Phil Doye: Keep it real, stay fresh

Phil Doye’s Kelway was one of the star companies in this year’s Hot 100, in association with Investec. Phil will be sharing lessons from building a ?350m IT group at the Entrepreneurs’ Summit on June 12. Here’s an early taster…

Is it possible, in your experience, to recreate the spirit and energy of a start-up in an established, medium-sized business? (To be a re-start-up?). If so, what does it take?

We have made six acquisitions and each of these required new leadership and to be re-energised as a Kelway company; with the culture, energy and passion that I think sets us apart. It all comes down to leadership and having the right talent supporting the strategy. I am certain that you cannot transform any organisation without breaking quite a few eggs!!

How different, in terms of personalities, structure and behaviours, is Kelway’s boardroom today to when you started the business?

It is completely different in as much as when I first started it was only me. Our boardroom, and I don?t particularly care for the term, has regularly changed over the years and will continue to change as the business evolves. We have experienced NED?s, private equity, consultants, new directors who, regardless of whether they short term, have been vital in keeping things fresh with new ideas and experience. We are certainly much more corporate than we once were with clear reporting deadlines and much more accountability, however, they remain relatively informal and a good environment for robust debate!

In your experience, what’s the single most effective way to communicate Kelway’s core values to new, senior members of staff? How do you ensure that new, key people are fully, and most effectively, engaged?

Spend “real” time with them outside of specific tasks and projects they are working on. Encourage them to spend time with those people in the company that really live out Kelway?s values. Ensure, that whatever role they are in, that they understand why customers buy from us and what differentiates from our competitors. Our annual kick off, which is a significant investment, has proved invaluable in ensuring that we do take time to really celebrate our success and also set out the strategy for the next year and beyond to all of our people.

The theme of this year’s Real Business Entrepreneurs’ Summit is “the growth challenge”. How confident or otherwise are you that in, say, five years’ time, we will have a rebalanced UK economy, built around a larger proportion of SME businesses with IP ownership and international expansion at their core?

The UK has some great companies, outside of financial services, that embody what it is possible to achieve on the international stage, although whether there are enough to make a real difference to the balance of the economy I doubt. I think the best we can hope for is that within five years we have an education system that encourages enterprise, a business and tax environment that rewards success, and a greater number of UK success stories that can inspire others. In the meantime, the government must do more to encourage and celebrate financial services rather than to allow them to be undervalued.

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