Start Your Business Magazine
John Davies was interviewed by Start Your Business magazine. Read the article.
John Davies has a passion for helping businesses thrive and grow by providingmuch needed funding where possible and sharing his hard earned businesslessons.
As the founder of JLG Group PLC, he is focussed on helping
to bridge the funding gap that has restricted the growth of British industry.
The Group helps businesses to invest and grow through its three subsidiaries,
Just Cash Flow PLC, Just Finance Loans & Investments PLC and Just BridgingLoans PLC
John draws on his 30 plus years of experience gained through founding andrunning a number of companies, to give guidance to existing and potentialbusiness owners. We learn more about his incredible business journey...
Ok, so let’s start with your brand name… no secrets in what you are providing I take it…
As it says on the tin, we are The Just Loans Group, an accessible,
responsible lender set up to help businesses invest and grow. We
launched in 2012 after identifying a clear opportunity to help SMEs
by providing a real banking alternative to the existing incumbents,
helping to bridge the funding gap that has restricted the progress of
UK businesses to date.
What gap in the funding and investment market did you identify
with prior to launching Just Loans?
For most SMEs the traditional route to finance is through the high street banks. However, since the 2008 recession hit hard, getting
funding has become more difficult. The economic climate has seriously
impacted the lending market and many SMEs are unable to
reach their full potential. Traditional banks are having to move at a
slower pace due to challenges with their legacy systems, which has
left gaps for alternative lenders, such as ourselves, to fill by harnessing
the power of FinTech.
This isn’t a critique of banks – I believe they will continue to play a major role in servicing SMEs for a long time to come, but as
businesses and consumers alike become more demanding, they will
need to be increasingly open to collaborating with providers like us in order to find smarter ways of working.
FinTech innovation has enabled us to provide SMEs with a seamless,
simple and uncomplicated lending service that they can access how and when they want – for example, our BusinessPlus Prepaid MasterCard Card gives businesses access to credit at point of sale, while our mobile app helps them manage their finances on the go.
You have three subsidiaries providing financing services, can
you tell us more about them?
To deliver our real alternative to business banking, we operate The Just Loans Group under the following three firms: Just Cash Flow: a
secure, flexible, revolving credit facility similar to an overdraft; Just Bridging: a platform which provides specialist second charge lending in the commercial property sector and lastly Just Finance which takes an equity investment in companies in conjunction with longer term
loans, with repayments to suit the customer’s business profile.
What was the concept behind the brand identity of the ‘Just’
The name actually came to me on the train - I was trying to think of a
name and thought to myself it’s “just loans” which is when I had the very logical idea to name the business The Just Loans Group!
As we evolve and are looking to reposition ourselves as more of a
brand, there is the worry that our name will restrict what we do but this hasn’t been a problem for Carphone Warehouse so I’m confident it will continue to work well.
You provide funding facilities to small businesses, what
are your thoughts on the lending policies of Banks to new
For SMEs applying to their bank, it’s well known that it can take
weeks to get an appointment to apply for a loan and many more
weeks to get an answer. We have looked to change that and
review initial finance applications in under ten minutes, giving
unsuccessful applicants the chance to move on quickly and look
for alternatives or focus on improving their credit worthiness to
support future applications.
We have invested heavily in developing a proprietary platform
called PropensityPlus, a scoring system that uses technology
to gain insight into the propensity for both the directors and
their businesses to be successful in the future. Propensity-Plus drives a comprehensive underwriting module that uses
a wide variety of current and historical data points, many of
which are not used by traditional banks or other lenders.
The ‘Plus’ comes from highly experienced underwriters
insightful questioning designed to give them a good
understanding of the business, the directors and their
The irony is that this is how business banking should
and used to be – timely, supportive and knowledge able. There shouldn’t be weeks of waiting to find out
your application was unsuccessful and you should
be able to speak to somebody from the bank who
is genuinely interested in your business and has the time to give you direction. However, over
time, traditional banks have felt the burden of
their legacy systems and embraced
You have over 30 years’ experience
in the Finance sector…
what have been some of the
One of my personal career highlights
was in 1992, at the age of 31, when I
was awarded a CBI Effective Communication
Award for my work in promoting
the benefits and protection of the Consumer Credit Act to the general public.
More recently, I was honoured with two
awards at the Business Moneyfacts Awards
earlier this year. The awards praised our BusinessPlus
Prepaid MasterCard and WageRoller
products for the innovative and new way in which
they are helping businesses.
What made you decide to launch your own business?
Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood. I started my first
business at 21 and by the age of 26, had sold it to Bowater PLC.
The company then retained me as a divisional CEO and it was during this time that I began to understand the importance of
I clearly remember being enrolled on a course for financial
directors in my first few weeks at Bowater titled ‘Cash is King’. I
sat there, wet behind the ears, listening eagerly to the Professor
carrying out an incredible educational course that showed me
the importance of cash for a business. If there’s no cash flow, it
doesn’t matter how profitable you are, you will go out of business.
It was a lesson I have never forgotten and the premise on which
The Just Loans Group was founded.
