AMA: Hayley Brightmore, founder of Knight Transaction Services

Hayley Brightmore is changing the landscape of financial services in the North West with an all-female team specialising in bespoke due diligence and related services for companies in the mid-market space.

Hi Hayley! Tell us about your company.

Knight Transaction Services is an advisory business that offers a range of due diligence and related solutions to owner-managers, corporate acquirers, banks and private equity firms throughout the transaction process. 

*Cue scratching of heads and frustration at a piece of corporate jargon that asks more questions than it answers…

For those that don’t work in the financial sector, we basically spend a few weeks looking at the financial and operational performance of a business. 

We then summarise this in a report, highlighting the key risks and opportunities for the buyer, investor or lender that is our client.

We’re also the first all-female advisory team in the incredibly male-dominated North West financial services industry! #girlpower.

Great stuff. So how did the idea for Knight Transaction Services come about?

I’ve spent the last 10 years working in Transaction Services teams in two ‘Top 10’ multinational accountancy firms, working with businesses at the pre-profit stage through to those that have revenue of over £500m. So I’ve had exposure to different types of clients, sectors and deal sizes.

I realised as I progressed that I particularly enjoyed working on mid-market (sub £20m transaction size) deals, as these tended to be more personable and better suited my less 'corporate’ personality.

The target businesses I’d be looking at were typically still owned by the person (or family or team) that created them and my clients tended to have a genuine passion to buy or invest in it. For me, that created a much more authentic environment to work in. 

Through market research and conversations with friends that worked in banks, private equity houses and other businesses, I saw what I believed to be a gap in the North West M&A market for a diligence product that was specifically aimed at these smaller deals.

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Because the products offered by the existing Transaction Services teams were within large accountancy practices, the huge scopes of work and resulting fees being charged didn’t work for the end customer.

I was approached by the founders of Knight Corporate Finance in late 2020 and around six months later Knight Transaction Services was launched!

Our mantra is to work with our clients to understand their needs and create a bespoke and flexible service that ensures we deliver on the areas that are important to them.

Fantastic. If you were going to invest in a startup business and you could only give one piece of advice to the team running that company, what would it be?

Make sure there is a market for your product, a passionate team and (here comes the accountant) a well thought out business plan!

What would you say is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

I think I’ll have to rephrase that as ‘making’ rather than ‘made’, as I’m still working on this. I'm trying to end every day on a clean slate with all jobs boxed off. 

A lot of personal preparation went into the launch of the KTS business when I was still working full time in my previous role. My evenings were spent designing a website, writing marketing materials, designing job checklists and preparing everything else we’d need on day one.

There’s no way that could be achieved in a month let alone an evening, so I wish I’d learnt to switch off without guilt and approach things in a less ‘hair-tearing out’ manner.

Who has had the most impact on your life, and the decisions you make in business?

My parents, my husband and people I’ve met as I’ve progressed in my career (the latter for both good and bad reasons). I’ve been taught to encourage my quirky nature and always be myself.

Who knew an obsession with aliens and conspiracy theories followed by folding your ear into a parcel could be such an icebreaker in the corporate community?! 

I’m not blessed with the extroverted confidence that is so common in my field, but through an amazing support network, I’ve managed to create an inner belief in myself that I hope I pass on to my team as we grow.

That sounds like the perfect party trick! Speaking of teams, how do you keep your team aligned?

Whiteboards, spreadsheets and team chats! We’re accountants, what more did you expect from that question?!

Communication and organisation are crucial. We need to know who is working on what, in order to know what workload we can take on or pitch for. It’s so important to check that workloads are manageable and that people are getting the help and support they need.

I’d like to think my team has bought into the vision and direction of Knight Transaction Services and they know that if the company does well, we all do well.

Can you share any practical tips or processes to help people work remotely?

We have a great balance which everyone enjoys. In an average week, the team spends Tuesdays and Fridays in the office, another day focussed around networking and the remaining time at home. 

My tips on remote working:

  1. Trust your team - no one considers remote working to be flexible if they start sweating every time their Teams icon goes yellow.
  2. Set your boundaries and encourage your team to honestly set theirs.

I have an employee with a young child that works around school pick-ups etc. and another who would rather work a longer midweek day for an early Friday finish. As for me, don’t disturb me on my cruises! 

We’re all adults and we’re all aware of client deadlines, anything in between is a personal preference. We also socialise in person (YES to that being a thing again!) and don’t turn on cameras for internal team chats (it's just our preference).

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Great tips. Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? If so, what impact has it made?

This is a topical question for us. In July 2021, Knight Corporate Finance Group (comprising Knight Transaction Services) was the latest addition to K3 Capital Group plc.

As a result, my team are being incentivised over the same period as part of the transaction, which I think demonstrates our long-term commitment to delivering a quality service to our clients.

What’s your morning routine?

I like to start early as my evenings are important to me and I want to switch off from work fully before I eat dinner. I’m normally up and at my Husband’s gym first thing followed by my new craze – the cold shower! 

If that sounds too glossy and makes you instantly dislike me, on a Friday morning following a heavy work event I’ll be the one with the stamp on my forehead wiping my face in a McDonalds!

No judgement here! Who’s your favourite band or musician?

Rod Stewart. Blame my Dad for that. I must be the only child that had been to five concerts and knew the entire Vagabond Heart album word-for-word by age eight.

There is a lot of other music I used to like before my Mum bought a karaoke machine and ruined it for me. Although I do a mean ‘Johnny B. Goode’ after a wine…

Evidence, please! And finally, what's your favourite film?

I’m useless at favourite anything, it literally depends which Hayley gets out of bed that morning. As I’m writing this I’m thinking something funny, so ‘Dirty Grandpa’. For those not easily offended, you can thank me later.

Thanks so much for your time Hayley. It's been a pleasure.