‘SORRY I’m hobbling but I had a vasectomy this week’ is I’m sure going to be the most unusual interview opening ever heard! This is typical of Luke’s open, fun, straightforward style and he does seem to be in some discomfort as he walks in!
His company based in Chichester, the LMS Group, actually started in his bedroom while Luke was still at school. ‘I used to get off the school bus every Wednesday afternoon and go to Belinda’s to do the washing up and there was always a large gravy pot left over from the Sunday service because no one ever wanted to wash it up and it was left for me to do. It had about half inch of burnt gravy on the bottom and I would be scrubbing for 20 minutes and rest of the week my fingernails just stank of Bisto and I think that was the catalyst for me to realise that there was more to life than washing that gravy pot!’
‘I knew I was good with computers, but I didn’t want to be that nerdy person who no one wanted to talk to! I’d started doing computer servicing jobs for people from my bedroom and, having flown through my GCSE’s, I spent the summer break working on computers. I had got busier and busier working for individuals, and word of mouth had started to lead to more small business clients around the local area as well.
It’s quite funny looking back; my parents would drive me around between appointments because I wasn’t old enough to drive – so they would take me to Fittleworth, Pulborough, Worthing or wherever and wait outside while I went and fixed the computers!’
‘When I went back to school to the Sixth Form my BlackBerry was ringing off the hook, emails ordering things in, arranging appointments- I paid no attention to my A levels whatsoever. As a result, I went from flying colours at GCSE with no real effort or revision to getting three U’s and an E. My tutor kept telling me to go to college and study IT because it was my passion, but I was too stubborn.’
That Summer holiday Luke completed quite a lucrative piece of business and ‘I had a kind of epiphany moment thinking I should sort my life out.’ While clearing out his bedroom he came across a CD, a digital prospectus for Chichester College which outlined a three day per week BTEC National Diploma in IT. It seemed the perfect solution- go to college for three days a week and then the other two days run the business. In the first year he achieved straight distinctions, simply because he was doing something he was really interested in. In his second year however, the business had grown to such an extent,he said to his college tutor ‘I can’t be here I’m losing money!’
He was dipping in and out of college to go to appointments in lunch breaks and his client base had expanded geographically as well. By now he had bought a little Vauxhall Corsa van so could drive himself to appointments. His tutor trusted him enough to say: ‘OK you can come in from time to time but just make sure you get work in on the deadline – you proved yourself in Year 1 so crack on!’ He completed his diploma effectively as distance learning!
By now he had a small office in Tarrant Street above what is now The Parsons Table, and the business was turning over more than the VAT threshold, now concentrating on commercial business to business clients. ‘In 2010 I formed a limited company, became VAT registered and took on my first member of staff. There are 22 of us now and we’re recruiting like the clappers. Over the next two months we will be 25. We grew to 6 of us in that office and we were literally like sardines in this tiny room but at that time, we were going out a lot on site work, whereas now the industry has moved on and most of work the is done remotely.’ The company outgrew those offices in three years, they moved to Barnham and then into the current building in Chichester which Luke bought in 2018.
It needed a lot of work and over £600,000 in renovation costs over two years to develop it into the stylish, modern space it is now with all the normal office spaces but with the addition of funky breakout spaces, open- plan kitchen/bar areas, quiet rooms and it’s very own pub! The staff are all very friendly and seem genuinely very happy – ‘I’m very proud of the culture we’ve created here!’ Luke says.
A huge added bonus is that it’s right on the A 27 and the whole of the side of the building acts as one giant poster on show for all drivers queuing in the traffic heading into Chichester. ’43,000 cars a day pass by it- we paid a premium on the building for that!’ His client base still includes Arundel clients such as the Museum, the Fisheries and the Arundel Castle Cricket Club, but has grown exponentially and is extremely varied from the printer for one of the biggest fast-food restaurants in the UK through Sims Williams with all their offices. ‘Our largest client has 600 users across four sites in the UK.’
Their offer to clients is simple Luke says, ‘It’s the peace of mind to sleep at night! When you look at cyber threats and the rise of ransomware and cybercrime, everyone is now a target. What scares me is when we meet a company who are hugely exposed to a potential attack because they have been badly advised or, worse still, and this has happened four times to date, when we’re approached in the aftermath of an attack. So cyber security is what we lead on.’
LMS is an accredited Microsoft Gold Partner, Cisco Select Partner and are regularly assessed by the government backed Cyber Essentials Plus Accreditation whereby
an external assessor runs a penetration test within the business. Cyber security is one basis of their business but also ‘we work with our clients to develop IT to be seen as an enabler in the business rather than a cost.’
Covid gave LMS an unexpected boost. ‘As awful as it sounds, and I do appreciate people died from Covid, it was the best thing that happened for the industry because it changed people’s mindset. It made businesses realise how important IT was and how it got them through the pandemic. Having people working from home introduced additional security risks such as phishing attacks and ransomware. According to HP cyber threats increased 400% during the pandemic. In many ways Covid brought us and our clients even closer together. I love the relationships that I hold with key clients – and that’s what gives me a kick! Our people are seen as an extension of our clients’.
Luke’s mother Maria and father Clifford are well known in Arundel and live in Maxwell Road. ‘Mum and my auntie used to run the nursery school that was originally at the library and then moved to the football club. But in 2009 she started work on my bookkeeping and only recently retired.’ Clifford was a London firefighter and he worked three days on two days off travelling up to London. Luke now lives in Torton Hill with his wife Lyndsey and their two children Theo 3 and Daisy who will be 1 in June. Lyndsey was a teacher ‘I think one of the first five people to be qualified in Forest Schooling in the UK and she headed up a Forest School in Worthing before moving to Great Ballard.’
‘I often think how blessed I am to have two happy healthy children.’ And it is this realisation that fuels his support of the Snowdrop Trust. ‘It’s been two years now that I’ve been supporting them. I want to, it really means something to me, and they are a special, special charity who do wonderful work. Having children gave my life such a lift. We’d struggled to have Theo, we’d lost one baby and then, when he was born, he was whisked away to the neonatal unit for nearly a week, and it was so hard for us. Having children for me totally changed my attitude not just commercially and in business but in life – which I know sounds corny, but I know other parents will get it. The struggles we went through are nothing compared to what Snowdrop families go through and I just thought there’s must be something we can do to help’.
The Snowdrop Trust, a local charity, provides in-home care to children between the ages of 0 and 19 that are living with life-threatening or terminal illnesses as well as offering financial and emotional care to their families. Luke’s fundraising idea is simple: Any new quotes provided to clients by LMS Group will have the option of including an additional 1% of the total order value as a donation. If the client opts to include the additional 1%, LMS Group will match it and give the total amount to The Sussex Snowdrop Trust. Which means the client’s 1% donation becomes 2% and ‘the clients don’t bat an eyelid at this proposal’ Luke says. Last year this scheme raised £9600.
Di Levantine, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Sussex Snowdrop Trust, “We have been so impressed with Luke Mead’s drive to raise funds for the charity and his need to have purpose in his working life. The cause is meaningful to him as a father but also, he is interested in the fact that monies raised are directly contributing to the Care at Home team whose nursing care is vital for local families who have a child with a life threatening or terminal illness. His team at the LMS Group have come up with some great fundraising ideas and we look forward to seeing these over this year, setting an ambitious target of £12,000.’