Peer 1 Hosting – Is this the best office in Britain?

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.

 

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.

It also boasts a pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule.

Office designers Space & Solutions were tasked with turning a former pub in Southampton, Hants, into the home for IT company, Peer 1 Hosting.

Their design brief was to transform the 17,000 square ft office into “the best place in the UK to work”. Lead designer Sarah O’Callaghan said fun and play was at the heart of the vision. She said: “It is a very young and forward thinking company. The whole space has been designed with the help of the staff. There was a huge consultation process that has been amalgamated into what we see here. I think there are times when people use their initiative a hell of a lot more because of their environment. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting at a desk you can sit on a picnic bench. The reality is that you can do your work from anywhere.”

And when hopeful jobseekers turn up for an interview, they may have to throw themselves down the giant slide to show they buy into the culture.

Mrs O’Callaghan added: “People use it all the time. It is not just for staff, it is for clients too. It is also part of the interview process. If they don’t go down it, they are not buying into the culture of the business.”

The unique new office is fittingly situated on the end of a pier.

Dominic Monkhouse, managing director at Peer 1 Hosting, said anyone could use the facilities whenever they like. “We are trusting. Everyone is a peer rather than a parent and child relationship.”

But while mucking around on a slide may seem like skiving off, the company believes it actually boosts productivity.

He added: “People tend to go through highs and lows throughout the day, but if you do something different for a few minutes, your performance goes up.”

As well as laying on fun activities, the office has plenty of places for staff to have a quiet moment when work gets on top of them. This includes a coffee bar, a chill out space, log cabins and a local pub called The Sherlock Arms, named after company founder CEO, Gary Sherlock.

The office also comes with two flats to host overseas guests, an outdoor terrace and an inside garden, complete with a 15ft tree and picnic benches.

Humour is also a key factor in the office as it features a “C**k Up of the Month” board.

repost of coverage in the Daily Telegraph

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Dominic Monkhouse-Profile in Real Business

“We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best”

Peer 1 Hosting‘s Dominic Monkhouse on the pain of bad customer service and the importance of keeping a “screw them” fund.

Name:

Dominic Monkhouse

Role and company:

EMEA Managing Director and SVP Customer Experience at PEER 1 Hosting. Our European HQ is in Southampton, which is where I’m based. Essentially my job is to ensure that customers are our number one priority.

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):

£23m annualised EMEA revenues

Employee numbers:

105 in the UK

Growth forecast for the next three years:

We’re looking to double our business over the next two to three years.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We’re more like a hospitality company than a technology company. Our approach, our people and the service we provide is akin to a top class hotel. What we sell is a commodity but we deliver it in a world-class way.

What’s the big vision for your business?

We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best. We want to be compared to the best service companies across all sectors, and be recognised globally as the best hosting company in the world.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We serve 13,000 customers in 190 countries and our business will continue to expand internationally.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Getting fired for the first time was awful. I was fired from a restaurant when I was young and the experience taught me that you should always have enough money in your account so that you go to work as a volunteer, rather than relying on a salary. I call this the “screw them” fund. No one should ever have to put up with being treated badly just for a salary at the end of the month.

What makes you mad in business today?

Terrible customer service! I must rant at at least one person every day because of the bad service they’ve provided. Either it’s an individual or a business that has a system that clearly hasn’t been built for human beings. People who don’t want to interact with people shouldn’t be in the service game.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Hosting has only been around for ten years but I can see it becoming a bit faster, a bit cheaper and more consolidated. Right now there are about 35,000 hosting companies and judging by the way the market is developing, there will definitely be fewer in the future. PEER 1 Hosting is one of the major global players in the industry, despite this consolidation.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Yes, they can. Our industry is awash with more money than it knows what to do with. Venture capitalists are piling into it.

How would others describe your leadership style?

My staff would say I’m empowering, inspirational, passionate and straight-talking.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

When I open my wardrobe in the morning I’m always amazed that I own more than three pairs of shoes. I don’t buy much but when I do I try to buy good quality products. From where I’ve come, this still seems like an extravagance to me.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Stop taxing the hell out of small businesses! Let them generate an income and invest in growing their business. Large companies like Google and Starbucks are getting away with murder and small companies are being hit with big taxes – it’s not right.

