Luke Mead launched his first business fixing computers while still at school and has turned it into a multi-million pound enterprise. He’s now turning his attention to helping nurture a new generation of entrepreneurs
“A lot of people are afraid of starting up a business. I’m lucky, I got going so young, before I was old enough to be frightened by it all. In truth, almost anyone is capable of running a business, as long as they are prepared to learn as they go. I was 15 when I started, I’ve definitely done a lot of learning,” 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. Thanks to the working from home boom, LMS Group is now incredibly busy, however, Luke is worried about the future for many.
“I genuinely feel sorry for young people, as 2020 has been a rough year for them. Careers prospects aren’t looking good and education is in a real mess. Wherever possible, businesses should be hiring, training apprentices, plugging the massive IT skills gaps and taking advantage of the new technologies coming on stream. But, instead, it’s all about making it through to tomorrow.
“Young people aren’t getting the opportunities to flourish that they deserve. They aren’t being told about the possibilities available to them. I want them to know my story because it shows you can start a business, even when you’re young and still have a million things to learn.”
Luke started off by creating flyers for his early stage computer repairs business. He raided his school’s photocopier, ran out the toner and spent the weekend with a friend, leafleting over 5000 homes. The first customer calls came trickling through and soon, Luke was in business.
“So, in between school hours, I’d be going out, fixing computers in Arundel, where I lived. Before I could drive, my parents had to drop me off at jobs and then wait outside.”
Luke had never been a keen student. He had a poor attention span and was regularly in trouble.
“I was never really interested in school. I was always up to mischief, mostly because I was bored and unchallenged. Teachers told me I had potential but I just couldn’t focus because the topics didn’t interest me.”
Luke passed his GCSEs but, distracted by his business, struggled to focus during his A-levels and failed them in spectacular fashion, ending up with three Us and an E. The pull of business was just too strong, even though he sometimes felt like a fish out of water.
“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.
“I used to attend business events with braces on my teeth and I was by far the youngest person there. But there were advantages to that, as people would just give me advice, whether I asked for it or not, and that did turn out to be very useful.
“I was making a fair amount of money and didn’t have a clue about VAT thresholds or business finances. This guy turned to me and said: ‘Look, Luke, this isn’t school,’ and set me straight on things.
Luke’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. I had to work really hard and constantly learn new things – the same went for my team. We built this company from the ground up.”
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 heights.
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.
“I’m not even 30 but I have achieved a lot, and now I want to do more to help others succeed. I want to help young people, especially those struggling at school. There’s one big message I want to give: you’re never too young to start a business.
Luke will be speaking at Generation Jungle, a free event for students and young people looking for advice, support and encouragement in a tough jobs market. It will offer advice on building skills and confidence, starting up a business and career development. Find out more and sign up at: https://bit.ly/GenerationJungle