Jenny Campbell is a banker, turned businesswoman, turned investor and Dragons’ Den star. Here, she tells her business story.
When did you join YourCash?
I joined YourCash in 2006 when it was owned by RBS (I was still working in the bank at that time) and I oversaw its transition to fit it within the group. The winds of change then came in 2008 when the global recession hit. RBS then had to make some decisions about its future, and Hanco (YourCash) became a non-core asset for RBS. They decided to sell the business and I was put in charge of this.
I didn’t have expertise in selling a business at the time but I put a strong team around me and we spent a year working to find a deal. There weren’t many buyers though, apart from trade buyers who were looking to absorb the business and asset strip it.
During the process, I had a lightbulb moment where I felt the business had a future and I wasn’t motivated by being a banker any longer but by being a businesswoman, so I went from trying to sell the business to thinking about whether I could buy it and I did just that in 2010.
What was your greatest achievement at YourCash?
I would say it was the management and delivery of a major change programme which was focused around processes and people. I transformed it into a start-up that was structurally messy into a £40m business that was very competitive.
We also completely transformed the people in the business, either coaching people up or coaching people out that didn’t fit with the culture. We had a saying, which was: ‘You had to have the YourCash sparkle’.
What was the main challenge you faced at YourCash?
The industry is under pressure as cash is in decline, so it was always about keeping ourselves at the forefront and communicating that cash still has a purpose. This also meant making sure we had a voice amongst regulators and politicians about the role of cash in business and society.
Why did you decide to sell the business?
By 2016 I had been there for ten years and gone through a major transition and taken on debt to grow the company. We’d reached a point whereby the business had flourished for six years after leaving RBS in 2010 but it really needed a new parent that could invest in technology and systems, and give it more access to funding to fuel growth and expand internationally.
We’d limited those options through our private ownership and by putting debt into the business. I wanted the business to go on its next journey.
How hard was it to walk away?
It was of course hard but equally, I knew the business was in good hands. I spent six months transitioning the business to its new owners.
I’d worked since the age of 16 for 39 years, so the time was also right for me to take a break and focus on new challenges such as investing in businesses and projects and supporting charities (Jenny is a supporter of The Princes Trust and Young Enterprise, amongst others).
Since the business sale you have joined Dragons’ Den. What was it like to be asked?
I had watched the programme since its inception and always found it a great business education programme. I used to watch it on a Sunday and then discuss it with my colleagues at work on Monday. When I was asked to join the show, it was a bit surreal but I slotted in easily.
When you’re investing – how important is the personality of the entrepreneur?
Firstly, it’s important to invest in products that you know and like – it must be a product or service you can be evangelical about. Secondly, the entrepreneur must be somebody that you like and respect and want to work with.
These are the softer pieces of the puzzle though, and when those two are in place my banker head kicks in, and I ask myself how do I invest in the business at the right price. Then my investor side kicks in and I ask myself – how am I going to exit the business with a profit in three to five years?
What advice would you give to emerging entrepreneurs?
I would say have a clear plan because entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in the UK so you need to be able to stand out. Regarding younger people, I feel there is a view from some that anybody can become an entrepreneur and make millions but in reality, it’s a lonely place to be and it’s high risk.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to work in a business where you have a security blanket and can learn before becoming an entrepreneur.