The 6 degrees of business change: “Step Change Growth – The Voicescape Story”

This 6-part series will delve deep into a subject that’s very close to our hearts as a Search & Assessment specialist for SMEs; business growth.

Voicescape’s CEO John Doyle

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In the first instalment of this series, we will look at the case of telephony and software vendor Voicescape, and explore the process that its founder and CEO John Doyle went through to achieve the record turnover the business enjoys today.

So, what is ‘Step Change Growth’?

‘Step change’ definition: a significant change in policy or attitude, especially one that results in an improvement or increase.

In a business context, a ‘step change’ involves a change in how a business is ran, and it’s usually the first significant, wholesale alteration that an owner/manager will have made to an SME’s corporate structure since its inception.

The three key components to any successful business are:

  1. Its product or service
  2. Its funding
  3. Its people

For a business to even get off the ground it needs a great product/service.

However, a business can achieve a certain level of success without external funding or specialist knowledge. Entrepreneurial spirit, drive and willpower can often drive an SME forward in its early stages, as was the case with Voicescape, whose CEO, John Doyle, had personally grown the business to £1.8m in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

When that initial growth plateaus, it can be time for a change at the top. This can initially be difficult for a founder, who will have to come to terms with the realisation that they are not the best person to take the business to the next level, from an operational perspective. Being a leader and also being hands-on across departments is helpful at the start of a business’ lifecycle, but as staff numbers and turnover increase, it almost always makes more sense to hire specialists in operations, sales, finance etc. But…

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Where does this leave the owner/founder? Is there still a role for them to play in their own business?

The answer is usually yes. Nobody knows a business better than its founder, and nobody else is as invested in its success. John found himself naturally stepping away from transactional activity into a more strategic role, running the business as a CEO rather than an MD, whilst specialist hires run the day-to-day operations of Voicescape.

So, what did that process look like, and where does Rowan fit into the Voicescape story?

Voicescape ( couples data science, behavioural insights and digital technology, to help social landlords and other public sector customers connect with the communities they serve. The proposition is a Cloud-based SaaS offering, which supports a number of key service areas; rent collections, repairs & maintenance, compliance around gas & electrical safety testing and servicing, and sheltered housing resident wellbeing.

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Founder and CEO John Doyle had grown the recurring revenue business incrementally over a ten-year period, with over half a million properties under management.

In 2018, John was leading a successful ‘lifestyle business’, but sensed that there was a great opportunity to grow and capitalise on the excellent momentum he’d generated. John had the self-awareness to recognise his managerial deficiencies, and initially recruited Sales Manager Pete Hudson, who brought with him a fresh perspective and a different skill set.

Pete recommended consultant Billy McCulloch to the business, and he in turn advocated the need for both an Operations Director and Sales Director – Board level appointments that would take a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities away from John.

Rowan’s David Anwyl

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Due to the costs associated with bringing in top talent, John was initially resistant to Billy’s suggestion, but was eventually convinced. Billy then introduced John to Rowan’s David Anwyl, who impressed John with our Search and Assessment methodology, track record, meticulousness, market knowledge and the graphical representation of the step change growth that David provided.

David worked closely with John to define the briefs for the incoming Board appointees, and then ran a full Search and Assessment process, using Rowan’s best-in-class ETP® (Evaluate. Test. Perform.) Search methodology and market-leading behavioural matching tool, Cognite.

As a result of this process, Bill Williams and Gary Haynes were hired as CRO and COO respectively. Bill was perfect for Voicescape; he has strong SaaS sales experience and was used to dealing with the sometimes-extended sales processes and the challenges of coaching and motivating a sales team. This was key experience that John lacked, and is a critical reason for the business’ subsequent growth. In addition to this, Gary has a strong track record in delivering the operational infrastructure required to effect step change business growth.

Voicescape’s COO Gary Haynes and CRO Bill Williams

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What happened next…

Both Gary and Bill were able to get the c25-strong team bought in to Voicescape’s vision, and the business continues to grow today, with ARR having almost doubled to c£3m.

Speaking on the step-change growth, effected by the two new hires introduced to Voicescape by Rowan, “John Said, “the simple ETP process that Rowan demonstrated to me, combined with the experience and assurance of David Anwyl made the decision completely painless. That is despite us recruiting two senior heads in the depths of the Covid lockdown.”

Rowan Executive Search is the leading Search and Assessment specialist for Northern SMEs. We work closely with owner/founders of both privately owned and PE backed businesses to effect business growth. Get in touch here –>