Also, the benefits system should work for people and not against them so that if you want to work, your benefits don’t disappear. For example, Germany’s part time jobs system is thriving because people can work and receive benefits too. If we copied that model it would suddenly open up a large pool of part time workers which small businesses could tap into.

A repost of the article on Real Business

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Improve ecommerce website performance

Business Computing World August 2012 by Dominic Monkhouse

In the busy 21st century, a large proportion of people no longer have the time or the inclination to physically go to the shops to buy goods. Luckily, many can now do this instead via their phone, laptop or tablet. Made ever easier via applications for portable devices, it’s little wonder that online shopping is increasing so incredibly quickly. Suffice to say, a business website is not just vital – it’s mandatory. Not offering users the convenience to buy a product online is sheer madness. However, not all websites are created equal. Research into internet behaviour reveals how and why some sites are vastly more successful than others. Ultimately, it comes down to customer experience as determined by website speed. Getting that right means a business could be rewarded with a high number of visits, numerous conversions, a boost in brand awareness and a healthy bottom line. Getting it wrong could have severe ramifications in terms of exit rates and negative word of mouth publicity. With that in mind, below are a few considerations that should be taken into account when trying to improve customers’ experience of a website:

The most annoying factor

Among the myriad surveys that have been carried out to determine users’ opinions about the internet, the biggest irritant typically cited is slow websites. Pages that don’t load quickly and requests that receive poor responses due to slow-running websites are two reasons why users will exit a site without progressing through to the checkout. Website speed is an extremely important customer experience factor; just consider your own good and bad online shopping encounters to empathise.

Increasing impatience

Website owners might be amazed at the impatience exhibited by users, which research shows has increased substantially over the years. In 2000, users were happy to wait eight seconds for a page to load. By 2005 this had dropped to five seconds and by 2009, users would wait only three seconds before navigating away, according to research by Akamai. Even now, one in ten people will exit a site if they have to wait just one second for it to respond. It’s clear, therefore, that increasing a website’s speed will not only retain customers and improve their experience of the site. It will also offer serious benefits to the business regarding engagement and conversion.

The need for speed

Further research has shown that almost half of users will exit a site altogether if there are any IT issues, defecting usually to a competitor. Why let competitors gain that business? Improving the speed of a website and in turn regaining a customer base, could be as simple as switching servers. Better still, by using colocation services to host their server at a dedicated data centre, businesses may be able to access greater bandwidth – as well as reduced latency.

Quick navigation

Having speedy page loading times will also allow website users to navigate the website more easily. Even if the website isn’t perhaps laid out as best it could be, the frustrating aspect of this could be mitigated by at least allowing each page to load very quickly. For example, making their way to the checkout might not involve the easiest route, but if this is combined with slow loading times, the experience will be even worse. Remove at least one of these factors and you’re more likely to land a sale! Statistics show that two-thirds of users who endure a bad customer experience online, for whatever reason, will shop elsewhere next time. It’s said that each one of them, on average, will tell ten people about their ordeal. Shopping online, it must not be forgotten, is supposed to offer convenience. By providing a more responsive, clearly displayed website, a business can almost guarantee customer satisfaction and expect repeat visits for years to come.

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Time for a pint – in the office

At PEER 1 Hosting Friday night at 4pm is “beer o’clock”, time to pour some wine or open a few bottles of beer. We do it to promote a team work and a positive office environment. Some times it’s not 4pm and it’s not a Friday but the bar fridge is always full, just in case! We also have plenty of chilled champagne on hands as well as we are prone to some impromptu celebrations.

Its great to now read that new research now show working whilst mildly intoxicated is a boost to creative problem solving. Here is the recent article form Inc.com by Jessica Stillman

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/go-ahead-have-a-beer-at-the-office.html

One benefit of being a business owner and your own boss is that you set the rules and can feel free to break them if you find a good business case to do so. What kind of rules can you safely chuck aside? How about the one that says drinking on the job is always a bad idea.

