by Ryan Ramsey – Network Delivery Director

For over 25 years, I’ve been exercising and studying the art of leadership, military and political strategy. I’m passionate about it because while organisational success rests primarily on having a true strategy, it’s great leadership that drives success and has the positive impact on people. Bad leadership, by contrast, ruins lives and limits potential.  

I’ve been fortunate enough to lead within the military and within business. The height of my military career was to serve as captain of a nuclear-powered attack submarine, leading 484 people over three years.  I haven’t reached the pinnacle of my business leadership journey yet, but it adds breadth to my experience daily.

I believe that real strategy makes or breaks both business success and your experience of that business. I’ve learned that I need to work somewhere where the team has real belief in its purpose and where leaders speak about success with intelligence, and from the heart.  I need to be part of something that challenges convention: if you do that, you change perception, and if you change perception, you change outputs. This endeavour is worth the pain because the prize can be generational change – and that’s a privilege to be part of.

And so, I was drawn to CityFibre – a business with a vision that people believe in, and an ambition to create real value for the UK and its citizens, businesses and public services.

CityFibre is leading the way in doing something that hasn’t been done for more than two generations by anyone in the UK. They contest convention constructively – or more accurately, as a team, wecontest convention constructively!  We are truly passionate because our goal is purpose-driven, to give our nation something it should’ve had many years ago. This goal is about taking on an incumbent that’s lost its way. And it’s being delivered by a growing team of people who are there because they want to bethere, as opposed to have to be.  Crucially, it’s small enough that everyone has ‘skin in the game’ and people are focused on achieving success while growing effectively.

The alternative network builder is the threat to the ingrained incumbent that has become too comfortable controlling the environment and providing a service that is not keeping pace. Like many formally-nationalised monopolies, it has struggled to re-define its modus operandi and to shake off the behaviours and nationalised traits such as an entrenched sense of entitlement, invulnerability and resistance to change.  So, as CityFibre continues to develop momentum and demonstrate success, the incumbent has little choice but to follow. We have triggered a competitive dynamic, driven by great leadership that brings direct benefits to UK society.

My passion remains warfare and strategy. You can’t shake that after 25 years. My drive now though is to continue to translate those skills into business, developing my knowledge along the way.

CityFibre’s given me a unique opportunity – apart from leading in a sector I hadn’t experienced before, most importantly, a chance to learn from entrepreneurs and understand how the strategy of a much smaller company could undo something vast.  It’s not dissimilar to my life as a submarine captain: having to constantly outthink multiple enemies to achieve your mission and bring your team back safely (only without the physical weapons). It’s not unlike warfare, and it’s been easy to fit into a team that’s aligned to a similarly, singular aim.

Staying on that theme, there are Principles of War – used by many nations – that are transferable to the business world.  A few I find relevant at CityFibre are:

Selection and maintenance of the aim.  So simple a vision – ‘Transform the UK’s digital infrastructure’ – yet so complex. But as long as you stay focused on this, you can achieve success. Everything comes back to that, and it constantly gives us guidance.

Maintenance of morale. Even experienced leaders need to be led at times. Few leaders in the upper echelons of the military or in the business world have the charisma, aplomb and guile that make people want to follow them into war. At CityFibre, we are fortunate to be led by Greg Mesch with a vision that has remained inspiring and steadfast since the company was founded. But high quality leaders and managers thrive throughout our structure – all with interesting backgrounds, differing attributes and genuine respect for each other’s capabilities. We look after each other because we’re nothing unless we’re one team. It is a lot like the submarine service – specialist, and we lever off that.

Economy of effort.  You could argue we have no choice – we need to be economical. But this is more about ensuring that we can bring to bear all of our skills, resources and capability in a decisive place at the right time. To do this, you need a plan, and one that is achievable and not constrained by bureaucracy. We want to do just the right amount: no-more-no-less to achieve success for all.  We want the right pace of delivery and we want scale.

Concentration of Force.  At CityFibre, our efforts are focussed on beating the competition – not becoming our competition. The UK doesn’t need another incumbent, so, by concentrating our force differently, we achieve a different result.  Our model works by contracting partners to come and work with us, not for us.  We also want to work with councils and we want the customer (individual residents and business leaders) to be happy. This can only be accomplished by minimising impact and achieving the right pace.

So, in contesting convention constructively, we are achieving success. It’s going to be one hell of journey and I’m glad to be part of it.  It is a war I believe we will win.


Ryan Ramsey is CityFibre’s Network Delivery Director. This opinion piece was first published by Ryan on LinkedIn. The views contained within it may not necessarily be endorsed in full by CityFibre. 

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