New Journeycall Owner Started “On The Phones”

One of the largest employers in Angus, Journeycall contact centre in Arbroath, has a new owner.

Chief executive Theresa Lawson has acquired the business, which has more than 300 staff.

Journey call handles millions of customer enquiries each year on behalf of Transport for London, Network Rail and other operators.

Theresa, 46, started working at Journeycall part-time in 2006 when it was a much smaller business and based in Laurencekirk.

At the time Theresa was a beautician in Montrose who needed to earn some additional money.

“Back then I had a little shop in Montrose.  I was negotiating a new lease and needed a solicitor, which I couldn’t afford.

“I started working at Journey call to top up my income to pay that bill.  At the time there were about 20 staff and our main customer was Stagecoach.

“I absolutely loved being on the phones – the vibrancy of it, the fact you’re helping people, the teamwork and the comradery.

“I was here three months, then six months, then I went full-time.”

Shortly after Theresa joined the business, Journeycall’s emphasis on providing the best possible service meant it won the lucrative Transport for London contract, which includes administering the Oyster card for the London Underground.

The company’s headcount grew rapidly and an additional office in Brechin opened.

Theresa became a company director in 2011, but that year, just before Christmas, she received the devastating news she had cancer.

“I had an aggressive form of cancer and was in hospital for 10 days,” she said.

“I had a surgery and then I was told to go home and recuperate for 12 weeks.

“But 12 weeks and one day later I was back at work.  I had two young children and it was a tricky time.  The business helped me get through that – I wanted and needed to get back to work.”

With Theresa now managing director, Journeycall opened its Arbroath office in 2014.

Theresa then became the chief executive of Journeycall’s parent company, the ESP Group, in 2019, at which point the company had around 300 staff.

The pandemic was particularly hard for Journeycall.

With an almost complete drop-off of people using public transport, the need for Journeycall’s services also fell.

“We just dug deep and delivered a skeleton service for all of our clients,” Theresa said.

“We continued to operate every single day and that’s a testament to this business and the people in it.  The resilience here is magical.”

She admits the company is still trying to establish what the “new normal” looks like.

However, after opening a new office in Hull last year, it is recruiting again and hopeful of securing more high-profile contracts.

Theresa’s acquisition of the ESP Group, for an undisclosed sum, follows the decision of founder Terry Dunn to retire.

She says she feels “proud and grateful”.

“I have always enjoyed working with Terry and his wife Fiona and I’m thankful for the opportunities he afforded me,” Theresa said.

“The ethos of the business, which is providing exceptional service, is his model and it has never changed.

“This company, and the people in it, are so important to me.

“I take it so seriously and personally.”

Theresa’s husband Iain is also a director, while her eldest daughter, Kira, 24, is operations manager.

Younger daughter Freyja works a Saturday shift.

“I absolutely love having both my daughters and Iain in the business.  It’s very special and I almost feel there is a legacy to be left.

The past 17 years has been a crazy, fun ride and I expect it will be no different going forward.”

Terry Dunn said: “Looking back at our time with the ESP Group, Fiona and I are exceptionally proud of what is a highly successful business, built on firm foundations and good principles.

“We would like to wish Theresa and her teams in Arbroath and Hull our very best of wishes for their future success.”

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