Scott Fletcher MBE founded ANS Group when he was just 22 years old. Here Scotty and myself interviewed Scott for Unity Radio. We ask him about his story, so why he set up the business, how he did it, some tips around motivation and we\’ll be talking about Apprenticeships – something Scott is very passionate about.
Interview at Unity Radio With Scott Fletcher MBE – The Real Sound of the City.
Scotty : And we’re about twenty two minutes past eight good morning it’s Unity Radio it’s the Breakfast Show right now we have guests and I\’ve got Lee joining me in the studio…..
Lee: Morning Scott…..
Scotty: Did you just call me Scott?
Lee: Yes Scots in the studio as well………Your name is Scott ……
Scotty: I know but you just looked at me and I was thinking what gives you the right you the right to take my \’y\’ away…..
Lee: Oh actually that\’s just confused me, yeah we have Scotty Masterpeace – who is the Breakfast Show host – we also have Scott Fletcher MBE who\’s in the studio this morning, morning Scott.
Scott F: Good morning how are you doing?
Lee: I\’m good thank you so just a bit of a recap. The purpose I think of most of the chats that we\’ve been having over the last few months now is to hear from some of Manchester\’s leading entrepreneurs and businesses and just to recap some of the guests that we have had, the last guest Scotty was Phil Jones from Brother UK……
Scotty: We had Julia McGann who\’s currently in Ibiza….. She was partying last night………
Lee: Yes she sent me a picture of her being at the Blue Marlin – and then we\’ve also got Carley Jones from Kettlebell Kitchen. She was in, Brendan Flood, so we’ve had a good run of guests and a bit of a background on Scott – he was awarded MBE for services to the business and community in the north west in 2014 and his is companies are currently valued in excess of 250 million pounds. He founded – what is now the largest business – ANS group, when he was 22 years old so we\’re going to hear about why he set up the business, what he was doing then how he did it and some tips around motivation staying resilient and also if you\’re looking for an apprenticeship I know Scott\’s very passionate about apprenticeships. As well he\’s going to be telling us about what he looks for when he\’s taking people on so good morning Scott.
Scott F: Morning how are you doing?
Lee: Good so before we get into some of the things we\’ve just talked about can you very quickly tell us what ANS group is today?
Scott F: ANS; I founded the company in my back bedroom when I was 22 and that\’s 1996 so quite a long time ago but now what it does – obviously its changed a lot over the years – but it looks after people\’s computer systems both in data centers and also in the Cloud so whenever you access a computer system whatever it is, whether it\’s office 365, iPad or iPhone whatever, there\’s always a load of hard work at the back end so we look after that for various businesses.
Lee: OK cool so let\’s go back to 19, 20, 21-22. What were you doing and what led you to set up the company? Tell us a story of that.
Scott F: So I got my first job age 17 – so I didn\’t do uni or anything. Was pretty good at school but I got really bored at my A Levels to be honest. It was why carry on doing this? What\’s this educational about? So I got a YTS and a YTS back then is what an apprenticeship is now and that company I worked for 5 years, they went bust and the next day I set up ANS. And I know it sounds mad but that\’s what I did. And I just took that opportunity to take some of the customers with me and start a company in that first year we employed 5 people and turned over 300 grand, and from there over 22 years we\’ve ended up with this business now that\’s 300 and odd people in Hulme and like turned over 80 million quid. I\’ve gone from there and invested in companies etc. so It sounds like really simple, but actually it\’s a load of hard work over a long period of time.
Lee: I can imagine I\’m just going back to that moment when you were finishing your YTS, what was the trigger cause, I can imagine there\’s always a lot of people thinking, \”okay I want to set up my own business, I’m young do I go to uni? do I get a job?\” But there\’s always a barrier – that kind of the voice in that hold you back from doing it. What was the trigger that you thought let\’s just go for it?
Scott F: You\’ve hit it there, it’s like a mental attitude. It is about I say JFDI just f’ing do it. You can procrastinate. You can think about it. You gotta do It. You\’ve nothing to lose when you’re young actually so I started a business -knew nothing about business really, other than what I\’ve been doing on the job – and just got on with it and you learn and every step you take, it may not be quite in the right direction, but every step is a good one cos you learn every time, exactly things go wrong – you make mistakes but that is a lesson – and you move on. Now I\’m 44, so basically I\’ve spent more of my life running a business than I did before now and all that experience is with me.
It is about I say JFDI just f’ing do it. You can procrastinate. You can think about it. You gotta do It.
