Louise Richley on starting digital signage company Beyond Digital Solutions

Turnaround specialist Louise Richley started digital signage company Beyond Digital Solutions in 2009 and expects a turnover of £2.5 million this year.

How did it begin?

I had come into a previous incarnation of the business to turn it around, as while the concept was excellent, the finance management was terrible and they had some big HR issues. Later I decided to set up Beyond Digital Solutions, a separate company in the same sector, move it to the North East and take on a whole new load of employees.

What are the challenges faced by a turnaround specialist?

The first issue is getting the culture changed; it’s about getting your own vision across. Also, you inherit a legacy of people who are owed money, customers who have been let down, and prospects that have been worked on but neglected, all of which have to be addressed.

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For example, Volvo had had an initial conversation with the previous company but didn’t feel confident that they would be able to fulfil a UK digital signage rollout for their dealerships. Under our new leadership, we had to get back in touch and explain how we were now better equipped to deliver what they need.

How did you finance the new venture?

We raised £250,000 of investment through a business angel I know well. The backer gets thousands of people approaching him, but he doesn’t want a day-to-day involvement in the businesses he invests in, so he needs a good management team he can trust.

When you pitch, you need a great business plan for the right product in the right market at the right time – but the people behind it are so important.

How did you market it?

Digital signage is such a new marketplace, but people in and around the sector have heard of our work with car dealerships. We have a telesales team making 200-300 calls a day, we’ve also got the website and a Twitter feed but its more about direct sales, telemarketing and a field sales force who can meet clients and demonstrate our offering.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

When I first arrived to turn around the original company, there were some core staff problems. If something went wrong in the office or there was a conflict, it would turn physical straight away. The management (who have since left) didn’t understand how to deal with their staff and the finances were appalling; no P&L, no balance sheet, no cash flow. Luckily the turnaround was a success and set the groundwork for the new venture.

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