This week’s interviewee is Daniel Keighron-Foster, MD of Steamhaus. Daniel has been growing small businesses for 15 years, particularly in the internet hosting industry. His approach is all about building a brand in a way that completely engages its staff and customers. He built Melbourne Server Hosting from a startup to a multi-million-pound company which he sold to iomart plc in 2012. After a few years out to start a family, in 2015 he started a new cloud and DevOps consultancy, Steamhaus, which specialises in building scalable, fast and cost-effective cloud infrastructure.
1. Biggest mistake you made in the last year and how you fixed it?
Not having enough faith in myself. I was 18 the last time I started a company and I obviously had a lot more balls and energy back then but didn’t realise until after I’d started Steamhaus in August ’15. It might have had something to do with not having the financial pressure of a partner and kids to worry about back then so maybe that made it easier. There have been definite points in the journey of starting a new company and investing a lot of money to get it from a standing start, through to break even, where I’ve thought “what the fuck have I done?! I can’t do this!” But thankfully I had a few chats with people I trust and respect, that really helped me realise how far we’d come in the short time we’ve been going, and actually, things were a lot better than I thought they were. I think it’s in my nature to beat myself up about not achieving enough, quickly enough. But then I think you could say that about most business founders.
I’ve since learnt to be more positive and have more self-belief. Because not having that rubs off on the rest of your team. In fact, we made this one of our ‘Haus rules (see the answer to the next question for more on that).
2. Lightbulb moment
Our ‘Haus rules. I’ve always strived to ensure that the culture of my companies is different to the norm. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it creates a working environment that I think is perfect for the right people. With input from all of the core team, we created our ‘Haus Rules. They range from “Don’t be a dick” to our number one rule: “Have you done everything you possibly can do today to make this a success?”
When everyone follows the rules not only is the atmosphere in the office a great one, we do well as a business too. The last point on our ‘Haus rules is “Everything will be OK. This is fine.” Everyone here owns (or will own) a part of Steamhaus, so as well as sharing the good, they share some of the stress. We all know that we’re a brilliant team, and we’ll be fine.
3. Tip for tomorrow
Trust your team.
As long as you hire the right people, you can be sure that they’ll make the right choices to help push the company forwards. Remember that people’s skills can be perfected. Their drive and ambition is what will make them a long term success. And it makes your life so much easier not wasting time wondering if people are trying to screw you over. Some people think this approach is naive but it’s served me well so far and I apply it to all aspects of life, not just work.
I’ve got Richard Carlson’s book “Don’t sweat the small stuff” in my bathroom and read a couple of pages from it every morning as a daily top-up of this sort of philosophy.
Want to share your advice?
NWB confessional style interviews are posted every Monday from people in the business community. They are not self-promoting, or carefully selected quotes to make you sound good. They are full of useful, actionable insights from experience, not egos or bravado. If you like NWB’s style and have something useful to say, we’d love to interview you. Tweet @nowankybollocks or email katie [at] subjectconsulting.com.