23 December 2018
It’s hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. It seems like only yesterday that we were planning what 2018 would hold for us as a family and as a business. I would never have guessed what an extraordinarily transformative 12 months it would prove to be.
One of the greatest changes was Gail taking on the role of UKFast Managing Director. Jonathan had been doing an incredible job in the role for years when I noticed a trend reoccurring. He was beginning to experience what I had in the same role – he was becoming too busy! The business was growing and accelerating at an alarming rate and as Gail returned from maternity leave after welcoming our fourth daughter, it struck me she was the natural choice to become joint MD alongside Jonathan.
The move has worked far better than the three of us could have imagined. Jonathan has more free rein to focus on the areas that he is passionate about and Gail brought an entirely new dynamic to the partnership. They complement each other brilliantly and make a perfect leadership team.
That’s not the only change we’ve made to the UKFast leadership team. Neil, our longest serving teammate and true friend, took the opportunity to become CTO, having been technical director for many years. The evolution has been clear to see – not least because we’ve seen him wearing a suit a few times this year rather than his usual shorts and hoodie set up! Although there was one funny occasion where he turned up to a photoshoot in both. Shirt and jacket with his shorts below.
On a serious note, UKFast would not be the business that it is without Neil. His calm focus brings a lovely dynamic to the technical floor. He is always innovating and always wanting to learn and develop himself. His passion for technology has led to some extraordinary innovations this year, including the expansion of our DDoSX platform. This is a global service to protect businesses from DDoS attacks taking their sites or businesses offline.
As the business grows, it is often clear to see people growing and evolving with it. This year, we’ve seen several people step up and take on a more proactive role in the business, which has led to the board bringing them into a ‘director of’ role. Martyn and Simon in tech have really led the charge bringing our technical support to a new level. Josie adds further weight to this from her account management perspective. And Jess and Steph have transformed the way that we look at data across the business. There are too many people to mention (we’d be here all day!) who have had a real impact on UKFast’s evolution throughout 2018. Personally, it’s been particularly special watching so many incredible characters stepping up and taking responsibility.
Business and personal growth
This evolution of our leadership team has been supported in no small part by the business’s focus on mentoring. Trish, head of TechMCR, took our internal mentoring programme and supersized it, extending to the broader community in Greater Manchester. I have received wonderful feedback from so many people, seasoned entrepreneurs and fledgling ones alike, both inspired by the programme. It includes, shadowing, leadership training and one-on-one mentor sessions. It’s impact has been immeasurable and will benefit the city region for years to come.
At the start of the year, who could have imagined that we would have been launching a new startup to offer support and management for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure cloud. I have always been vocal about my frustrations with Amazon’s tax paying in this country or rather lack of it. But their lack of client-side support opened up a huge opportunity for us to step in and help clients who were struggling on the AWS platform. The new startup, named ClearCloud is flying. In four weeks we have added 11 very happy customers.
This year has been a true year of innovation – in technology, in our business practices and in leadership. Personally, 2018 has been all about delegation, the business is growing so fast I have to rely on other people so much more than ever before.
Listening is the only effective way to truly understand your business and the intricacies of your team. It is has to be the number one thing you do if you want to avoid making too many mistakes whilst, at the same time, get to know and understand your teammates. The more I develop as a leader the more I learn that it’s the single more important thing.
Going down to London to meet potential investors for an IPO that we’d planned earlier in the year, taught me that it was definitely time to stop and take stock of the situation.
The market was not in great shape with Brexit looming. Whilst I got tremendous feedback about UKFast, it was challenging and I was definitely outside my comfort zone. Over the weeks that followed, I got great feedback but all of the signals from the analysts and experts said, delay the IPO. “Wait until the market bounces back” was the overwhelming message I heard.
When one door closes another one opens. After a few private equity companies threw their hats into the ring with a view that they could help us with the IPO, one group in particular stood out.
After a very intense few weeks, we decided Inflexion were head and shoulders above the rest and whilst they were all great organisations, the culture of the team at Inflexion is very similar to the team at UKFast.
So the end of the year brought a bit of a twist. No IPO, but a great deal nevertheless and I was very proud to announce that the team at Inflexion Private Equity acquired a minority investment in UKFast. It’s the first time we’ve ever taken investment of this type and spells an exciting new era for the business.
So, as we edge ever closer towards 2019 and whatever that year brings, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and an exciting, innovative new year!
Have a great one.
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