- Names: Luke Mead
- Business: LMS Group
- Role: CEO
- Business function: IT and Telecoms Support
- Sector: Tech
- Hub member since 2014.
What follows is an interview by MDHUB Managing Director Fiona Shafer with Luke Mead for Platinum Business Magazine September 2022.
I first met Luke Mead – CEO of LMS Group, way back in autumn 2014, when he was just 23. He strode very purposefully towards me, standing tall in his boots and jeans, a mop of wild blonde hair, hand outstretched for a hearty handshake and said: “Hello – right, please can you help me sort my team out?”
And that is Luke. Bold and straight to the point, a high-energy entrepreneur who does not suffer fools gladly and wants the very best for his team. Always. What he doesn’t know, like any wise leader, he seeks help with.
Fast forward eight years to 2022, and Luke has indeed sorted his team out; and they in turn have helped Luke to grow a thriving, profitable, highly accredited and well-respected technology business turning over £3.2 million.
LMS Group is an award-winning technology company, full of experts that provide the best possible IT Support, IT and cloud services, technology strategy, cyber security, communications and connectivity for small to mid-size businesses. A leading Microsoft Gold and Cisco select partner, it covers London and the South Coast.
So how exactly did this all come about? As a child ,what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t know what I wanted to be – I lived for the moment to be honest.
I remember aimlessly staring out of the window when my Dad was looking after my younger brother and I. He’d always fall asleep during the day. He’d come home extremely tired after working all hours as a London firefighter, having had little to no rest. He also had a part-time labouring job too; he’d fall asleep in the chair in front of Match of the Day. Mum was out at work, she was a part-time waitress, making ends meet as it was all a bit hand-to-mouth growing up.
I never wanted to be anything. I vowed when I was a spotty teenager never to work in IT as I just saw it as really boring and dull. So it’s all rather ironic that I now work in technology. I was a right little so-and-so at school as I was not challenged and, to be honest, I found it too easy and got quickly got bored.
Were there any teachers who managed to influence you at school?
Yes – 100% – Mrs Stewart, my tutor in years 10 & 11. She gave me amazing support during the time when my best friend died. She believed in me and said I must work with computers. At the time it was what I was good at and I was already capitalising on fixing local residents’ computers from my bedroom when I was at school. She really pushed me and had tears in her eyes when I finally said I had applied to go to Chichester College to do a BTEC in Computing.
I have always been a bit of a tinker. I want to know how everything works, having an inquisitive mind has probably carved my path in life.
For instance, at primary school, the school had a new security door installed which probably costs several thousands of pounds and I was caught picking the lock with a paper clip not long after it had been installed. On another occasion my mate and I ‘borrowed’ the stereo remote control from his dad’s new 5-Series BMW and used it to turn up the school PA system during assembly.
Are there other entrepreneurs in the family?
No. I think I may have broken the mould with LMS Group. What is the biggest life skill that your Mum and Dad have instilled in you ? Understanding and appreciating hard work and not living beyond my means.
What do they think of your success now?
I don’t know. I am not successful in my eyes – I just run a business. At the end of the day, I am their son and as long as I am happy and healthy, that is all that matters to them. Also, it’s not about me anymore. I’m just the one that opens the door to their grandchildren when they pop over.
What is your definition of success?
My biggest success is my family; getting home and having a happy and healthy family. You can have all the money in the world but that does not mean anything if you don’t live by your core values.
How would your two young children describe their Dad?
Fun! The smiles that I get when I walk through the door are just magical – that’s really fulfilling.
Are you as ambitious as you were when you first set up the business?
When I started up, I was hungry! Everything was new and I had ‘shiny object syndrome’. There is a clear difference between hunger and ambition. I was so young when I started, with no family and staff with dependents. I was very happy-go-lucky, and did most things on a whim. I didn’t really know where I was going to take the business. I go back to what I said earlier about living for the moment, and suddenly it started to ramp up with each phase of growth making me think, “ooh, that’s new and exciting”.
But as for ‘am I as hungry or gunning for it now?’ My end goal now is completely different to when I started. As long as I can be fully present at home, financially free and unfettered I am happy.
Many people, I believe, interpret that starting and running your own business is about making money, but I soon realised that methodology and way of thinking is a bit over-hyped. For me, it’s about buying time to do what I enjoy and developing and building others. I don’t have to work five days a week at all now but I choose to as I love it so much.
I really enjoy the people development side of it now, watching people grow and flourish, which is quite ironic when you look back to when we first met!
And I love doing a good job for our clients and seeing their success through technology, and the smiles that are associated. It’s all about people, relationships, and helping others.
