In this exclusive interview with ValiantCEO Magazine, we have the privilege of delving into the remarkable journey of Jeff Dewing, the tenacious CEO and Founder of Cloudfm. From experiencing bankruptcy and having just £7.60 in his bank account to building a thriving multimillion-pound business, Jeff’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and the willingness to embrace unconventional approaches.
As the mastermind behind Cloudfm, Jeff’s primary focus has been on fostering a workplace culture that places people at the core of the company’s success.
Through a series of unconventional moves, he transformed a small shed in his garden into a business with a projected revenue of £250 million by 2026. His bestselling book, “Doing the Opposite,” reveals invaluable life lessons and insights gained along the way.
Join us as we delve into Jeff Dewing’s awe-inspiring tale of transformation, discover his unique leadership philosophy, and explore how Cloudfm thrives amidst the challenges of the ever-evolving business landscape.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jeff Dewing: I am Jeff Dewing, the CEO and Founder of Cloudfm. As the CEO, my main focus is fostering a strong workplace culture that prioritises people above all else. When individuals are content and fulfilled, it leads to positive outcomes for everyone involved.
I have always believed in doing the opposite and taking unconventional approaches to bring about meaningful and positive changes. At the age of 16, I left school and embarked on my journey as a refrigerator and air-conditioning engineer.
Over time, I worked my way up the ranks, eventually leaving in 1990 to establish my first business, Essex Air Conditioning. During this period, I also made investments in Clacton Town Football Club, a semi-professional non-league club.
While I enjoyed the rewarding experience of leading the club to success after fifty years, the excitement of running a football club eventually became a distraction and contributed to my bankruptcy. I ended up on benefits with only £7.60 in my bank account to support my family.
By the time I turned 39, I had achieved great financial success but subsequently lost it all. This humbling experience taught me resilience, and I refused to give up. Instead, I took the time to reassess my priorities.
I taught myself coding and spent years reflecting on my past mistakes. In 2012, I started Cloudfm from a small shed in my garden. Over the next four years, our revenue grew to £70m. Despite the significant impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, we are now projected to reach £250m by 2026.
My mission is to share the knowledge and insights I have gained to help as many people as possible. This led me to write my bestselling book, Doing the Opposite, where I reflect on the valuable life lessons I’ve learned and analyse the reasons behind the rapid success of Cloudfm.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle to keep talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued, and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are you adapting to the current shift we see?
Jeff Dewing: Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report recently revealed that 59% of the global workforce falls into the category of quiet quitters. Quiet quitting might be a new ‘hype’ term, but it is not a new phenomenon and has been happening for decades.
Quiet quitting is synonymous with apathy and reflects an employee’s view that their job is simply a means to an end. Quiet quitters feel they lack the capacity to influence their job and the people around them, which breeds further apathy and becomes a vicious cycle of discontent.
Apathy is the enemy of progress for both the employee and employer and creates lose-lose outcomes. The root cause, however, is squarely on the employer. Employees with the autonomy to influence their destinies are ultimately the happiest and most engaged employees.
If employees are treated like robots that will translate into their work – they will become mechanical, run on autopilot and lose the creativity and spark that engaged employees bring to the workplace.
The great resignation and quiet quitting reveal the discontent in those that were told how and where they should work. It’s time for business leaders to wake up – your employees need the freedom to become their best selves and, in turn, do their best work.
The pandemic shone a light on how we’ve been getting it wrong for decades and offers a chance to start getting it right. Those who go against the tide will simply get left behind. Business leaders coercing employees back into the office should be consigned to the past. But that hasn’t happened yet. The future of work is about collaboration, not coercion.
We’ve adapted to hybrid working and after the pandemic, I redesigned my office with people in mind. After all, I don’t believe in work-life balance, only life. Offices should be designed as collaboration centres where employees can come in to collaborate, problem-solve, and have fun!
Beyond that, I believe offices can be somewhere my employees make life moments. My approach has meant the office is available to employees 24/7 and has even been used as a daycare centre on the weekends and as a birthday venue on a Friday or Saturday night!
