The unusual quirks of ten top channel entrepreneurs

Doug Woodburn
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The unusual quirks of ten top channel entrepreneurs

Softcat's Martin Hellawell shook hands with all his employees, while QuantIQ's Stuart Fenton listens to music most of the day. We caught up with this duo, as well as eight other channel entrepreneurs, to find out what idiosyncrasies they feel are - or were - crucial to the success of their businesses

‘The best way to get to know the team is in the mountains'

Entrepreneur: Lawrence Jones, MBE

Lawrence Jones in office 2019

Credentials: Founder and CEO of UKFast: 1999 - present

Quirks: Entire-company meetings every week; team-building in the mountains; treating meetings like trains leaving the station

"Firstly, spread the word.

"Every week we get the entire team together before 9am on a Monday morning in our auditorium. Our MD takes to the stage to share updates - this includes progress within the business; news announcements; new babies, engagements and life events; and usually a few funny pictures or videos from the team from the week before. It's also an opportunity for the team to ask questions about the business. While some of these meetings are quite serious, sharing news of the business's growth, we've also held some outside on the beach in the car park where the UKFast dogs compete for the UKFast Crufts crown. While this may seem like an odd way to start the business week, it's all about energy. If you start the week in good spirits, you're far more likely to continue the week in that vein.

"Secondly, get out of the office.

"You can only really get to know your team if you spend time with them out of the office. For me, the best way to get to know the team is in the mountains. For more than a decade we've taken teammates to the Welsh mountains for a few days, climbing Snowdon, building and sailing rafts across the lake, and cooking their own dinner as a team. It is the single most valuable thing you can do to build relationships in the team, to spot potential future managers and for everyone to get to know each other, regardless of whether they're in the senior management layer or an apprentice.

"Thirdly, I treat business meetings like trains leaving the station. There is nothing more disruptive to a meeting than people coming in late and the speaker having to repeat themselves. It disrupts the flow, the conversation, and can easily be used as a power play. I treat every single meeting I have like a train leaving the station: once the door is closed and the meeting has started, that's it. If you're late, you've missed it. Now we hardly ever have people who are late to meetings because they respect that principle.

"My final thing is to invest in training.

"There is no greater investment than that which you make into your team. There's no denying a skills chasm in the industry - there aren't enough technically skilled people to go around, it's that simple. So we've invested heavily in training and development - we offer onsite training for our apprenticeship (which we can offer to other businesses too) and technical qualifications on site such as Red Hat and LPIC. It's also an accredited CompTIA and PearsonVue centre. That means we can do all training and testing on site - it's easier, faster and so much more convenient for the team to upskill. With this facility we're able to hire based on whether someone is a great person, not just based on the skills they have. Skills can be taught, but attitude is ingrained." 

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