Do you think people have an inner critic that holds them
To an extent yes, and there are plenty of talented people who
should go into business but don’t. Equally, there are a lot of unprepared
individuals who jump straight in without thinking through
the risks involved. I think it’s important to remember you simply
can’t be the master of everything. In order to achieve success,
you have to have a great team full of people who are specialists
in their respective fields. A business needs people who are passionate
about the company and have a clear vision of how their
role contributes to the overall business strategy. This gets the
best results out of everyone.
How can a business owner improve their confidence?
Be adaptable - it is often a change of pace that catches people
out. Take counsel from others who have done similar things and
let them help you. Having partnerships is key in business; it is
crucial to adapt to new ways of doing things but you also can’t
replace life experience and this is where others’ expertise is
incredibly useful. You can have all the good ideas in the world but
if you can’t execute them, they’re useless. There’s the expression
of a ‘soothsayer’ which is very apt; in business you need those
who will make you aware of the bad news.
You have called for there to be a formal qualification before
a person can hold the office of a Director… Do you think this
would increase the survival rates of a new business?
Definitely. As the RSA report from October 2014 showed us, more
than half of UK start-ups fail in the first five years and I believe
a lack of business education and preparation is the key reason
behind this shocking statistic.
The truth is, when many people start up, they struggle to navigate
the daily complexities of corporate life. I strongly believe that
education would increase the survival rates of a new business
as it would help individuals understand how to prevent failing in
those early stages. It doesn’t have to be a three year course, just
a consolidated three month qualification that business owners
could study for, part-time, alongside the day-to-day running of
Looking back, I wish I’d had more business know-how under my
belt when I first started out. Creativity and determination are great
attributes to have as an entrepreneur, but it’s the basics where a
lot of business owners fall down and I’m sure I would have been able
to avoid a number of costly mistakes if I’d known more back then.
What are the contributing factors to the high level of business
failure rates in the UK?
A lot of businesses fall victim to the pitfalls of setting ambitious forecasts
which are built on hope and not fact. An insufficient amount of
preparation from business owners also contributes. We’ve reviewed
hundreds of loan applications in our time, and as part of our process
we ask for a simple business plan - just a page or two explaining
what the business does, why it needs funding and what the numbers
will look like, such as amount of sales, cost of sale, product costs,
fixed and variable costs and so on, but people often struggle to
articulate that. It is essential to know the fundamentals as a business
owner to be able to execute your strategy.
The amount of red tape that a business has to deal with is a
common complaint… do you think the Government can do more
to assist business owners?
Probably not as politicians have little knowledge of how SMEs operate.
There are many schemes set up by the Government that are well
intended but unfortunately don’t often deliver what they set out to.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling with managing their cashflow?
For many SMEs, efficiently managing cash flow can mean the difference
between success and failure. Firstly, I would advise anybody
to put together a cash flow forecast week-on-week to plan ahead,
determine your financial position and predict when you might run into
difficulties. Make sure you are invoicing throughout the month and
monitoring your debtors on a weekly to fortnightly basis to give you
time to chase late payments.
Make sure you bring in some experts too – I can’t stress the importance
of cash to your business so ensure that you recruit the right
people to support the financials.
How have you utilised social media in your promotional mix?
We certainly have, our Head of Social Engagement looks after all our
social channels including Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, which we
see as a vital part of the marketing mix. But again, better to bring in
an expert – it’s an area fraught with risks!
Where do you see the Just Loans Group brand developing over
the next 5 years?
We have an exciting period ahead of us. We have recently appointed an incredible Non-Executive Director to our board – Susanne Chishti,
a FinTech expert and CEO at the FINTECH Circle. We also recently
announced two new innovations to our offering that are kick-starting
our growth: our BusinessPlus Prepaid MasterCard Card from Just
Cash Flow PLC to provide businesses with a credit line and repayment
flexibility, a European alternative lender first. And our mobile
app, which allows customers to manage their finances on the go
offering flexibility for time-starved business owners.
As we develop, we will continue to add to what we can offer businesses,
identifying their challenges and responding to them with our
innovative solutions. We are only at the beginning of what can be
achieved and I am pleased to be a part of the FinTech sector that is
leading the way for UK SMEs.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire and why?
I admire entrepreneurs that create successful businesses and still
have time to share the lessons they have learnt along the way. A
prime example is Theo Paphitis, most famous for being one of the
business investors on the Dragons Den TV programme. From humble
beginnings he has built a number of successful businesses and I like
the fact he is a natural salesman, with a reputation for straight-talking.
Most of all I like the fact that we have something in common - we
both promote the importance of cash to a business. He recently
likened a lack of cash flow to a heart attack for a business - I couldn’t
If you could give one piece of advice to a new start up what
would it be?
Before you decide to go ahead with anything, stand back for a
second and ask why you’re doing it. It is also helpful to read the book
‘E-myth’ (in my view probably the best advice you can get before
Being in business can be lonely, painful and the chances are stacked
up against you, so consider exactly what you’re doing before you
make the leap. Once you have a plan, go and run it past somebody
else – not your family or friends, but somebody who has run a successful
business and give proper feedback.
Then, learn your numbers and then re-read ‘E-myth’.
Again, education is key for any new start-up. We’re so adamant about
this and helping new start-ups that we’re currently developing plans
to offer guidance to the start-up community, so watch this space.
View the original article as PDF
Date Issued May 2016.