14 September 2015

It is an interesting question – what keeps you motivated? What stops you from becoming complacent?


I went to an event at HM Styal Prison last week, it was at a place called The Clink, within the prison grounds. It’s a fantastic concept – a restaurant developed to give inmates a focus while they’re at the prison, rather than spending their days counting down the time until they get out. It keeps the women there focussed and allows them to acquire new skills during that time. The concept also aims to reduce the likelihood of reoffending – equipping women with real-world skills and experience.

The speaker at this event was historian and television presenter Dan Snow. I found his talk fascinating, Dan spoke about Lancashire and how the region was at the centre of the world at the time of industrial revolution. But it’s not now.

The mill owners and factories started doing incredibly well and undoubtedly put us on the map, at the heart of industry, but they got complacent. They missed the second half – the petro-chemical revolution and we really missed a trick. Germany and the rest of Europe picked up and the UK fell short. Complacency is something you have to be careful of in any industry, in any business.

The answer to this, in my opinion, is driving competition. Competition gives us a greater purpose – it’s an ongoing goal.

Snow describes competition with an analogy comparing China and Europe. Europe developed far quicker in terms of industry because China had an emperor. This basically meant that any suggestion had to go through him and if he didn’t like the idea or plan, it didn’t happen, and that was the end of it. Whereas Europe has lots of smaller countries with different leaders, who squabbled between themselves like families. Each of these countries was, and still is, feeding each other; it’s this that drove change and innovation.

Warren Avis reflected this view, he once said that he was confident that Avis would always be a great company because Hertz is number one and they are number two. Avis always has someone to compete with and aim for.

It’s very much the same with UKFast. Whilst I think that we lead the market in many ways, we aren’t yet the market leaders. We’re competing with some big international players and that keeps us on our toes.

I am sure that even when you are at the top of the tree, there are still startups doing aspects of what you do, but better. There are other people to aspire to and compete with. I think that’s why we had a visit from Google several years ago – so they could see what we are doing better than them and emulate it.

It’s not enough to want to be the best and it is even more dangerous to assume that you are the best and rest on your laurels. You have to strive for it. You have to look at those who are smashing records, winning awards, taking medals – they are the ones to beat, and sitting back on your throne isn’t the way to beat them.

What do you think? Is competition the key to beating complacency?

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