As businesses batten down the hatches and pull the purse strings tight in response to media hype of a double-dip recession, tech entrepreneur Lawrence Jones is bucking the trend by continuing to invest heavily in staff perks including trips to Vegas and a full-time masseuse.
The founder of internet hosting firm UKFast – that grew by 32 per cent in 2011 – admits that his staff incentive schemes could be considered “ludicrous” by fellow entrepreneurs in a challenging climate but is adamant that his investment in staff is responsible for his firm’s consistent growth since 1999.
Lawrence Jones said: “There will be analysts and accountants who would look at our practices and think we’re crazy but it’s difficult to put a price on the difference it will make to an organisation because how do you measure emotion? There’s no KPI that you can use.
“It’s not as easy as attaching a value to a piece of machinery that helps you sell a product and historically accountants and business professionals have played down the importance of team building and corporate hospitality but I think it’s essential to running a successful business.
“If firms like Google can do things like that, why can’t a smaller business in Manchester do the same? My staff deserve those perks. It’s interesting that Google has grown at a similar rate to us over the last year [the search giant reported growth of 29 per cent for 2011].”
In December 2011, Jones took a group of key performers from his sales team to Vegas for a five-day trip after they surpassed a target set months earlier.
Jones continues: “We wanted to break records towards the end of the year and the cheekiest of my sales team asked if they could go to Vegas if they met a huge target.
“I thought I couldn’t lose if I set them what I considered to be an unachievable target – that they would push and push to hit so our figures would be good and if I did have to invest in a costly trip, it would pay for itself many times over.
“They smashed every record set by any previous sales team and they blew my predictions out of the water. They covered the whole trip and still grew sales significantly by achieving what they did.”
In 2008, UKFast invested in a house at the foot of Mount Snowdon to act as a retreat for the team to develop skills and discuss projects in a creative environment away from the office.
Last year, the firm employed Joe Cravagan as head of personal development. Cravagan – who has more than 15 years’ experience running his own personal training company and chains of private gyms – will lead team-building trips to the Castell Cidwm base and focus on developing the wellbeing of the UKFast team.
The Manchester firm also employed a full-time masseuse and beauty therapist last year.
“Sadly the Inland Revenue doesn’t help with the fact that spend on team building isn’t tax deductible, but once you swallow the cost and commit yourself to the journey of real investment into your team and their wellbeing, the rewards won’t be too far behind. I see it every day when my team goes over and above the call of duty.”
For more information about UKFast and Lawrence Jones visit: http;//www.ukfast.co.uk