Lee: Along that 22 years who\’s helped you along the way
Scott F: It\’s funny I grew up in Droylsden so I knew no lawyers no accountants nobody. All the people around me all the people I’ve employed had no money to grab onto me mum and dad just have normal jobs 3 kids and me mum had to stay at home and look after us and blah blah blah so had to do it for myself really. But it is the people you meet along the way who help you actually and now I know loads of accountant’s loads of wealth managers. You name it they all want to know me but back then I\’m just this snotty nose kid from Droylsden who had a bit of an attitude to be honest.
Scotty: Do you think that attitude got you somewhere that sometimes maybe got you past a problem.
Scott F: Yeah and it\’s interesting because when I look now for people to employ I look for attitude. Not a bad attitude by the way a strong one willing to give it a go willing to get up in the morning. What I did went was when I was a kid was you know car boot sales up at 4 in the morning you hear stories about people working on the market etc. And there\’s nothing like a bit of graft You know I went round door knocking for Sky TV before sky TV really existed It was called BskyB used to be like a square dish on your wall and you had people slamming the door in your face In places like Stretford and Newton Heath whatever and that builds some resilience into you…..
Lee: That is door knocking sales that is hard selling……
Scott F: Yeah now it might be telesales getting out from behind a phone it would be nowadays looking people in the eye taking some risks getting out there getting a Saturday job whatever it is get out there in the world.
Lee: And what was the best piece of advice that you\’ve had going back again to that time when you were younger cos everybody always saying you’ve got to do this you\’ve got to do that you know what was the best piece of advice that you\’ve had.
Scott F: I think do what you\’re passionate about. Do what you enjoy so I got a computer and me nan bought it me god rest her soul. She bought me that I think when I was 12 before computers were really going that was a big investment for her. She saved up for it for me and I got quite passionate about that and therefore I went into IT so I think it\’s got to be something you\’re passionate about.
Scotty: Definitely something you\’ve got to have an interest in already but let\’s get to a jam we’ll come straight back and you know what we\’re going to play some a track called \”Work It Out As Well\”.
Scotty: And we\’re back.
Lee: I\’d like to ask Scott everyone has challenges in the everyday life – whether you\’re running a big business, whether you\’re going to school or just generally challenges on a day-to-day basis. How do you cope with your stress and daily challenges?
Scott F: Do you know what, I think everybody is the same. Everybody is a human being at the end of the day and it doesn\’t matter how much money you\’ve got, how successful you\’ve been, you’re still going to have days when you can\’t get out of bed in the morning you know – you\’ve got things on your mind whatever and it might sound completely mad but sometimes it can be lonely when you\’ve been successful. You think maybe some of your friends that you knew at school are looking at your lifestyle so it creates different challenges. For me, I think stopping boozing. I try and go on a detox twice a year. It can be quite expensive going out to Thailand and doing that but that was something when I was younger I always wanted to do. (I also always wanted to do) kickboxing so I try and do that now, but you don\’t have to go that far to do it, you can just say I\’m going to have a month off booze. Some people are doing a year off booze. People are trying out vegan eating and this sort of thing and those things do really help – what you put in your body makes a massive difference.
Scott F: Yeah yoga, (I) have done that Bikram. It\’s hard. But you know you try your best with some of these things – try and fit them in – and there\’s one thing you do have when you\’re young is time – when you can choose to be on your phone watching TV or watching love Islander whatever, or maybe spend that time just freshening yourself up a bit.
Lee: Actually just tell us you\’ve just got back from Thailand is that right? What was the main highlight of that?
Scott F: It\’s a mental challenge you do like a fast, you pick your program – I did 6 days full fast so I just got water some supplements that’s it.
Scotty: Is that full 6 days or just during the daytime……..
Scott F: No that\’s 6 days.
Scott F: No, not even at night. So you get water, apple cider vinegar and some supplements and then you do colonics twice a day -if you know what those are? So what it does is it takes all the toxins out of your body. Then the next 3 days out of 6 days I did then full raw vegan food and again your energy levels – I\’m 44 – I felt like a 21 year old at that point and then I managed to come back and did another 10 days off the booze….and then I went to Marbella and it all went Pear-shaped but…….
Lee: And how did you handle the not eating for 6 days. What was it like when you got the crave to eat?
Scott F: I think once you get over the first 3 days it gets a lot easier – so if you drink coffee or alcohol these sort of things, then your body reacts to that definitely, even the sugary foods, so I\’ve done it a few times. It\’s a lot easier to get into – the first time I did was crying you name it, but this time it was not easy, still a mental challenge, but once you\’ve got to days two or three you\’re smashing it.
Lee: Ok so let\’s go back to the motivation some of the biggest challenges even getting up, keeping going, moving forward what you do to stay motivated what drives you?
