The great Ash-scape - snow holding UKFast back

Article date: Thu, 22 Apr 2010 12:12 GMT

Lawrence Jones and team at The Lodge, Verbier

With the airways finally opening up after a week of disruption businesses are getting back to normal. However, for one Manchester company, the Ash cloud did not manage to dampen spirits as Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, abandoned his private jet for a 17-hour overnight road trip.

Jones had to reach his hosting summit in the Swiss mountains and became doubly determined after one of his friends James Kight from Printerland challenged him saying, "You'll never make it."

The UKFast hosting summit looked to be in jeopardy when planes were still grounded 12 hours before Jones was due to fly at the weekend. A change of plan was needed if contributors were to reach Verbier in the Swiss Alps where Richard Branson's Lodge was expecting them.

"I made a few phone calls and it was immediately clear that we were not going to be stopped by the volcano," says Jones. "I had two Porsche Cayennes, four drivers and six passengers ready to go within 90 minutes."

The journey, which involved a 2am ferry and the French transport police - a misunderstanding about the speed limit - saw the group arriving at The Lodge only one hour after they were originally scheduled to fly in. "We are not called UKFast for nothing," said Jones.

With the airwaves still closed on Tuesday evening, a second wave of people set out from Manchester by car, arriving in Verbier at lunchtime on Wednesday.

"It's amazing what a can-do attitude achieves," said Jones. "This week-long summit is crucial to keeping us competitive and it's vital for the industry that we keep pushing the boundaries developing an environment which stays ahead of the rapidly expanding world of the internet. Missing it would have been hugely detrimental to the company."

The annual summit removes key figures from the office environment and allows them to redesign products and services away from the pressures of everyday business.

In total the colleagues Jones has taken with him, represent more than 15 per cent of the entire workforce. The vast majority of them being the ones who maintain the spirit and work at the coalface.

"We play hard from the minute we get up and ski and board all morning. I have laid on instructors for the non-skiers and then the hard work starts at 2pm," said Jones.

"We get the best results this way as the euphoria from the exercise and mountain air really reinforce my belief that the best decisions are made outside of the boardroom and quite often on my board!"

Lawrence Jones who suffered a near death experience nine years ago in the Alps believes it is a good thing to confront your demons head on. "There is nothing better than getting back on the mountains and being reminded that everyday is a gift. It's one of the reasons I chose this destination for the 2010 summit. To share the experience with fellow colleagues reminds me why I work so hard."

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