Luke Mead of the LMS Group explains:
The LMS Group is much, much more than just an IT support company. They are one of the UK’s leading providers of Managed Services with small and large customers globally.
Luke and LMS Group are on a clear course to scale from their current 2.5m turnover to 10m by 2030.
Perhaps surprisingly, for someone who runs a very successful tech business, Luke didn’t want to go into the IT support sector initially, or indeed any area of IT, thinking it was too geeky for him. Tech is sexier now, he grins.
As a child, he loved taking things apart to see how they worked, and so inevitably, his computer was on that list he investigated. He taught himself how to install a CD-ROM drive.
Luke became a teenage entrepreneur. At 15, he had a pot washing job for £3.00 per hour and thought offering IT support might make a more pleasant way of earning money. He made 5,000 flyers on his school’s printer and spent a weekend posting them through local letterboxes, onto lamp posts, and in the local chippie offering his services. When not at school, Luke started to fix computers, running an office in his bedroom.
The IT manager at the school told Luke how expensive it was to dispose of old equipment. Luke saw more opportunities, fixed the old equipment, sold it on, and expanded his business into new areas of IT support. Meanwhile, he flew through his GCSE’s, finding them easy.
There was tremendous pressure then, as there is now, for people to go to university, so Luke dutifully started his A ‘levels along with his friends. He was far more interested in his IT support business and sat at the back of the class, answering customer queries.
By the end of the first year, he achieved 3 U’s and an E. With the business, it was a different story. He had worked hard all summer, and it was going well. Luke tried to tell himself that the IT support business as it was at that time was hardly going to support his future, and he needed to sort his life out.
To that end, he decided to turn out his bedroom to help get his life in order. He upended every drawer and cupboard. Three hours later, and fed up with the task, he came across a CD advertising Chichester College and found a BTEC course, three days in college, two days out.
Luke went back to school, but at the start of term, when the headmaster was telling a story in assembly about how three friends’ dynamics change when one leaves the group, Luke stood up and said to his mates, “Sorry, I am going to be that guy.” He walked out.
Luke passed his first year at Chichester College with full marks and was allowed to work on his IT support business for his second year without going in. He didn’t feel that a BTEC carried sufficient weight to impress clients, so he put a qualification called DoHE, IT Networking, and Technologies onto his LinkedIn profile instead.
Years later, he was hugely amused to see himself feature in Chichester College’s “Where are they now” stories, with this, entirely fictional, qualification attributed to them both.
The Start of the LMS Group
Luke’s first premises for his company, now LMS Group, was a two-room office above a restaurant kitchen. The solicitor that he went to warned Luke that he was taking on a big commitment with the lease. Luke was unphased. A time later, the same solicitor was to phone Luke and tell him that Luke had inspired him to leave his current position and start a law firm of his own. He is still a client of Luke’s today.
The business made losses for the first few years because Luke needed to pay good people to join him to provide the backbone of high-quality service that his clients expected. Even then, he knew he wanted to do a great deal more for his customers, not just IT support but really make a difference to their businesses.
It was a few years till he could draw a salary of his own. Everything Luke earned, he plowed back into the business. He survived on a bank loan, which he told the bank was for a car, knowing he had no hope of a business loan.
LMS Growth in the Marketplace
LMS Group now services 200 clients, including well-known household brands and the NHS. One of Luke’s clients has just been sold for over 300m, and servicing one of that size is a big responsibility, owner, Luke Mead told me.
To ensure that successful growth, Luke has stayed with the conviction that standard IT support was not going to make him stand out.
Services now range from IT Support to Telecoms, Cloud Computing, Connectivity Services, Cyber Security, and Technology Consultancy. There are fifteen currently on the team. However even more are planned to join the business in the not-so-distant future.
Another point that sets them aside from standard IT support companies, it that LMS Group is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Cisco Select Partner. Add in their Cyber Security offerings, LMS Group is light years ahead of their regional competition.
Conversely, Luke ran into someone who worked for an ex-client of his recently, who was lamenting Luke and LMS’s loss. His new management had decided to swap IT support suppliers for a cheaper, narrower service provider. They were quickly finding it an expensive mistake.
Luke explains how their differential from standard IT support works. LMS like to work with organizations that see them as enablers, not a cost on their P and L. It is clients that adopt this mindset and invest in a partnership that are often the most successful.
Luke is passionate about his customers’ experience. One of their differentials is to speak straightforwardly in ways customers can understand rather than in tech language that is so common across the IT support sector. Talking the same language builds trust between them and the clients. Luke believes anyone can learn technology if it is presented right.
Luke is very selective when hiring his team. He looks for personality and skills but says that “skills can always be taught. If you are an arsehole, you will be an arsehole forever.”
Luke explained to me that where they sit in the marketplace being so unique, has resulted in them picking up a lot of large-scale work. When I spoke to him, another national retailer had just onboarded them. He says this success is “Because we look from the outside in” looking for what is in the best interest of their clients rather than just selling them things.
Standard IT support might be there to help you when your systems crash. LMS aims to help its customers achieve their business goals through better technology, cybersecurity, and digital transformation.
They start by talking to customers and establishing their goals so that they can get the right infrastructure and systems that will help them achieve those goals. They want to help businesses get ahead of their competitors by having better systems, being more streamlined and efficient. It is all a far cry from the sort of “IT support” of old.
Many of Luke’s clients tell him how glad they are to be with him, as they could not have survived lockdown without him. As a result, the business has continued to grow through lockdown and COVID with demand for tech and remote solutions spiraling.
Luke’s second Business
In 2015, Luke set up a second business in addition to LMS Group, this time with his Commercial Manager, Graham Bush, called Caelum Communications.
He could see many LMS Group customers who also needed a specialist Telecommunications and Connectivity provider and uniquely one that also offers a full PBX function in a cloud-based service.
BT is turning off ISDN in 2025, so many millions of businesses will have to change, meaning demand will grow. Luke and his team service both companies from their Chichester base.
This has been crucial in moving them away from simply IT support, and into a much fuller, all round managed services provider.
Luke says he is hugely excited by the growth they are achieving now, alongside the growth they have planned. Luke says building a business is like building a house. You have the foundations, the concrete footings, the regulations to comply with, and nothing to show for it, but then suddenly, the walls go up, and the roof goes on, and everything changes.
They have invested so much time and effort into processes ready for the growth. They also have a Business Intelligence tool that pulls all their data and analysis together to give them very best-informed decision making. They have also purchased their own premises in Chichester, West Sussex, in 2018 and chose them deliberately with sufficient room for growth.
Luke is investing in his senior management so that they will all be part of the growth. Everyone reports through KPI’s from the Service Desk manager to Luke himself. Luke believes in investing in people.
Luke explained that you can neither make nor buy company culture, but then demonstrated what he means by investment by showing me the Herman Miller chairs accompanied by the ergonomic furniture. The chairs are especially good for office posture. He says it is partly, so they are comfortable but also at £600 each, they are a lot cheaper than anyone being off with a bad back.
The offices are bright and airy. They have a reward system for all the team, which runs for points and points, meaning prizes from a car wash or sandwich upwards to a month’s paid sabbatical.
They took months to choose their values and involved every member of the staff. The result is SAID – Supportive, ambitious, individual, and dependable. It says everything about why the company and the services which LMS Group offers go so much further than standard IT support and why customers benefit so much more.
Luke wants to ensure any eventual exit plan will involve the entire team, so everyone benefits.