What would you say to your younger self if you went back to the start of the business? What do you wish you had known?
Loads. You know how goal driven I am now, with goals, objectives and milestones? In the beginning, the business had no vision, mission, or defined values. The business and I were drifting.
You asked me in the earlier years about this, mission visit and values, and I remember saying these things were all ‘corporate drivel’. I guess I can link this back to my childhood, where I just took each day as it came.
It’s quite poignant really, as our mission, vision and values are now at the core of everything that we do at LMS Group, through service delivery, recruitment and ultimately the success of our customers and colleagues.
You have recently moved from MD into the CEO role – which part of your role do you enjoy most?
Above and beyond anything else, it is seeing the team develop and grow. I love them all to bits, and it is just brilliant to see them flourish. Helping our clients grow and, in many cases, transform their businesses is amazing.
When the pandemic struck, those clients that trusted us and put their faith in us would not have been able to get through it without the help of LMS Group. A couple mentioned this in a client video testimonial/case studies that we have been putting together. That is really fantastic.
What has been your proudest professional moment?
When lockdown struck it was hard. We are such a close-knit team, and we tried our very best to replicate the office vibe and maintain the interpersonal relationships that we hold so close. We tried everything (as many companies did) from virtual Zoom quizzes, themed Zoom events, Zoom charades, Zoom murder mystery, but it wasn’t the same.
I remember one time the whole team were on a group call and everyone was a bit down in the dumps, it was relentless working in IT Support at the very beginning. A colleague mentioned he just wished we could all go to the pub like good old times, and so the idea of the Technology Tavern was born. I had an ‘aha’ moment!
So, in answer to your question I guess I should say it should be something like an award or accreditation, but it’s not. The truth is, there was a moment at our delayed Covid-Christmas party, whereby the whole team were gathered in the Technology Tavern and I looked around and saw everyone under one roof – together, happy, engaged and looking alive and full of energy. I was behind the bar, and I thought, “I have made it!”
I felt so fulfilled and at that very moment, on top of the world!
We handed out our own company awards that evening which were very funny indeed – but I was a bit too hammered to remember!
What is your business book and why?
I buy business books like they are going out of fashion. Do I read them? Nope. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I really struggle to read words unless I really get into it, but that takes a while. I am a visual person. Give me a diagram or technical drawing any day of the week.
What would irritate you most about you on a long-haul flight?
I am a massive fidget. Additionally, if you like dried nuts, I am the awkward one who has the tannoy announcement to say don’t open or consume any nut-based products – as I have a severe nut allergy.
How do you relax?
My idea of relaxing is something practical around the house. Just give me an odd-job to do whereby I don’t need to talk to anyone!
I can’t think of anything duller then going to a spa. I have tried golf and soon gave up on it as it drove me mad – mainly because I was no good at it.
If I can’t be the best at something I just won’t do it. Which is such a bad tendency to admit. It’s not a competitive thing; it’s more about perfection. I aim for perfection in everything that I do which at time then frustrates me as it slows me down.
How competitive are you on a scale of 1-10?
I am not competitive if I don’t care about something. However, if I do care, I’ll do whatever I need to do to get that something done, completed or across the line to perfection.
I think this goes back to my school days. I managed to hide myself up a tree at Primary School one sports day and my parents couldn’t see me in any of the races. It didn’t interest me. The following year I put two and two together, and realised that if I were to help with the PA tannoy and sound system for the teachers, I’d get a pass from being involved in having to sit in the middle of a baking hot sports field doing something that didn’t interest me. So, the next year meant I didn’t get a numb bum from spending all day up a tree and also meant I could sit in the shade!
This is a classic example of how I use my creative mind to get the best out of a situation; call it problem-solving. I get a massive amount of enjoyment from other people’s success, especially my team.
I am curious if you win a client off another competitor? How does that feel?
We onboarded a substantial new client with around 130 staff recently. I went to lunch with the owner of the incumbent IT provider that we were taking the contract over from – so that I think sums it up that question to a tee. It’s more important to build relationships than to burn bridges.
What do you see as your key achievements in the past two years?
It’s been a whirlwind! We’ve grown the company by around 200% in the past 24-month period (we’ve gone from nine to 27 staff); we’ve released a company EV scheme for colleagues that have been with the business for over two years; we’ve purchased a company Tesla; we’re merging into the group our telecoms business; we’re re-structuring some group companies to allow for an EMI scheme, and revenue this year will exceed £3.2m.
I’m also looking forward to coaching and mentoring my colleague Paul in his new role as Managing Director as I move to the role of CEO. I realise I am not the right person operationally for the next phase of company growth. Paul, however, is.