Getting to Know You: Alastair Mills

What do you currently do?
I am CEO of Six Degrees Group, established via the acquisition of five companies during a busy few months in the middle of 2011.

We provide data connectivity and cloud computing services for UK businesses. I’m working with the same management team I had as CEO of SpiriTel Plc until we sold the company to a competitor in November last year for £37m, making a 70% return in one year for our investors.

I’m very fortunate to have the same team, board, bank and private equity backers in the same sector…even higher investor return expectations though!

What is your inspiration in business?
Just to make a difference. I have a very short attention span and I need to be able to spot an opportunity to do something ‘transformational’. I need to see the opportunity to help businesses, charities, customers, people or concepts change in big ways.

I love nothing more than buying companies, then growing rapidly and ultimately creating a unique business. It’s my dream job – I’m a lucky man.

Who do you admire?
I am an ambassador for a charity called HopeHIV that supports young people who have been affected by HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, I admire the smart, innovative, hard working guys that run the small charity, based in Wimbledon that changes the lives of so many young people in Africa.

I am inspired by the smart, innovative and hard working young people that I met in Zambia this year, who given half a chance, will change their own lives and those of their extended families for generations to come.

It can be done, I’m excited about the opportunity and admire those who are delivering that change both here and out in Africa.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Of course. But it’s a mostly unavoidable consequence of being a risk taker. I set up a ski company when I was 19 and it failed spectacularly and my father, who wasn’t a rich man, graciously bailed me out. Plenty of mistakes followed but I hope I am making less as time goes on …

What defines your way of doing business?
Surrounding myself with people who are brighter than me and I rely on these people to do a great job. Although it’s not relevant in every case, I try to ‘employ attitude and train skills’ and have found that this approach normally bring exceptional results.

We’re ruthless on managing poor attitudes out of the business and nurturing and rewarding good attitude. I also find that the great joy is that these great people, make us a great company and very rarely leave.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Entrepreneurs need to have the ability to spot an opportunity. Without that, there is no ‘starting out’. It’s then down to hard work and enthusiasm.

Work very hard. Sportsmen have often confirmed that the harder they work the luckier they get and in my experience, nowhere is this more true than in business.

Be insatiably enthusiastic. Henry Chester said, “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money and power and influence.” Hard work and enthusiasm are a winning combination.

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