Meet the MD: Martin Campbell, Ormsby Street

Meet the MD: Martin Campbell, Ormsby Street

Martin is something of a serial entrepreneur, with several businesses under his belt before Ormsby Street, but he found time to give BQ some real in-depth insight into the process he follows when leading a business.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

As MD in a rapidly growing tech business, my roles are many and varied. But primarily I am responsible for the creation and growth of a new team focused on an exciting and innovative new product. I bring together the right group of people and get them to focus on the fast moving opportunity we have in front of us.

I also have a major focus on the commercial side of the business, developing bank partnerships all over the world and working with our data vendor partners to refine and improve our product and overall proposition.

What is it the company does?

Our online tool CreditHQ is focused exclusively on using big data to help small businesses manage their cash more effectively. Late invoice payment and cash-flow are vital issues for small businesses everywhere, and CreditHQ allows a small business to check the credit status, payment performance and general financial health of any customer or partner.

We’ve 27,000 UK users, have launched in Italy and Germany via a partnership with one of Europe’s biggest banks and have more expansion planned for later in 2016.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I’m an entrepreneur with a few businesses under my belt already. I founded Baigent Digital in 1998 and managed it through its growth to become the leading UK digital agency for charity digital fundraising. Baigent was acquired by NASDAQ listed Convio (Austin, TX) in 2011 and I was then responsible for Convio’s international expansion and the integration of its international operations.

Following Convio’s subsequent acquisition by CRM specialist Blackbaud, I moved to become Director of Innovation and Strategy, where I developed and relaunched Blackbaud’s international partner programmes and led several of Blackbaud’s international acquisitions and divestments.  

At about this time, I became aware of a Barclays Bank ‘credit score subscription’ product through some business contacts and, realised that the potential for improving small business cash-flow was vast.  As we discussed the opportunity, we knew we could build on all the knowledge and data they’d built up from delivering the previous product to Barclays SME customers, so we founded Ormsby Street and launched a next-generation version of CreditHQ, which is proving a really exciting product.

Over the last couple of years, I have also supported tech startups in London’s high-growth tech city as a mentor at the Wayra accelerator, Entrepreneur In Residence at the Emerge Venture Labs Accelerator in Google Campus, and as a non-exec director and adviser.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

There are three things that make a great leader: first of all, you need an overall vision and that vision has to make the world a better place in some way, to improve on what is already there. Just wanting to make some money is not enough.

Secondly, as a leader you must be able to communicate your vision clearly and consistently, even if it feels like you’ve done so a million times already. People need to buy into your vision, whether that’s employees, partners, customers, investors or press, so you must be able to ensure people understand the vision. Finally, it’s all about hard work! Don’t just talk the talk, a leader needs to get out there and lead by example.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

My biggest challenge has been in recruitment, finding the team members with the best and most up-to-date skill sets.  Data is such an important part of our proposition for small businesses, so a good understanding of data across our whole team is important, and a team with digital communication skills is also vital for any business now.

The most important part of the work I’ve done over these last two years has been bringing together an outstanding founding team that has a strong track record of delivering products and growing businesses focused on SaaS, strong engagement and a strong digital focus.           

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

My role is a very stressful one at times, and it requires a lot of energy.  I find that whilst the excitement of work is very energising, I really generate this energy from being active in my personal life. So as well as being a dad to three girls, which keeps me very busy, I am also a keen cyclist and always up for a challenge.

This year I have signed up for a coast-to-coast off-road mountain bike race this summer, so much of my spare time is spent running or in the saddle, preparing for that. Far from wearing me out, I’m delighted that a good workout in the morning brings me into the office with a spring in my step.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Using my very first PC, an early Amstrad if I remember correctly, I once created a programme for my school fete and was delighted with my first professional fee – paid in book tokens of course. So I discovered quite early in my life on that I could make computers do things that not many others were able to do, and I guess that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

It all comes down to people acting responsibly and showing integrity. If people continually show up late and do not do the tasks they have committed to on time, it quickly impacts on everyone. So having to chase people about this type of behaviour is a real peeve of mine. I address it by being absolutely clear about expectations upfront. 

Of course it’s important to ensure that everyone’s equipped for the sheer volume of digital communications coming at them every day and are able to plan, prioritise, and execute in a fast-changing environment, so making sure that there’s training and support there is an equally important part of that.

Where do you see the company in five years time?

In a fast growing tech company environment, five years could almost be 50, things move so fast. In the last 12 months alone we’ve launched in four different countries, so it is genuinely hard to say what we’ll be doing in five years. I would say though, that we will be available in many more countries around the world – late invoice payment to small businesses is a global issue – and will be supporting many more SMEs in the countries we already work in.

We will also have refined and improved our offering even more, having developed more understanding of how our customers work and how that maps with the data we analyse.  What will make that all worthwhile is that by reaching that number of businesses, we’ll have improved cash flow and reduced risk for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of business owners around the world, they’ll have fewer sleepless nights, fewer missed birthdays and stressful conversations about money with their husbands or wives, and that will be what makes it all worthwhile

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Don’t be too cautious. The most impactful and disruptive ideas happen when you think big and are ready for growth. Scale can only happen if you plan for it, so plan for rapid growth and don’t be surprised when you have to raise your expectations even more.