How I’ve grown my business: Jamie Waller, founder of Just

Jamie Waller has made millions from growing and selling businesses. Here he talks about what drives him and why you have to dig deep as an entrepreneur

Jamie Waller is a British entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor and author. In 2016 and 2017, Jamie sold businesses which were valued at over £40m.

 Jamie left school aged 16 with no qualifications. He spent the majority of his childhood with a London, Hackney charity for disadvantaged children, a motorcycle display team. The initiative, he says, saved him from a life of prison or drugs that most of his school friends had fallen into.

Jamie made his first million by the age of 22. He started his career with a £1,600 bank loan for a window-cleaning business and then went into debt collection, founding JBW Group, which made millions.

He is a graduate of Cranfield Business School and in 2018 was awarded the Cranfield Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Last year, he launched Just, a digital marketplace for anybody owed money with a court judgment to engage the best available debt enforcement organisations across the UK. Just oversees and manages the process and ensures legal compliance. In 13 weeks since launch, Just has signed many top legal firms and utility providers as customers.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

This is my third business. The first one I sold in 2016 and the second in 2017. In 2019 I launched Just a digital marketplace for data analytics and debt collection services. The idea came about after my first business provided consultancy services to prove a business case for the UK government that a marketplace approach to recovering their debt was the right solution. We decided that we should build a solution based on the same principles for the private sector. Anyone that leaves the court with a judgement against a debtor can now access first class data and enforcement services across every square inch of the country using Just and in most cases for free.

What experience do you have in your sector?

I have worked in debt, debt technology and data all my adult life. I built the second-largest debt enforcement company in the UK and also the industry’s first-ever data and propensity technology. I know the industry very well and really the only person that has been introducing innovation to the industry for 14 years.

Understanding the sector has huge benefits when performing leadership tasks and that has enabled us to grow from a start-up to near profitability in just 13 weeks. My past experience has also enabled us to handpick the best staff from the industry as many of them have been known to me for many years.

‘Entrepreneurship is like a drug, it’s addictive’

Do you consider your business to be a disruptor – what’s its USP?

Yes. The traditional companies believe that a “one size, fits all” approach is what works. We know they are wrong, and that data is king. Our USP is that we analyse a person’s ability to pay and suggest what nudge techniques will make them pay and, by doing this, we save our customers money, collect more of the debt for them faster, while protecting their reputation and brand. It would be silly for a customer to go direct to the traditional providers rather than access them through our marketplace and receive this value-added service and oversight for free.

What part does technology play in your business?

Technology is our business. We built our solution using the Salesforce platform utilising their Einstein AI. It’s powerful, it’s effective and it’s delivering our customers significant value while giving us complete control.

We are a digital marketplace so it is important that customers can interact with us through technology and we can do the same with our data, litigation and debt collection suppliers. Our technology, The Just Hub enables us to do that.

What funding did you have to start the business and where did it come from?

 One million pounds of my personal cash for Just. My first business however which I sold for over £40m only had a £25,000 loan. It can be done with little although it can be done a lot quicker with suitable cash.

As the business has grown, what major challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Too many to list. Every day is a challenge no matter how experienced you are. The road to success is full of bumps. The best way to overcome the challenges is to celebrate the small wins as and when they happen.

What would you say to any other business owners mulling whether to bring in outside investors?

Investors are great if the entrepreneur is capable of managing and working with them. Most entrepreneurs are not I’m afraid. My simple advice is, do it if you need the cash, not just because you want the cash. If you are doing it to enable you to “grow quicker and take on the world” then make sure you are capable of doing those things first as otherwise you won’t last 12 months with some types of investors.

If you have proven your model, have evidence that you are able to manage cash and you are mature in your approach to working as a team then external investment might be for you.

How do you measure success for yourself, your investors, your staff and your customers?

Making a difference to the world. We spend 80 per cent of our time thinking about who we help. It’s pointless doing it just for the money because, to be honest, the money is not enough. Every entrepreneur needs a purpose and my purpose is “to do things right” in an industry that does a lot of things wrong.

What business (or personal) tip would give to other entrepreneurs hoping to grow their businesses?

Take it personal. If it means everything to you, it will work. Being an entrepreneur is not a spectator sport so don’t treat it like one.

Who has most influenced your working life?

Me. My desires to be successful and to achieve. Every day, even now after my previous successes, I get ready for work and clap my hands with excitement to go out, make a difference, win the deal and build something great. Entrepreneurship is like a drug, it’s addictive.

How do you relax outside of work?

Yoga, running, sailing, skiing and of a weekend pretending to be a horse or dinosaur with my two- and four-year-old girls.

Jamie Waller is founder of Just and a member of the Growth Business Venturers Club. To find out more about becoming a venturer, see here

Further reading

How I’ve grown my business: Adam Sopher, Joe & Seph’s popcorn

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