Scott F: One of the reasons I think I got the MBE – and I\’m never sure who put that forward by the way – cos I\’ve always tried to give back to the community, and the more successful I am, the more people might listen and get motivated that way. That\’s probably my get up in the morning now – is how can I help the community around me? I support various charities etc. I\’ve got three lovely kids I have got Mrs you know family once you\’ve been successful you’ve got to really focus on family because that\’s your sort of fabric of life do you know what I mean? With all the money in the world if you\’ve not got your health, your family and the people around you then what have you got?
Lee: Yeah I think so, I\’ve noticed when I watch what does drive people and when you move the drive from being on yourself to being on other people, it can move you forward even quicker. It can also help with your own kind of feelings about what\’s going on in your own world when you start thinking about other people.
Scott F: Yeah and having the money gives you the chance to look at some of that, so I\’m a big believer in energy you know? Where your focus goes energy flows, your mindset, all this sort of stuff and actually what motivates me is looking at more of that stuff really.
Lee: Ok I\’m also now a big believer in deliberately maintaining a balanced life approach and so what I mean by that is; if one part of your life isn\’t working so well providing you\’ve got something else going on like diversifying, you can kind of manage the volatility in emotions, what kind of activities besides work do you do and what would you recommend to other people?
Scott F: Well I mention the Yoga, I definitely don\’t do enough of it but I think that allows your mind to sort of calm down and maybe just focus on you or even the stillness of life and not be so stressed out. We get wrapped up in lots of things don\’t we? It\’s interesting you said a balanced life because that\’s something that I\’ve always said. Some people talk about work/life balance. Work is part of your life and actually if you enjoy it, it becomes a really positive part of your life and you can easily draw a circle of about 8 things whether its wealth, health, happiness family etc. Score it for yourself and then if one is a bit out of balance focus on it. The one that people generally miss out is spirituality and that\’s probably the one that I need to focus on a little bit more and what does that mean to anybody? It could just be interacting with people. It could be a religion or whatever. I think understanding why you are here on this earth now, interacting with people……
Work is part of your life and actually if you enjoy it, it becomes a really positive part of your life
Lee: We\’re getting really deep now……
Scott F: I wasn\’t expecting this, I was expecting profit and loss of balance sheets, so these are things that when I take time out it gets you thinking and you do get deep in your life ok. It is about people and growing up in Manchester. It was all about people when I was young, it was the nightclubs. It was the house music, it was people from Moss Side, meeting people from other parts of town and just getting on with it. So I do think Manchester has got that sort of energy and spirituality in its heart anyway. So if you do think about it, you can grow from that.
Scotty: Amazing. Right, cut to the quick – were gonna take a break then we\’re coming back.
Lee: Now we\’re just going to have some practical tips for those people listening who may be thinking about setting up their own business, may be leaving college, leaving uni – figuring out what to do, what\’s the next step? So Scott, I just wanted to ask you what do you think are the most important factors just to get your house in order, that you\’ve got to be aware if you’re thinking \”I\’m going to go for it and set up this business\”.
Scott F: I think the first one is get busy, get out there, whether it\’s networking – don\’t sit behind your phone, don\’t sit watching TV. If people read the newspapers anymore – I don\’t know – but don\’t do that, read motivational books. Get out there meeting people and I don\’t just mean on LinkedIn. Do it for real, there\’s plenty of networking event meetups. Certainly, in my industry – whether it\’s cryptocurrencies and these sort of things – universities do things and just get out there and most of those, even if you can\’t afford the admission fee, speak to the organizers – they\’ll let you in. Sit at the back and have a listen in. Just get out there and meet people would be my main one.
Lee: Ok and what about other tips like making your finances work.
Scott F: I think those basics it maybe going on a college course to learn what is a profit and loss statement, what is a balance sheet, why cash is king and these sort of things and if you can\’t use a spreadsheet – you’re going to struggle maybe to get into business most of the time. So you do need those basic skills without a doubt. Once you\’ve got that if you\’ve got your idea don\’t be afraid to go and sell it to people. When I say sell it to people not just your customers. Talk to investors, people to mentor you, people just to help you out and there\’s plenty of people around the city who are willing to help young people and give them a leg up – so reach out to them, some might say no and another thing I would say is if somebody says no or the time is wrong for them or they haven\’t got time right now, ask them again 3 months later or ask another 10 people. That door knocking I spoke about before – don\’t give up you\’ve got to have that resilience – the first no – number 20 could be the yes, so keep asking the questions.
Lee: And you mentioned about investors – I know from reading more about you over the last week and just generally from reading about business in Manchester, you\’re a very well-known investor. What do you look for? So for someone who maybe owning a business now and they’re midway through and looking to bring people in, what do you look for in a business in order for you to think right – and I\’m not suggesting everyone ring you now saying Scott can you invest in my business – but still can you give us some of your tips.
