'Every business is a tech business' - UKFast MD Gail Jones
UKFast’s newly-appointed managing director Gail Jones has said people are the key to business success.
Jones started the web hosting company in a back-bedroom with her husband Lawrence 18 years ago and it’s now valued at around £300m.
Jones spoke to BusinessCloud’s Katherine Lofthouse as part of our quest to find the UK’s top 101 Female Founders in Tech.
The list, which will appear in the final 2017 edition of BusinessCloud, will celebrate the incredible women who have taken an idea that uses tech in some way and turned it into a first-rate business.
Closing date for entries is September 11th and details of how to enter can be found at the bottom of this article.
Q1: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to start a tech business?
A1: I don’t see myself as working ‘in tech’ or running a ‘tech business’.
I’ve never seen UKFast as a tech business, we’re a people business. We look after people, using tech, and we help them to succeed, whether they’re our clients, team or the community around us.
Every business these days is a tech business. And that would be my advice, don’t look at setting up a certain type of business; look at the need behind that.
Why are you setting up - and who will you help?
Q2: Why did you decide to become MD of UKFast now?
A2: It’s a natural point in UKFast’s journey. The business has seen incredible growth over the past few years and doubled in size since Jonathan [Bowers] was appointed UKFast MD.
UKFast Enterprise is now generating 43 per cent of UKFast’s total revenue from just four per cent of the client base.
The two sets of customers have very different requirements, so at this point it makes perfect sense for that to become a business in its own right.
With Jonathan moving into that role, I am stepping in to take on the role of UKFast MD.
Q3: UKFast has almost doubled in turnover in recent years. How important was it to have two MDs to manage the growth going forward?
A3: Hugely important. It simply isn’t sustainable for one person to continue to give the best level of service and support to such a fast-growing business.
We’ve always had a rule that no one manager in the business has more than six direct reports.
It’s how we keep on-track and ensure that nothing falls through the gaps. Of course this should apply to the senior management too.
Having the two areas means we’re able to focus on supporting our colleagues so they in turn can support our clients.
Q4: How important was it to recruit an MD who understood the culture of UKFast?
A4: The most important part of recruitment for any role in UKFast is ensuring that they understand the culture of the business and the people who are here.
It’s unique and very special so for someone to come into the business at that level, it would have been challenging.
Q5: You’re a mother of four daughters. How will combine the role of busy mum and MD of a thriving tech company?
A5: Many women have to combine a full-time job and childcare, and I’m no different.
Although I am incredibly lucky to have the support of my parents and on the odd time when we get stuck I can either bring the girls in or work from home.
It’s a challenge because UKFast is a family too, and I need to be here for the team as well. It’s not an easy juggling act for any working mum.
Q6: More than 200 people applied for the role of MD. What do you think you’ll bring to the job?
A6: I know the business inside out. I’ve been at the heart of it since day one. I already know the team and, of course, work well with both Jonathan and Lawrence!
Q7: How important is it to have female role models in tech?
A7: Everyone needs role models and people to aspire to.
The challenge here is that there aren’t many female role models across business as a whole, never mind just in the tech arena.
There are definitely more sacrifices that we have to make as women, particularly as working mothers; you can see it in the playgrounds when parents are picking their children up.
They’re predominantly full of women, who are juggling having to pick the kids up at 3pm and keeping their routines, with making sure they’re having an impact in the office.
Whilst not everyone chooses to have children, unfortunately a huge number of women who do choose not to return to work after maternity because of the cost of childcare and the invariable guilt of balancing a career and raising children.
It’s also hard to find the part-time roles at a senior level for mums returning from maternity leave. Perhaps that’s why there are fewer women that come to mind at that ‘role model’ level?
• If you know a female founder that deserves to be celebrated nominate them for our 101 Female Founders of Tech list – deadline September 11th!
• ‘Female founder’ is defined as a woman who started or co-founded a tech business (they do not need to currently still be involved in the business)