Kate Lewis, financial manager
Kate Lewis is the financial manager at Knights Solicitors, which received a cash injection from former Dragons’ Den investor James Caan last year and converted to an ABS in January. Prior to joining the firm in May 2012 Lewis worked as an audit manager with accountancy and business advisory network Baker Tilly, where Knights was one of her audit clients.
Did your role change after James Caan’s investment?
I joined last May, just as the due diligence for the investment was taking place, so the investors have been involved from my first day.
From a day-to-day perspective, the main impact of the investment is that we now report formally to a third party – the investors – on a regular basis through a detailed monthly ‘board pack’ and board meetings too. The more corporate structure has helped us improve our internal controls. The main focus of the board is to monitor performance against agreed budgets and assist in developing the strategy of the firm.
What are the benefits of working outside the City?
One of the main benefits of working outside the City is the cost base. The cost of premises in the City would be much higher than in Staffordshire, meaning our cost base and hence our charge-out rates would need to be much higher for no difference in the level of legal advice provided. Our offices in Newcastle-under-Lyme offer a fantastic environment for staff and are easily accessible to clients and staff from a wide geographical area.
Working in Staffordshire is an advantage. There’s a strong, well-integrated local business community, giving plenty of opportunity to develop client relationships.
How do you plan to help bring the firm into the top 100 in the next few years?
With any plan for growth you need to ensure it is managed appropriately and built on sound foundations. I will ensure our focus on managing our working capital is maintained, so any growth improves our working capital position and is done in a managed and controlled way.
What’s your favourite part of day?
The journey home after collecting the kids from school is one of my favourites. It’s a great time, with no interruptions, for us all to catch up with what we have been doing during the day.
The kids are often fascinated to hear about what I’ve been doing and amazed at the variety of what I’ve done, from preparing the board pack one day to choosing trees for our grounds the next. It can’t sound too boring because my eldest is determined to be either a lawyer or an accountant so he can work at Knights (if he fails to make it as a professional footballer, that is).
What’s been a highlight of your career so far?
I enjoy my job now. Having worked as an auditor for more than 16 years and spending just a few weeks a year with a client, always looking back and verifying results, I feel it’s much more satisfying to be involved with just one firm and implement plans that affect the results of that firm.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
We’re in the process of implementing a new IT system across the whole firm which is obviously a major project. I’m hoping it will remove a lot of the day-to-day processing and analysis we have to do at the moment.
My ideal would be to have the system such that I can produce the monthly board pack and analysis of results at the push of a button, giving me more chance to focus my time on the future rather than the past.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?
In keeping with the theme of promoting the Stoke-on-Trent area, I’d have to say Robbie Williams, although maybe a competent lift engineer would be a more practical choice.
UK 200 position: 180th
“The structure of our firm, with the managing partner having sole responsibility for making all day-to-day decisions, makes it much easier to react more quickly and make more commercial decisions than would be the case in a more traditional partnership structure,” says Lewis, when asked about changes at the firm following the investment.
“The investment backing has [also] enabled us to amend some of our accounting and control systems, such that they are now more in line with how a corporate body would operate.”
In the process of changing to Tikit