Interview: Lawrence Jones, Managing director, UKFast

Catherine Gaunt
Friday, June 14, 2013

UKFast is a multi-award-winning internet provider based in Manchester. It was placed 25th in the the Sunday Times 'Top 100 companies to work for' list.

The Manchester-based cloud and colocation specialist was started in 1999 by entrepreneur Lawrence Jones and his wife, Gail. It now has a £20m a year turnover and is one of Europe's fastest growing technology companies.

Tell us about your plans to open a workplace nursery and why you decided to do this?

Here at UKFast we pride ourselves on having a family feel to the workplace. We achieve this in a number of ways, and it starts from the very beginning because we only employ people with a caring gene, someone who will look out for their colleagues.

The majority of our employees either have children already or plan to start families, so it makes perfect sense to introduce a crèche where the next generation of superstars can grow up having fun! If employees are in a more relaxed frame of mind knowing their son or daughter is in the nursery, they will be more focused and productive.

A report last week by the Women’s Business Council called for flexible working for all, as a way of getting more women back into work. What are your views on this?

I am passionately in favour of anything which gets more women back into work. In fact we have bucked the trend in the male-dominated technology industry by appointing two female directors in the last six months.

We have male and female team members working flexible hours due to the fact that they have young families to take care of. Having a healthy, happy and motivated workforce is essential so to ignore their needs would be to directly contradict some of our core values. As a father-of-three myself I understand the demands of raising children and juggling that responsibility with work commitments.

My wife, Gail, is a mum to our three daughters but also a businesswoman and a key figure on the UKFast board of directors. I wouldn’t make a big decision without running it by her.

What other ways do you think businesses can become more family-friendly?

Productivity and morale will surely suffer if your employees don’t feel their needs are being met. I can only offer inspiration from my own experiences. At UKFast we don’t just get to know our employees, we also like to get to know their families. Every summer we hold a music festival called ‘UKFest’, to which our teams can bring their loved ones. They are also invited along to team nights out and fun events like film premieres.

In 2001 you were trapped in an avalanche for eight minutes. How has surviving this horrific experience changed you and driven you as an entrepreneur?

I never asked for a second chance but someone took pity on me that day. I feel like I was made to suffer the whole experience to remind me just how important life is.

It is something I treasure. It is much more than a memory. It is a physical experience almost like an invisible souvenir.  For myself, Gail and our children, our lives are very different as a direct result of a change in attitude. Knowing that every day since that accident is an extra one does make me cram as much into every one of them as I possibly can.

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