LMS Group has more than 200 clients, including major retailers, global companies and the NHS.
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To escape a grim washing-up job, Luke Mead launched his first business fixing computers while still at school. LMS Group now has over 200 clients, including major retailers, global companies and the NHS, although its founder and CEO says he never really wanted to be in the IT industry
“I always wanted to run a business but found the whole IT and technology world to be really geeky. I didn’t want to be a computer nerd - one of those people at parties who no-one wants to talk to,” says Luke Mead, CEO of the LMS Group.
The now 29-year-old CEO runs an award winning, £2m plus turnover IT business, which he built from the ground up. A short spell of menial labour helped him overcome his hang-ups.
“I used to do a washing up job for £3 per hour every Wednesday. The worst part was cleaning the gravy pot, which was left over from Sunday lunch. The leftover burnt gravy was about an inch thick and I had to scrub it clean. My hands would stink for days afterwards. I owe a lot to that pot – it made me want to do something better.”
Mead had been a curious child, the sort who revelled in taking things apart to see how they worked. Having learnt the rudiments of IT by dismantling his home computer and teaching himself how to install a CD-ROM, he decided to offer his skills to others and saw his school’s resources as a shortcut to success.
“I raided the school’s printer room, made 5,000 flyers and spent the weekend putting them through the letterboxes of every house in town. I got home from school and my mother said: ‘A lady called, apparently you’re meeting her next week, what’s going on?’
“So, in-between school hours, I’d be going out, fixing computers. I was never really interested in school. I was always up to mischief, mostly because I was bored. Teachers told me I had potential but I just couldn’t focus because the topics didn’t interest me.”
One thing Mead was paying attention to, however, were the gripes of the school’s IT manager.
“The IT manager at school was saying how he had to pay to get rid of his old IT equipment which ate into his budget. So I used to take the equipment off him, fix it up and sell it off.”
Mead passed his GCSEs but, distracted by his business, struggled to focus during his A-levels and failed them - three Us and an E.
“I used to spend lesson times scrolling through my Blackberry, answering work queries. I was very conflicted. I started going to business conferences and I was always the youngest person there. There would be all these suits there and I would turn up in a pair of jeans with braces on my teeth. But by attending these meetings, I was able to learn a lot about business, as well as pick up clients. Many remain clients to this day.”
Mead’s first premises was a two-room office above a restaurant, which was often infiltrated by the neighbour’s cat. Life in his start-up was anything but glamorous. “At first, it was really hard to get experienced staff, as I didn’t have the budget.”
In a rapidly evolving sector, Mead says constant reskilling has been key. But also he says clients appreciate working with technology companies that can speak in plain English.
“We all rely on technology, but most people don’t really understand it, and there are so many providers out there that want to blind people with science. I think one of the reasons we’ve retained our clients is because we’ve built that trust and helped them develop their knowledge.”
The LMS Group now has 13 full-time employees, over 200 clients including the NHS and, in 2018, bought its own million-pound premises in Chichester. The business grew through lockdown, acquiring new clients and taking on staff, with demand for remote working reaching new highs.
The business also has a donation scheme, where one per cent of the value of contracts goes to the Sussex Snowdrop Trust, a local children’s charity. Luke is also now working as a mentor and advisor to young people who want to start their own businesses.
“One of the most important messages I want people to hear is that technology doesn’t have to be complicated. Anyone can learn it and there are massive opportunities out there. There’s a lot more to life than cleaning pots.”