Taking on and turning around a failing business takes a special kind of entrepreneur; someone with the vision to look beyond the problems, see the potential, and go for it. Doing it from within a corporate environment takes even greater steel and determination, qualities that Jenny Campbell has in spades, having successfully transformed a failing ATM provider into a thriving £28million turnover and £5million profit business.
The company is YourCash Europe, a pan-European ATM provider with 5,000 cash machines handling over 78 million ATM transactions annually, and processing over £3 billion in cash across the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland.
Back in 2007, going by the name of Hanco ATM Systems, and part of the RBS Banking Group, it was turning over £40milllion but making a £7million loss.
Campbell got involved in 2007, when, having enjoyed a successful 30-year banking career at NatWest RBS, she wanted a fresh challenge. Remaining within the RBS Group, she joined Hanco as operations director and began the task of tackling its many problems.
She says: “The business needed significant change, but also had potential. It had been grown enormously fast by the founding entrepreneur, but underneath I found a business that I thought was built on sand. There was huge commercial gain waiting to be unlocked but someone needed to turn it around, and that person ended up being me.”
Everything, from processes and people to policies and procedures, was in need of repair or reinvestment. Under Campbell’s direction, the issues were addressed, the business began to thrive and the company was breaking-even. Then in 2008, with the financial crisis unfolding, the owner, RBS Group, asked her to look for a buyer for the business.
But Campbell wasn’t ready to give up on it. She says: “All that work had given me a taste for being an entrepreneur, and I felt that the business had proven itself. It was a strong, scalable company, and I could see further growth opportunities in European markets where we could expand and offer new services at the ATMs. The team I was working with also had a genuine passion for what we were doing. We had formed solid relationships with our suppliers, and begun to build a sound reputation within the marketplace, not only in the UK, but the Netherlands as well.”
Inspired by what had already been achieved and by the team around her, in 2010, Campbell led a management buyout, re-launching as YourCash. In 2013, she led a secondary buy-out in order to take full control and steer the company down a path to success, which she achieved within a few short years.
The move was not without an element of personal risk. All four members of the MBO team had to make a personal contribution. During the SBO Campbell took a personal risk and re-mortgaged her home to fund it.
Attitude to risk is often what defines a true entrepreneur, but at the time, that wasn’t how she recognised herself . “There has been such a shift in our perceptions about what it means to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “Certainly, in 2010 when Ernst Young invited me to apply for Entrepreneur of the Year award I didn’t see myself as one; to me entrepreneurs were 16 year-olds starting tech companies from their bedrooms and becoming millionaires by the time they’re 20.
“Now, we think of the term ‘entrepreneur’ in a much broader way. You don’t need to have started a business to be an entrepreneur. You can take over a business, transform it and show entrepreneurship in the next leg of the journey. And that’s why, contrary to some perceptions, the payments sector is hugely entrepreneurial, because it encourages intrapreneurship.”
A degree of nimbleness is also required to succeed in this industry, as new regulations are frequently imposed. The companies that are successful within the UK ATM market are the ones that have acclimated well, which is almost impossible to do without an enterprising attitude.
And as Campbell points out, the finance sector is not averse to the entrepreneurial mindset and has been known to welcome out-of-the-box intrapreneurialism. “Whilst at RBS we were encouraged to work as a group, but were equally supported in independent projects. I took this ethos with me to YourCash where I ask the team to live by corporate standards but breathe like entrepreneurs. It’s important to encourage this mindset. Only by letting people reinvent the box, can progress be made.”
Of the original four members from the MBO, only Campbell, CEO and major shareholder, and her managing director Ewan Ogilvie remain on the board of directors. “One of the most important things in business is to have the right people around you. It has been fantastic to have a partner I can trust and rely on at all times.”
The MBO was an arduous 18-month process full of huge highs and lows, and it took true grit and determination to turn the original business into the success it is today. “What got me through were my 3 ‘P’s: perseverance, patience and persistence, backed up by my 3 ‘D’s: drive, dedication and determination,” says Campbell.
Looking ahead, Brexit is likely to be the next big challenge for businesses, especially those in the finance sector. However, the possibility of a vote to leave the EU was something that Campbell and her team had considered carefully before the referendum.
She says: “We looked at how the outcome could impact our business and took actions beforehand to protect any downside risk on our currencies; decisions that will have protected us. The key is being aware of potential impacts in advance and making the necessary adaptations; I’m a big believer in change bringing new opportunity.”