youngsters more concerned with big parties! Now so many of us are married and have families of our own or babies on the way. The UKFast family is growing fast! Events like UKFest are an opportunity for us all to take stock. To reflect just how far we’ve all grown during those years.

It’s certainly a proud moment looking out at the masses of people knowing that they are all tied to UKFast somehow and on the journey with us in oneway or another.

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