The only thing I choose to enforce for my employees is that they take two paid hours per week to engage in mindfulness so they can switch off and take care of themselves.
This approach has helped Cloudfm to significantly improve retention rates, with engagement levels almost doubling to industry-leading standards and converting detractors to promoters in record time.
Here is a two-fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Jeff Dewing: I must confess that I haven’t been an avid reader, as I believe that while books can offer valuable insights, they are only a small part of the equation for business leaders. In my experience, practical behaviour and understanding human dynamics play a more significant role in shaping successful leaders.
It’s the real-life experiences and observing how people defy conventional wisdom to achieve remarkable results that truly inspire me. This is why I find conversations with extraordinary individuals on my podcast, Doing the Opposite: Business Disruptors, so compelling.
Through these discussions, we delve into their triumphs, setbacks, and the invaluable lessons they’ve learned. However, there is one book that has had a profound impact on me and aligns with my approach to running a business: “Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking the Rules” by L. David Marquet.
This book emphasises a leadership philosophy that gives control instead of taking control and creating leaders rather than followers. It resonates with my belief in empowering individuals and fostering a culture of leadership within my organisation.
As for the book I gift the most, it would have to be my book Doing the Opposite and you can read why below!
Christopher Hitchens, an American journalist, is quoted as saying that “everyone has a book in them” Have you written a book? If so, please share with us details about it. If you haven’t, what book would you like to write and how would you like it to benefit the readers?
Jeff Dewing: I’ve authored my No.1 best-selling book Doing the Opposite which is a tale of a working-class, East End lad done good, who lost it all and hit rock bottom hard, but who managed to battle back.
Not so long ago, I had £7.60 in my bank account and was struggling to feed my children. Aged 39, I was bankrupt. The taxman had taken my house, my car, and my self-respect. In a matter of months, I had seen my life collapse.
I went from owning a successful business and a football club, to claiming benefits to try and put food on the table. However, in 2012 I started a new business from my garden shed which reached £70 million turnover after four years.
I share the most important life lessons that helped me recover and find fulfilment, not just in my bank balance, but in life itself.
2020, 2021, and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Jeff Dewing: To thrive in 2023, businesses must have a clear purpose and a supportive culture. As a CEO, I’ve learned that empowering your team and fostering clarity, freedom, and trust are essential for growth.
Previously, I found myself caught in a cycle of receiving around 300 emails a week, managing tasks, and unexpected issues that hindered meaningful work. I attempted a temporary fix by limiting it to urgent emails, but it became clear that a fundamental shift in our business culture was needed.
I discovered that success lies in creating an environment where teams have the autonomy to solve problems independently. Training managers as effective coaches, rather than just task assigners, is key to unlocking peak performance.
The significance of trust, embracing vulnerability, and admitting to not knowing everything became apparent during the first COVID-19 lockdown when we experienced an 85% revenue loss.
I broke down crying and openly expressed my uncertainty on a team-wide Zoom call and my team stepped up, encouraging me to take time off while they found solutions. Their capabilities and responsibility shone through as they surpassed expectations and devised innovative approaches.
In summary, thriving in 2023 requires a purpose-driven business, an empowered and autonomous team, and a culture of trust that allows individuals to rise to challenges and exceed expectations.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jeff Dewing: Success to me is fulfilment in life and business and is that feeling that means I get up every morning punching the air! My journey to finding this feeling hasn’t been without its challenges as I’ve described.
However, the challenges along the way led to a pivotal moment where I discovered my true purpose of creating a business that I was passionate about and that enabled me to continue learning.
My ultimate fulfilment comes from watching people that I have freed and unconstrained become giants in their own right.
Now, my focus is on cultivating and maintaining an empowered workplace culture and I can say that I’ve built a business and a career around something I’m truly passionate about. I wake up every morning feeling like I don’t work a day in my life.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jeff Dewing for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jeff Dewing or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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