Scott F: Yeah please don\’t do that … But do as well cos I will always give somebody 5 minutes. If I can meet them for a coffee I will try and do that as well obviously time permitting and whatever but ultimately I would look for the character of the individual. You know you\’re investing in a person I can\’t help that person run the business so that person has to have that resilience we talked about, has to have the right attitude to life. The idea needs to be on point as well but the idea can change, a lot of businesses start off with one idea and pivot. So it\’s not necessarily the idea and knowing that if I give them some cash, they’re going treat it with respect – they are going to treat it like it\’s their own money – because you can very quickly when someone\’s investing in you waste a lot of money very, very quickly. So treating that like it\’s your own money, and after that do I get on with that person and do I believe in them? When I was 22 somebody had to believe in me so that\’s the bottom line I think.
Lee: Ok obviously not everyone listening will own their own business but maybe they\’re looking to go in the job market or potentially looking at apprenticeships – you\’re very passionate about apprenticeships and obviously you\’ve got a very high number of staff – what do you look for in, a few things that you look for when you\’re recruiting employees or you\’re looking for taking on apprenticeships.
Scott F: I think this is any job you know you\’ve got to turn up on time, it’s amazing for me when people come out of college or whatever and they don\’t get out of bed on time and then they are late for work in the first couple of weeks, it\’s like come on, you\’re not at school now. So you\’ve got to realize you\’ve gone into the workplace and it\’s a two-way street. If you work hard and put the effort in, even if you\’re maybe not as bright as some of the other guys in the business, if you\’ve got the attitude, I was never the brightest but I worked the hours that I needed to do, and I learnt, and I was passionate about it. So I think ultimately, yes, you do need certain qualifications. The government make you have those like English and Math’s etc. That\’s really important if anybody is at school now about to do the GCSEs. You need to pass those things but once you\’ve got those, and you can do them as a follow-on course, so that\’s not the end of the world either, then you get access to an apprenticeship, and then when you sit in front of somebody at ANS who is interviewing you you\’ve got to smash it out the park in terms of saying “Look hey I\’m here I\’m going to help your business to grow. I’m passionate about life. I want to get on with it.\” That\’s the most important thing for me.
Lee: Ok and you mentioned attitude, has been one of the things we ask, everybody tells us when they come on cos I ask them the same question – sometimes about apprenticeships and employees – and attitude has been a very consistent theme, having the right attitude.
Scott F: Well you can\’t train attitude can you, you can train people skills you can show them what to do but at the end of the day, if you got poor attitude you are going nowhere and that\’s the end of it and you know if you change your attitude, focus on different things, what you focus on you get, if you focus on negative stuff all the way through your life, find that one positive thing, focus on that, build it and grow it and your attitude will change just through that mindset.
Lee: And besides attitude, what would you say are some top attributes of either being an entrepreneur or being successful in what you\’re doing, some key kind of values that you believe in?
Scott F: I think some of the words have said it\’s passion, its focus, it’s…… oh man what is it….. It’s the essence of life you know? It\’s get up in the morning and do something. It\’s not that difficult.
Scott F: Ambition, there\’s another one – positivity is another one in the business. And from the business point of view putting the customer first etc. but being positive about life. It\’s being honest is the other one. People make mistakes be honest about those mistakes whether that\’s at home with your parents or the other way around if you’re parenting. Just be honest about life.
Lee: And finally, besides the materialistic benefits of being successful, what would you say are the other benefits that you\’ve been very much interested in following on your journey of your story.
Scott F: I think we touched on it before. If you look after yourself first by being successful then you can look after others and whatever that is to you. It could be your family, it could be your community, it could be school kids – and I try and get out and talk to school kids when I can – and I think it\’s do that first then you can do other things. But don\’t forget that once you get there – I did a bit of TV work when I was younger and it was talked about in acting, be careful on the way up who you meet because you\’re going to see them on the way back down and you might need them. There are people in the world who are very successful and then they come crashing down. Everybody loves then to kick them when they are down don\’t they, so be nice to people on the way up because you just never know and when you get there keep being nice … It\’s one of the things in your power isn\’t it? To be nice to people you know whoever you interact with be nice to them, have a good attitude. And it comes back to the same thing it\’s attitude again isn\’t it?
Lee: Well thanks very much Scott for coming in we\’ve talked about your story, we\’ve talked about motivation and I think probably the last point there is definitely about having the right attitude.
Scotty: Anybody there who wants to listen back to this I\’m sure it\’s going to be up on the website these days should be able to check it all out once again, possibly check out some of the others we\’ve had on as well – they\’re still on the website and they\’re going to keep coming, but it is Unity Radio the real Sound of the City. Gonna get you some Manchester Vibes up next Children of Zeus, tracks called All Night … let\’s get straight back to the music and I\’ll be back on the other side, good morning.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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