Lawrence Jones is the co-founder and CEO of managed hosting and cloud firm UKFast. In his latest column he reaches into his virtual mail bag to answer a key business question.

Q: Tech businesses are known to be innovative and forward-thinking. Should start-ups look for advice on how to set up and best run their business? And are there any public figures that have particularly inspired you in your career?

Of course! Wanting to learn from the journey of others is an important part of growing as an entrepreneur.

Whilst I’ve always drawn inspiration from members of my family and team, I also look to those in the public eye; from other business leaders such as Richard Branson and the Timpsons, who I have mentioned before, to political figures like Nelson Mandela and the lecturers such as Jim Collins. 

One of my biggest inspirations when I first arrived in Manchester was the charming Tim Bacon, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

The early years with Tim were a brilliant learning curve for me. He was a good friend and also a great business mentor.

In fact, I think I could fill a book just with the advice I took away from our years of working together.

Tim Bacon

Perhaps the most important lesson Tim taught me was to value the people around me and the importance of building a strong team. He not only knew how to pick the right people to work together, but he also inspired each and every one of those people to work to the best of their ability.

Tim knew how to motivate and engage his team like no other. He always made sure to celebrate success as an integral part of his business - an approach I’ve used to engage and inspire my own team since.

It would be impossible for me to pick just one source of inspiration; there are so many people who continue to help me make decisions every day.

One such person is Muhammad Ali. There are a hundred or more ways in which the legendary boxer influenced both me and my businesses over the years.

I met Ali many years ago when I was playing piano at what is now the Palace Hotel. Having been fascinated with him for most of life, especially as a boy who loved boxing, I knew from my love of music that he had contributed lyrics to a song called the Greatest Love of All. As I started to play the song, he gave me a wink.

Muhammad Ali

To this day, nearly 20 years later, Muhammad Ali continues to have an immeasurable influence on UKFast and our way of thinking. For one, Ali’s legacy has a big impact on our sense of ambition and our ability to dream big.

Ali pioneered the power of intention, which later became a staple part of modern sports psychology. It is a technique I’ve used time and again in my personal and professional life. I don’t think there is anything that is quite as important as setting goals, particularly when you are at the start of your business journey.

I’m always telling my family and friends, as well as all of the team I work with, to write their goals down. I’ve found that sometimes, reading through notes I wrote months or even years earlier, I’ve reached goals I didn’t even realise I had set.

Another important lesson I learnt from Ali is to have full confidence in my own abilities. Anyone can be ‘the greatest’ at anything as long as they make sure to back it up with hard work. Muhammad Ali is a good example of someone who not only sets goals but also works hard to achieve them.

When you have a focus, you apply yourself to improve.  Ali’s saying "I run on the road long before I dance under the lights" is printed on one of the walls of UKFast Campus for a reason, reminding everyone in the team of the importance that practice and preparation have in the journey towards success.

‘Impossible is nothing’, is another famous Ali quote I particularly like. Even after his death, it is a powerful reminder that as long as you believe in what you’re doing and are willing to work hard to achieve your goals, you will be successful.

To read more from Lawrence Jones, visit his personal website on www.lawrencejones.eu

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