Former TalkTalk Business managing director Lee Hull has been the CEO of Verastar Group for just over a year.
The Manchester-based business provides water, energy, telecoms, broadband, mobile, insurance and payments services to more than 160,000 small businesses in the UK.
The fast-growing company has created 150 new jobs during the pandemic, bringing its total workforce up to 1,000.
It operates several customer-facing brands, including kinex, Clear Business, Inspire Payments and The Insurance Octopus – and has a turnover of £180m.
CEO Hull has a couple of golden rules: hire the best people you can and pay for the best advice you can afford.
“I’ve always had a mantra of paying for the best advice and being very careful not to pay for the advice you want to hear,” he tells TechBlast’s latest Going 4 Growth roundtable. “Sometimes the best advice is not the advice you want to hear.
“In my experience, working with a NED or chairman to support me has been a very important part of my career.
“The other piece of advice I’d give is always make sure you hire the very best people you can afford. It does get easier the larger your organisation gets. Generally try and hire people everyone gets on with.”
The race for the best talent has never been more competitive and Hull says entering the interim market can offer a short-term solution.
“I’ve really gone into the interim market in the last six years,” he says. “Recruitment is tough at the moment. With the interim market you can bring people in with a specific task for six to 12 months.
“That can really help if you’re trying to build a senior management team. There can be a fear about dropping into the interim market, especially with the cost of the day rates, but I’ve only had value from it.”
When it comes to growth, Hull has two key themes – disruption and cash generation.
“We’ve always looked at growth as disruption. We’ve always looked to disrupt established markets.
“We started out as a telco company and entered the water market, entered the energy market, entered the financial market, entered the insurance sector.
“The general trend is we’re trying to disrupt very established markets generally via technology, customer experience or great commercials.
“When I think about growth always have a plan and an incredible level of research is needed for that plan.
“At the heart of my plan is cash generation, whether that’s the short-term, medium-term or long-term. For me that cash generation is very, very important.”