What I've Learnt: Lawrence Jones MBE, Founder & CEO at UKFast

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Lawrence Jones

Lawrence Jones MBE founded hosting company UKFast alongside his wife, Gail, in 1999. In this week's What I've Learnt, he gives us a little more information into the life and times of a global business leader.

From small beginnings, Lawrence and Gail have managed to grow the company to a size of more than 260 employees. In that time they've won numerous awards and become a stalwart in the region.

We took a look at the lessons Lawrence has learnt over the course of more than two decades of business.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Making my bed. It is something that was ingrained into me at boarding school from the age of seven. You start the day with discipline, tidy. It sets your day off on the right foot.

Secondly, exercise. A run, a game of squash, training session or skiing in the mountains - whatever that looks like, exercise is an essential part of my routine. Exercise means time out for my brain to reset and a moment to let creativity happen.

What's been your luckiest break?

I am not a great believer in luck, to be honest. Perhaps being pulled out of the avalanche I found myself buried under in 2001. It gave me a second chance at life. That, or the chance encounter that led me to meeting my wife, and UKFast MD, Gail.

What's your best failure?

Every failure is incredibly valuable. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow. You could say my greatest failure was trying to host theGallery.com. It was that that showed me just how difficult it was at the time to do business on the internet. I realised they didn’t care at all about us as a small business. I knew that we could do better, and focus on great customer service. That experience reminds us constantly of just how important delivering an excellent customer experience is.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

The best investment is always in investing time to help other people to develop. Even when you’ve not got the money to invest, you’ve always got your own time. People value that more than you realise.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Integrated. It would be hard to see the balance from the outside, as Gail and I are both heavily involved in UKFast and our children are even involved.

I do struggle to switch off sometimes, and have to make a conscious effort to put work out of my mind. It’s not easy as the CEO and founder to do that - our businesses are a huge part of our lives.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for everyone to maintain a healthy work-life balance because there is no 'off' switch. We’re constantly connected to social media, emails, messaging, etc. In recent years, I’ve made an effort to spend less time on my phone and laptop to find a better balance between work and home life. I also schedule time that’s not for work - that’s for exercise or family time, or date night even. Scheduling it ensures it happens.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

One of my favourite books has been around for some time now - Good to Great by Jim Collins. Collins studied the most successful businesses in the world to find out what makes them so. There are some invaluable pieces of real-world advice in there that you can adapt and use in business and beyond.

He still writes the best business books because he does his research properly. Good to Great and Built to Last are the two most important books we can apply to any business because they are the blueprints of some of America’s most successful organisations.

UKFast is a better business today because of those books - because, in them, we read about things we were perhaps already doing and it gave us the confidence to maintain and continue them forward.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I wasn’t the best listener, so I am not sure there would be much point in giving myself any advice, but ironically I would have advised being a better listener.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

It’s hard to single out one person because, when you build a family and have kids, you can never let them down. Being a father and a husband has a huge influence on my working life.

Equally, my upbringing taught me that I never wanted to get into the position that my parents found themselves in. They worked incredibly hard and I think it was their actions rather than effort that left them in that difficult position. Fundamentally, there is a moment in time when you realise the team that you work with is so important to you and you are important to them. I am there to help those incredible people to do what they do best. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I was a concert pianist. My first business was playing piano. Writing music is one of my greatest passions and you’ll often find me hidden away in the studio recording new tracks and writing classical pieces. All of the music in our videos is written and recorded by me in my spare time, not that I have much of that!

What does success look like to you?

Helping others to reach their goals and being able to have quality time with the people who matter to me the most.