If you operate heavy machinery or wash windows 50 stories up, stop reading now, but for those office-bound folks whose jobs entail being creative at work, there’s new research that suggests an occassional drink or two might do you and your business some good. A study by a team led by University of Illinois cognitive psychologist Andrew Jarosz recently looked into the effects of mild intoxication on creative problem solving, publishing the results inConsciousness and Cognition.

To test the anecdotal observation that creativity and moderate amounts of alcohol often go together, Jarosz’s team split a group of 40 male study participants into two groups, one of which abstained from alcohol and one of which drank a quantity of vodka with the equivalent alcohol of two pints of beer. Both groups then performed a standard test of insightful thinking called the Remote Associates Test, which asks subjects to find a link between three words. The BPS Research Digest summarizes the results:

The key finding of the new research is that the intoxicated participants solved more items on the Remote Associates Test compared with the control participants (they solved 58% of 15 items on average vs. 42% average success achieved by controls), and they tended to solve the items more quickly (11.54 seconds per item vs. 15.24 seconds). Moreover, the intoxicated participants tended to rate their experience of problem solving as more insightful, like an Aha! moment, and less analytic.

Of course, there are serious caveats here, including the obvious key word, “moderate.” No one is suggesting getting sloshed is good for much of anything other than causing embarrassment and a headache, nor should your office drinking reach Don Draper levels of consistency. Study co-author Jenny Wiley stressed this point to BPS: “We tested what happens when people are tipsy—not when people drank to extreme. There could be no argument from these findings that drinking excessively would have the same effects.”

And the context of the drinking matters as much as the quantity. Tasks that involve fine motor skills, dangerous activities, or focused concentration on routine tasks, are clearly not going to benefit from you having a couple of beers. But if you’re at the office puzzling over a problem late in the afternoon one day and have the impulse to enjoy a drink to get the ideas flowing, this research suggests that you should feel free to go ahead.

Cheers!

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We ar Peer 1 Hosting notice some time ago that for many the “flexibility” of hosting in the cloud with AWS actually meant spending more. In our experience 80% of customers have static requirements. Read what GigaOM have to say.

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We at Peer 1 Hosting have known for some time that self-hosting was in most cases less expensive than Amazon cloud. Check out the results of this study from GigaOM.

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top 10 ways to motivate employees

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Top tips for getting the most out of your team startups.co.uk 15th July 2011

Staff morale is more difficult to measure than sales or margins, but is equally important. Unhappy employees are likely to be unproductive employees so the mental wellbeing and happiness of your staff is crucial for your business’ success. Not addressing this now could be expensive for your company later – either through an inefficient workforce or high staff turnover. However, fostering job satisfaction doesn’t have to cost the earth. Startups spoke to a panel of entrepreneurs to find out their top tips for motivating staff.

1) Treat everyone as an individual

Respect that different employees have different needs. “Every incentive doesn’t necessarily motivate every individual,” says Andrew Backhouse, national contract director at Timothy James, a 2010 winner of The Sunday Times 100 Best SMEs to work for. Get to know each member of staff and show you understand them by being flexible to their personal situations. For example, if an employee is in a long distance relationship, you may want to let them leave early on Friday afternoons. As a result, they’ll be more inclined to put extra hours in during the week to keep on top of their workload.

2) Praise good work and offer feedback

“We believe in public praise. When someone does a good job, we congratulate them in front of everyone,” says Bradley Placks, co-founder of MyResourcer. Regular feedback and encouragement makes employees feel positive – and that will be invested back in to your business. It is important to be genuine, so find something that has impressed you, even if it is as simple as an employee’s presentation, and let them know that they are doing it well. Following employee demand, some companies have introduced six monthly appraisals. This offers a good opportunity to encourage staff, clarify any issues, and re-establish with the employee their expectations of the company and your expectations of them.

3) Lead by example

A productive team needs a productive leader. As the top dog you need to embody the company’s brand yourself and be true to its ethics. However equally important is that employees see you putting in as much energy as them – if not more. “If you always slope off early on a Friday, these small messages have a huge impact on your staff, undermining any formal messages of motivation that you are trying to get across,” says Adrian Moorhouse, managing director of Lane4. “A good leader needs to lead by example, by role-modelling the behaviours that are expected of staff. Be excited by new challenges, show real enthusiasm for projects and demonstrate your love of the job. Positivity breeds positivity.”

