As the CEO and founder of Cloud, a multi-million-pound business, one might easily perceive my life as a tale of unbroken success. However, the reality is that my journey has been far from easy, marked by numerous trials, tribulations, and even bankruptcy. These experiences were not failures, but instead learning moments that have been essential in leading me to my purpose and finding fulfilment in life and business.
Rewinding the tape
Reflecting on pivotal moments in my life and career, I’m reminded of a transformative chapter that started at 16 when I left school without qualifications. I embarked on an engineering apprenticeship with a refrigeration company and advanced rapidly with the guidance of a supportive mentor. I set a goal to become a supervisor by the age of 19 and despite the doubters became the youngest supervisor in the company’s 200-year history.
Later, I transitioned into a managerial role at an air conditioning company, where I digitised manual processes using software I’d developed. Despite my significant contributions, the company failed to recognise my efforts, leading me to establish my own business at the age of 26. Over a period of 10 years, it grew from nothing to a £5 million enterprise.
At that point, I equated success with money. I had a lovely bungalow and fancy cars and thought I’d made it. But I became distracted by purchasing a football club, Clacton Town FC. This diversion meant I didn’t acknowledge that my company was going down the drain. I had to declare bankruptcy aged 39 and at my lowest was living on benefits with only £7.60 in my account and a family to feed.
Even though I was a supposedly successful businessman, I still didn’t truly appreciate the impact bad decisions could have and how devastating they could be until it happened. My life seemed to be guided by ego and pride, almost as if they were the core of my existence. However, this experience taught me that these are the most dangerous traits for any human being, and the two things that will prevent your growth as a person and could even force your destruction.
When ego and pride are out of control, they will destroy you. I would say to young Jeff that ego and pride must be kept locked in your pocket and used only to learn, not to defend, nor to fight or compete.
Entering a growth mindset
After experiencing such an immense failure, I realised that I was often driven by a need to be right, thinking it would bring love and respect. Deep down, I had a fear of criticism and sought attention believing it was crucial for success. I relentlessly pushed my views without recognising others’ perspectives.
After taking some time to reflect, I realised I needed to return to the employment and corporate world and continue my learning journey, as my knowledge did not reach anywhere near the heights I had believed. Then, I began to understand the importance of being the last person to speak, driven by a genuine curiosity about everyone’s views and the potential to learn from them.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the significance of caring more about your fellow human beings than yourself. When you look after those around you, they, in turn, will look after you.
Finding the path to fulfilment
In later years, I discovered that the ultimate human goal is fulfilment. To achieve fulfilment, you must identify your purpose in life, a process that’s not always easy but is essential for growth, leadership, parenting, family, and friendship. I knew that I wasn’t fulfilled in the employment world and I wasn’t fulfilled in my previous company which ultimately led to its downfall.
One tool that would have helped the younger me establish my purpose sooner was Ikigai, a Japanese concept that translates to ‘The Meaning of Life’. Ikigai prompts four simple questions:
• What do you love?
• What are you good at?
• What can you get paid for?
• What difference are you going to make in the world?
When you can truly answer these questions, you are plotting your journey to fulfilment and fast establishing your purpose.
Although I didn’t come across Ikigai until later in life, I unknowingly asked myself these sorts of questions when searching for my life’s purpose. During this journey, I realised the flaws in the facilities management industry, leading me to use my knowledge and coding skills to start Cloud, a purpose-led business that grew from my garden shed into an £80m enterprise in just 3 years.
Doing the opposite brings astounding results
If I could go back in time, I’d say to my 20-year-old self: “The best solution is often not the obvious one.” Doing the opposite of the expected can bring astounding results. While I wish I had embraced this insight earlier, it nevertheless became the guiding principle behind the success of my current venture, Cloud. This innovative approach disrupted a £200 billion industry, earning Cloud the prestigious Queens Award for Innovation in 2019.
Cloud creates positive behavioural change in people’s energy consumption and built environment management through cutting-edge AI and engineering technologies to drive a meaningful and sustainable future.
I’m proud to have built a business that puts workplace culture and the planet at the fore and I’ve found the fulfilment I was always looking for.