10 May 2018

diversifying the business - UKFast Space - Lawrence Jones MBE

On site with the UKFast Space team.

Growing your business into new spaces can be a daunting prospect. I know that first hand, having added a ski hotel and a building firm into our tech-based business portfolio. However, it can also bring incredible rewards.

The key lies in identifying areas where you can save money whilst improving standards and delivery time for the client. In the early days with UKFast we began by renting data centre space from other providers. It worked well for a time. But, as we got bigger, we simply had to raise the bar of service for our clients. We had to ensure we were meeting our promises. How? We had to build our own data centres. This ultimately meant saving money and improving our standards in the long term.

That level of control is unparalleled. Being in full control of the facilities has brought about real change in the service level we offer. This control of the supply chain has undoubtedly been a driver of our moves into diversifying the business.

Of course, a hosting provider moving into the data centre space makes perfect sense, but what about moving into the building and renovation space?

The Space Race

People often ask why a technology business like UKFast would be interested in spinning out a building firm like UKFast Space. The mistake there is that we’re not just a technology a business; we’re a people business.

Having the building team on hand, we’ve been able to completely transform the working environment for the team and deliver significantly more than if we’d outsourced to another provider. The UKFast Space team has also built our new Gatehouse at the data centre complex – a reception building with workspaces and hotel rooms for our clients on site close to our data centres. Whilst creating this building was clearly not an obvious step from data centre halls and racks, for those working long shifts for their employers, having a place to switch off and take time out is invaluable.

We predicted we’d need to expand UKFast’s property portfolio significantly and that we’d need a team to bring the properties up to the standard we require for our team. Now there’s a team of nearly 50 builders, joiners, electricians, plumbers, designers and architects doing projects for us as well as for other clients.

Diversifying Your Business

There are no two ways about it, when you venture into an area of business you’re not an expert in, you have to learn very quickly and there are always going to be challenges.

With UKFast Space, the property sector runs at a significantly slower pace than we’re used to in our tech businesses where everything is a mile a minute. When you’re dealing with land and planning permissions it takes months to get answers and it, of course, can be incredibly frustrating.

We had challenges moving into the cybersecurity industry with Secarma. Even though it sits within the broad umbrella of the technology sector, it works in a significantly different way from what we were accustomed to in hosting. We accelerated Secarma through a major acquisition. At times like that, you have to throw away the rulebook of what you think you know. You have to listen to people who live and breathe the industry. It’s now a fast-growing business and keeps some amazing clients safe online.

You have to be passionate about what you’re doing if you want to get good at it. It’s that simple. There are always going to be tough times when you’re running a business. If you’re not passionate about it and you’re not waking up every day wanting to put your focus and energy into the business, you’ll find other things to prioritise and it’s never going to succeed.

Ultimately, it’s a lot easier to justify an investment if you can get a calculator out and work out how much it might cost you if you didn’t take that action.

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