4) Encourage people to take a break

Whilst an employee who doesn’t optimise their annual leave might seem like a good deal for your business, everyone needs to take a break in order to operate at their full potential. Approach people who haven’t used their holiday entitlement and encourage them to get away. This will also show employees that you care about their wellbeing. Similarly, some organisations allow employees a few days a year to engage with the community. Michelle Fuller and Chris Russell, co-founders of eDigitalResearch, run a Personal Development Week for their team. “Every employee gets the opportunity to expand their skill set or get stuck in at charity events, to help with their personal development.”

5) Offer benefits that boost morale (but don’t break the bank)

Sometimes it is the little things that count. While large organisations may be able to offer corporate holidays in sunny climes, a gesture as simple as having fruit delivered to the office each week can show employees that you care. Tailor benefits to your workforce. You could bring a masseuse in once a month to give each employee a 10 minute boost, organise a team activity afternoon or a barbeque. “Events don’t have to be expensive, just well-planned and thought out,” says Damian Milkins, CEO of Control Circle.

Where possible, invite staff to bring their partners as well. “Having a good relationship with people’s partners really helps,” says Simon Corbett, founder of Jargon PR. “All those times when people stay late, instead of getting home to an earful, they get a much more sympathetic response.”

6) Give ownership to your team

While new employees need clear instructions and guidance, once they are on the right track, let go of the reins. Leave them to be led by their own initiative and congratulate them for doing so. “Allow them to work well and without much input. It’s the little things that give ownership to teams and allow them to feel trusted and motivated,” says Dominic Monkhouse, managing director of PEER 1 Hosting and a former consultant for The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for. As well as inspiring self-confidence, this hands-off approach may allow employees to navigate your firm from a new perspective, potentially exposing inefficiencies, untapped opportunities and prospective innovations.

7) Run a ‘no blame’ culture

“When something goes wrong don’t blame the person; analyse the reasons and change whatever actually caused the issue in the first place – learn and improve,” says John Sollars, founder of Stinkyink.com. If you are always pointing the finger, employees will feel tense, which can restrict initiative and innovation. Even if an employee has committed a serious offence, take it as an opportunity to review your recruitment process. It may be that you are not asking the right questions at interview.

8) Communication is key

By keeping open lines of communication with employees and listening to their ideas, they will feel more connected to the progression of the business and thus more motivated to contribute to its future. As a director, it is easy to get distracted by your own objectives but in the present economic climate it is more important than ever that staff are kept informed about changes in circumstances – including how new legislation could affect the company. Henry Braithwaite, Operations Director of Market Makers, recommends twice weekly meetings “when the whole company comes together and shares the successes of the week and what is going on in the company as a whole” as well as an “open door policy” to the manager’s office. Simply showing employees that they are being listened to can be enough to boost morale.

9) Be flexible

Whilst all companies need employment agreements in place to set standards, be prepared to be flexible to reasonable requests for additional leave. Respect that your employees have personal lives to balance with their work commitments and don’t put additional pressure on them when, for example, they have to pick up their children, take care of a sick relative or leave early for a washing machine to be delivered. To avoid completely forfeiting their labour, assist employees with flexible working by helping them to receive their work e-mails on their smartphone or home computer. If you want to be particularly generous, IT company acs365 recommends offering staff additional leave on their birthday. “As part of your commitment to acknowledging the importance of work-life balance, a paid day off is the best present you can provide to staff. This type of initiative helps to create a positive work culture, improving and uplifting staff morale,” a spokesperson says.

10) Get the little things right

Sometimes getting the little things right is more influential than an occasional grand gesture. It is easy to underestimate the importance of basic essentials for a positive working environment. These may include well-maintained toilets, basic kitchen facilities and filtered tap water – conveniences that don’t cost the earth. “It is often possible to quickly fix many of the day-to-day gripes that bother your employees. Listen to what your employees are saying about their workplace and concentrate on these first,” says Laetitia Monereau, head of HR at Simply Business. “You need not spend a vast sum of money improving your staff morale.”

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