Alastair Mills: The firepower of a major player

Name: 

Alastair Mills

Role and company: 

CEO, Six Degrees Group

Company turnover (and most recent EBITDA/most relevant profitability metric): 

With our latest acquisition, BIS, now fully on board the company turnover stands at £70m, with an EBITDA of £14m.

Employee numbers:

260

Growth forecast for the next three years:

Six Degrees Group is only 20 months old with a management team that is focused on organically growing the business. Since we launched we have experienced double-digit growth, aside from any acquisitions, and over the next few years we expect to see a steady upwards trajectory. 

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

At Six Degrees we want to be recognised for the services we offer but also for the people that work here. We work hard to really understand our clients’ needs and then provide the right products and services, maintaining the highest quality of support. Our people make the difference as they understand the technology and bring ideas to the table to solve real business challenges.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Medium-sized enterprises and mid-market corporates need the personal service of a smaller organisation but the firepower of a major player. We aim to become the UK’s most admired mid-market provider of managed data services. One that owns its assets, data centres, data network, cloud platform and then wraps it in the 6DG service delivered by people who are passionate about the service they deliver. Through consistent organic growth, probably supplemented by a few acquisitions along the way, we plan to continue this approach but on an even bigger scale. 

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

We are experts in the UK market and will continue to concentrate on the mid-market at home. We have a small footprint in Western Europe and the US but the focus of the international network is as a back up or secondary support service for our UK network and assets.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

After leaving University, I tried and failed to set up a ski holiday company, for the obvious reason that earning a decent living on the ski slopes felt like a great idea. It’s a super competitive market and I failed. But I learnt a lot from the experience.

What makes you mad in business today?

Leaders with big egos. My motto has always been to employ people better than I am. I’m academically mediocre, did a mostly useless degree, and I’m not a particularly strong technologist. So I’ve spent the past seven years building a team of people who are brilliant in their fields and certainly better than me. Arrogant leaders with big egos don’t impress me.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

There’s a huge amount of money, both debt and equity, out there looking for a home but investors are cautious as to where it goes. They will focus on the factors that derisk their position such as organic growth, good visibility of earnings through recurring revenues, the ability to turn profits into cash and an experienced management team with a good track record.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I’m not sure but I’m very proud of the team we have here. Several members of the team and I have been together across two different companies over eight years so I hope the stats speak for themselves and they all know they are better at what they do than me anyway. Together we’ve worked out how to make the team dynamic work and we complement each other.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

I invest in great holidays and time away from work with my family. We have a house on the beach in Sussex where I’m happiest taking my two young boys out crabbing or fishing and swimming on the boat. We also love our time skiing in France or pottering about on remote Canadian lakes in the summer.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

An obvious answer would be to talk for two minutes about government procurement. The bottom line is that the public sector is key to promoting SMEs in the UK – the G-Cloud is a start on this but we want to see more business pushed the way of smaller service providers like ourselves. We offer better value and better service, it’s a virtuous circle.

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