22 January 2018

Entrepreneur Lawrence Jones MBE talks sports, success, failure and how to improve. How do you create a magic formula?

Sport is an essential tool to teach us all how to deal with failure, to help us to improve and to build resilience. It’s certainly part of my formula.

I’ve always searched for the formulas behind success ever since I was little. What makes a success a success? Why did that approach work but others didn’t? As an adult, I am very much the same. We have a secret formula at UKFast that we’ve adhered to for many years and it works. I also have a personal formula too.

You’ll often hear me talk or read about my focus on goal setting and how that’s a huge part of my life. I believe that this is the very foundation of any magic formula and a must for anyone with ambition and a strong aim in life. And, of course, preparation, planning and focus all come into play too. But what makes a secret formula successful?

Know your outcome

Goal setting is so essential because it gives you a point on the horizon to aim for. Under this umbrella also sits knowing your outcome as a business. What do you want to achieve by setting up your business? What’s the unachievable goal? Walt Disney’s was to make people happy. You can’t make every single person happy so it’s unachievable, but it’s something to aim for.

For UKFast, our outcome has always centred on customer service excellence. That’s at the core of absolutely everything we are and do. Our customers are not only the clients paying for services, they’re our team, the team’s friends and family, the community around us. We’re focussed on providing service excellence to everyone we reach.

With that in mind, we’re able to decide who we want to hire. To achieve that goal, we need to recruit supportive people, who have a ‘caring gene’. We need passionate people. We need energetic people.
Equally, it shows us where to invest our time and energy. How can we grow the business? How can we provide better service? Choose your outcome and establish who you need on board to meet that goal. It makes recruitment so much simpler.

Create your own secret formula

Copying a formula is dangerous. It isn’t authentic. What works for one person or business, simply doesn’t work for another. We’ve seen another company replicate our marketing campaigns but they’ve never worked out because they’re not genuine. A winning formula differs massively from business to business because often it hinges on your values and your personality. We’ve found that this is the case across all of our businesses – we ran a similar core values exercise with the team at the Farinet hotel. Whilst some of the keywords that came up were similar to those at UKFast, ultimately their core values and formula is different and that works for them.

Laura Massaro with her Squash World Championship trophy

Balance

When I work with squash champion Laura Massaro, we look at different areas of her life and focus: Conditioning, racket control, mental strength, diet, and practicing. There are different people responsible for each area. What we’ve found is, if you fall short in any of these areas, that’s where you should place your focus.

Having these distinct areas creates a formula. It’s about measuring how you are performing in each segment and targeting the one that needs that most attention. This is a pattern I see reflected in UKFast and throughout our business portfolio. We always, whether by accident or by design, have focussed on the area that needs fixing. We choose one area each year and tackle that, whilst maintain the balance in each of the other areas.

Back in 2011 this was our issue with the outsourced data centre. To take back control of the service we were providing for clients, we launched our own, custom-made data centre facility. In 2012 we had far outgrown our City Tower office and the focus became finding a new HQ. Now, we’re outgrowing this space and launching the new building next door as a tech accelerator space.

Every time we hit a goal or solve a problem in one area, we come back and reassess each area. Inevitably if you only ever focus your energy on one area, others will slip.

The dream team

A huge part of our formula at UKFast is our team. The people we have on board are pivotal in the success of the business, it’s as simple as that. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned along the way is to surround myself with people who are even more passionate than me about areas of the business. For example, systems and processes. I am not passionate about these fields but will do the job if it is needed, whereas Gail is incredibly organised and focussed on this area of the business. She brings far more passion, creativity and energy to that role than I ever could.
If I want to achieve a goal, I establish the five or six areas or tasks that I really need to do to get there. Then I split them out and share them between these key people in my team and myself.
When you’re dividing responsibility you have to be held accountable too. As a leader you’ve got to listen and pull people back, and equally let them do the same to you so you can collectively get back on course.

Breaking a goal down into these key areas makes it far more manageable and brings other people’s expertise to the fore.

Schedule

There is little use in setting a goal if you’re not going to schedule the actions to achieve it. I schedule every important area of my life – both personal and professional. I schedule meetings with the people who are responsible for those areas of the business or project that I’ve delegated. Equally, I have meetings that are set in stone – my wife, my mother-in-law and the UKFast team, all have copies of my schedule so they know where to find me and when. For example, every Tuesday morning without fail I will be on the squash court. Every Wednesday morning I will be meeting with my marketing director.

Scheduling actions ensures that you will achieve them. Goals are tangible and achievable as soon as they’re broken down and put into the diary.

Self-discipline

There is no denying that self-discipline is one of the most important traits you can have as an entrepreneur or business leader. If you set your goal and you set your schedule you have to stick to it. Why go to the effort of creating a magic formula if you never stick to it?

If you know the simplest way to walk up a set of stairs, why would you vary it? It seems like a silly analogy but if you look at so many businesses, including my own, you work out the best way of doing something and then for some reason you keep changing it! Why?

I have my routine, scheduled exercise, focus on my diet and time to switch off. It is clear to spot the times when I may feel more stressed than usually or things start to fall over. These are times when I am on holiday or have been unwell, and I’ve missed some of the chunks in my schedule. That’s why, wherever I am on the planet, I will find an internet connection to have my weekly MDs meeting with my wife and Jonathan. Equally, I will guarantee that I do at least three sessions of exercise a week.
There’s a huge amount of pressure as a business leader, and when you let your formula slip that’s when you start to make mistakes.

Belief

You can only achieve something if you believe it is possible and you’re passionate about it. Success is all about belief and that should always be a part of your formula.

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