Managed hosting and cloud specialists UKFast see themselves as industry-leading innovators, and a conduit to success for a host of other small businesses. CEO Lawrence Jones explains how.
Having set the business up with my now-wife Gail 18 years ago, Lawrence says, “my current role is much more strategic and focussed on leading the team.” UKFast is a Manchester-born tech company that’s grown to over £40m turnover in that time.
“We are one of the UK’s leading cloud hosting providers, which simply means we provide the infrastructure and support to help other businesses thrive online.”
It’s a highly competitive industry worldwide, but rather than being threatened by that, the UKFast team are motivated by it. “The uptake in cloud computing in recent years has been huge,” Lawrence says. “UKFast innovates solutions which allow clients to access a full-service cloud, based in the UK and with incredible customer service.”
Innovations in products and services, and in the way they operate, are what they credit with helping them lead from the front.
“The engineers and developers who build and develop the products are the same people providing support when our customers call up,” Lawrence offers, as an example of the ways they do things differently. “This gives customers direct access to the innovators who know how the systems work. It sets us apart from our global competitors, and it’s something our customers really value.”
A quarter of UKFast’s profits are reinvested into R&D every year. “Our R&D team developed load balancing technology, and we were one of the first to speed up the internet with web acceleration. As customer need arises we are in a great position to develop new products and features.
“In the last two years we have launched three major new products: DDoSX, eCloud Flex and FastDesk, all of which are now contributing significantly to our bottom line.”
The firm’s commitment to CPD is characterised by a substantial investment in training – because UKFast don’t do anything by halves. “We encourage our team to be innovative by providing an award-winning, custom-built, in-house training centre, offering bespoke inductions and continuous training and professional development to every new team member. We have a full-time team of qualified teachers and a Pearson Vue accredited test centre where our team and the local community can take their exams.”
All of these innovations and more help them land customers – and retain existing ones. “If you look at the ‘stickiness’ of UKFast you’ll see that around half of our revenue growth comes every year comes from existing customers expanding their solutions. Word of mouth spreads, we win new business and deliver double-digit growth every year.”
And as UKFast has grown, so has their innovative potential. “We’ve grown our headcount now to more than 350, but we try and innovate and develop in much the same way as when we were just 50. If anything,” Lawrence says, “our ability to innovate quickly has improved as our R&D budgets have grown, and our relationships with major technology partners have developed.
“Ultimately, it’s important that businesses stick to that winning formula that helped them to scale in the first place. Enable the team at the coal-face, who work with the technology day in and day out, to steer the direction of your innovation.”
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