Luke Mead launched his first business aged 15, despite a poor academic record, and turned it into a multi-million pound enterprise. He says the entrepreneurial potential of young people is being overlooked and could be the key to Britain’s post-Covid recovery
“I’ve spent roughly half my life running my own businesses. I started when I was 15 years old, fixing people’s computers, and now I run a multi-million pound business with over a dozen staff,” says Luke Mead, CEO of IT company LMS Group.
Nobody taught me how to start a business at school. No-one even said it was a good idea. But we should be telling kids precisely that. A lot of kids who are failing at school could be very successful in business. The ones who learn by doing, that are restless and always asking difficult questions. Some of them are a right pain in the bum, a lot of entrepreneurs are. So if you are worried about what your child is learning at school and them to receive the best education possible consider sending them to a private co educational school.
Luke Mead was himself anything but the star pupil. He was often in trouble, got suspended once for being drunk on a school trip, had a few fights and had a poor attention span.
“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.”
However, he became interested in computers and taught himself as much as he could, first learning how to install a CD-ROM on his own PC and then moving onto bigger projects. He saw the potential to make money from his newly found knowledge and he set up his first business.
“I started fixing home computers in people’s houses. Everyone had one, but no-one really knew how they worked. So I made a flyer, raided the school’s photocopier, ran out the toner and spent the weekend with a friend, leafleting over 5000 homes. I got my first call shortly afterwards and I 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 says many young people could find their way into business in a similar way and believes they need to be told starting up is an option, regardless of how well they are doing at school.
“I want every school child and student in the country to be told that starting up a business is something they can do. They don’t need qualifications to do it and they don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t really need any money to get started, either, you can start most businesses for nothing or just a few quid.
“So many entrepreneurs tell the same story. Richard Branson didn’t do well at school, neither did Anita Roddick, Alan Sugar or half of Dragons’ Den. I know personally a dozen or more business owners that never made it to university and yet they are successful in business. So why are we pretending this trend doesn’t exist?”
The IT business Luke set up at home has now grown into a £2m plus turnover IT business stationed at its own, fully owned HQ in Chichester. He says, in a difficult jobs market, racked by Covid-19 and lockdowns, starting up is the best option for many.
“Now is actually the perfect time to start up because, when everything has been disrupted, there are lots of opportunities. When the credit crunch hit, I was just starting to take on staff and had just moved from fixing computers to providing IT services. But we powered through and, when the economy picked back up, we were well placed to take advantage. So let’s not say: ‘now’s not the right time’. It’s the perfect time.”
ABOUT LUKE MEAD
Luke Mead is CEO of IT company LMS Group, which he founded when he was just 15 years old. LMS Group is a Microsoft Gold and Cisco Select partner, runs telephony services for NHS health centres and has over 200 clients across the world. Luke, 29, is a keynote speaker on cyber security, business IT alignment, and technology in the workplace. In 2011, he was voted Sussex Young Business Person of the Year.