The Business Owner: Martin Campbell, Ormbsy Street

The entrepreneur explains how his company is utilising social media and why small business legislation needs to change

The Business Owner: Martin Campbell, Ormbsy Street

Company: Ormbsy Street
Founders: Martin Campbell, John Davies and Eamon O’Dwyer
Location: London
Proposition: Ormsby Street is the company behind CreditHQ, a free online tool that helps small businesses address the issues of late invoice payment and cashflow

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

Our primary product is CreditHQ. This is the only tool helping small businesses to help address late invoice payment in this way. Because there is a large-scale lack of awareness of credit data, the main competition to CreditHQ is small businesses doing nothing at all, meaning invoices are paid late and cashflow becomes an issue.

Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) primarily serve large enterprise customers, whilst other data startups lack the banking of CRA data, meaning they don’t have the critical mass required to make them work for a majority of small businesses.

How did you finance your business?

CreditHQ began life as a ‘credit score subscription’ product for Barclays Bank, but we realised that the potential for improving small business cashflow was vast. We’ve received £2.5m in seed funding, in the form of a legacy contract, and we’re now generating revenue on the new product in several markets.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

Your finances. Without decent cashflow it is virtually impossible to grow effectively. Even if you can achieve growth with poor cashflow, those problems will only grow with you and will ultimately make your business untenable.

Furthermore, while strong cashflow helps make a business a good place to work, bad cashflow dominates everything. It means that leaders often have to make bad short-term decisions to try and address cashflow; decisions that may not make any long-term strategic sense.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

I think, as is common with many businesses, the biggest challenge that we face is communicating clearly across the business.  Even with a relatively small team, we’re working on multiple projects with multiple sets of data and in multiple countries.

This means that even the simple job of ensuring everyone knows “what’s going on” really isn’t so simple.  We try to balance the need for communication with the need to minimise disruption so we use daily stand-ups and bi-weekly sprint reviews as the main communication tools for all key information across the business.  We then use a combination of our Agile Scrum board, Slack and Perch for smaller updates.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

As an online business, a major part of our promotional and marketing activity is also carried out online. We have our own Ormsby Street and CreditHQ blogs and I also have my own blog – The Thoughtful Entrepreneur – where I offer advice to up and coming small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Social media is another key channel for us (and indeed any small business), raising awareness of what we do and giving the opportunity to engage with customers and prospects. We also use PR, Google/Bing Ads, national, regional and international events and indeed anything that we feel is going to help us reach out target audience of small businesses.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?

It really depends on the business and what the owner’s objectives are for it. Exporting can open up a business to a significant new audience, but small business owners should trade just as carefully internationally as they would at home.

Remain aware of the additional costs and risks, and if trading with the US or another English-speaking country, don’t assume that knowing the words of the language means that you know how businesses is done. Cultures vary a lot even when they share a common language.

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

Omnifocus, the Get Things Done (GTD) personal task manager. Those to-do lists won’t write themselves!

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Lean, agile, ambitious.

What would you like the government to do for small business?

Generally, I think that small businesses need to focus on their own product, service or offering, instead of relying too much on government support. That said, the tax and regulatory environment is currently far too complex for small businesses. Each government department sets its own (often conflicting) standards and its own thresholds.

Many small businesses can end up falling foul of this legislation because every area carries its own standards, which can be changed without reference to the other standards which a company has to adhere to.

So with the Government investing extensively in online, that investment should be used for a simple tool to address this. This will allow a company to provide its industry, its turnover and its number of full-time and part-time staff and be informed of ALL the standards which apply, plus be advised on an ongoing basis when they change.

This, along with the closer alignment of VAT and HMRC, would provide tangible help to millions of small businesses bemused by current requirements.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

Pat Hume, a tech sales leader who I had the pleasure of working with for a spell in my last role. She taught me everything I know about commercial partnerships and the channel approach to sales and has been a big influence on how we approach things at Ormsby Street.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

From the start we recognised that there were key opportunities in four different dimensions to develop our business: expanding our data footprint, expanding the insight we can drive from data, adding new international markets and extending our presence within those markets.

We’re keeping quiet about some of the developments and new products we have in the lab right now, but in three years’ time, we’d expect to see our current and future products embedded in millions of small businesses, either directly or as parts of other products and services that they consume.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Create the right team. Planning from the start for the success and hiring the right people at the right time to achieve your aims will make the biggest single contribution to your success in achieving them.

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