Talking SME Podcast: Navigating SME Leadership
Our latest guest on Ten2Two’s Talking SME podcast is Katherine Rayden, Owner and Founder of Rayden Solicitors. In this episode we chat about what makes a good business leader, navigating SME leadership challenges and the benefits of creating a positive working environment.
A bit about Katherine
Katherine has over 25 years’ experience as a specialist family law solicitor. She has a wealth of knowledge in disputes that can follow the breakdown of any relationship whether this concerns children and/or finances. Katherine has experience of complex income and financial structures (in this jurisdiction and others), pensions and issues requiring in-depth and expert analysis.
Katherine also handles almost all aspects of private law children matters including relocation of children, applications for contact with children, fact-finding hearings and parental alienation.
Focused on achieving a sensible and cost effective solution for her clients, Katherine draws on her substantial experience to try and achieve settlement without the need for lengthy and expensive final hearings. Katherine believes that preparation is key and so although most of her cases settle outside of Court, the vast majority will be prepared as if the matter will be reviewed by a Judge in order that there is a clear strategy from the outset.
Katherine is noted by industry peers as ‘the doyenne of family law outside London’ and commended for her ‘tremendous enthusiasm for her work.’
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‘Navigating SME Leadership’ is just one in our series of podcasts where we talk about a wide range of topics. We talk with business experts, and also offer broad insights to help SMEs become more successful.
Jane O’Gorman (00:01):
Hello, and welcome to talking SME our quickfire chat with business leaders. I’m Jane O’Gorman, Director of Ten2Two, experts in flexible recruitment and consulting. And I’m very pleased today to welcome Katherine Rayden business owner and founder of Rayden solicitors experts in family law. Hi, Katherine. Welcome. And thank you so much for joining me today.
Katherine Rayden (00:28):
Hello, thank you for having me.
Jane O’Gorman (00:31):
So, Katherine, you, you set up Rayden Solicitors 17 years ago. Just a few years. In fact, before we set up Ten2Two, I don’t know where the time goes. But what inspired you to establish your own business?
Katherine Rayden (00:48):
I had been working in London for about 12 years and I had two children and I was just about to have my third and although I was working part-time, I was only working, four days a week and my little babies were in nursery eight till six. My eldest was about to start school and I really wanted something that was far more flexible. And so I set up a firm that enabled me to be around for school pickups really. And so, I set up with the idea of working one or one day a week or possibly half day a week. So that, that was the main reason for establishing the business.
The second reason was in terms of clients. I was in a west end London firm doing divorce for very high net worth clients, and they weren’t really the people I was mixing with. And so I thought if I set up a, a more affordable, firm based on all the training I’d had, but I’d be able to act for people like me, who, you know, maybe didn’t have private jets and personal assistants and maybe just had, a house and a pension. And so it was the two things combined, really, what I wanted personally and what I wanted to give to clients.
Jane O’Gorman (02:06):
Amazing. And did you come across any, any particular challenges in those first years as a business leader, given that, step into your own business? And how did you overcome these Katherine?
Katherine Rayden (02:21):
Well, I mean, it must have been probably same for you. There’s no proper hand book on it.
Katherine Rayden (02:27):
I mean the law society have a list of, certain rules you have to comply with, which is, you know, pretty obvious and that’s pretty easy to do. So I didn’t really have, any particular people backing me up for it. My accountant, my first set of accountants, whenever I asked for some advice, they asked what my husband wanted, and thought about the idea. And so I was dismissed slightly, but I mean, I was only working a day a week and I don’t think anyone really thought it was possible to do it seriously, but, that was the main challenge that I wasn’t really taken completely seriously by people locally.
But bizarrely, the London contacts took me very seriously and, they sent me some really good work. But you know, I only had to work on two or three cases, but they, had confidence in my ability as a family lawyer, and they weren’t really interested in how I was going to set the business up, but the people who were around me watching me set up the business were quite surprised at that whole idea.
Jane O’Gorman (03:38):
Wow, and now obviously the business is very successful, and you already have a number of offices in desirable locations. Was that part of your initial business plan? And do you have plans for, wider growth? Bearing in mind, as you say, you know, when you set up in the early stages, there was the work life balance element there kickstarting a few days a week, but what, what was your view at that time?
Katherine Rayden (04:07):
I mean, that was it. I was, I had, an office in Shenley, which is a tiny village just outside of St. Albans. Um, and then as I got busier, I needed to recruit people. So I moved bigger town and moved to St. Albans after about three years. And I didn’t really, to be honest, have a proper strategy or growth plan. As I got busier, I hired more people and then I had a bigger office.
Jane O’Gorman (04:34):
Katherine Rayden (04:34):
But, we applied for a couple of business awards and they were quite good at, enabling you to self audit. And it was when we were about 10 years old. I had a look at how far we’d come and whether we had a blueprint now of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it. And I’d say since, for the last seven years, I’ve got a quite clear strategy and I know what I’m doing next year, three years and five years time. But certainly in the first 10 years it was just focused on providing services. It was quite reactive. I was providing services for the clients and then getting offices. I wasn’t really forward thinking properly.
Jane O’Gorman (05:18):
Whereas would you say now it’s, you’re much more proactive?
Katherine Rayden (05:22):
Yes. Yes I’ve definitely, I know where I’m going to be next year, three years and five years time.
Jane O’Gorman (05:28):
Katherine Rayden (05:29):
Jane O’Gorman (05:31):
Amazing. And what would you say has been your biggest highlight? So far your proudest moment since starting the business, cause that’s quite a transition from those early days, to the point you’re at now where you have that clear vision of what’s ahead of you. What’s your biggest highlight so far?
Katherine Rayden (05:49):
Well, if you’d asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have agreed, but now I’m through it. I think how the firm coped during COVID has been my proudest moment. We’ve got 95 people. We hired a third of them during COVID and we didn’t go on furlough. We had a really good, almost siege mentality. All the firm, everybody in the firm worked really hard. They transitioned to working from home really quickly. They transitioned to paperless really quickly.
And now where lockdown restrictions are easing, they’re coming back to the office. And so, I’m super proud of how everyone’s worked together and, we’ve continued to grow and provide services and, we’ve opened three offices during the last two years and, that’s possible because everyone still pitched together and knows what we’re doing, and worked together to do it really well.
Jane O’Gorman (06:48):
Yeah. That’s remarkable. That is quite an achievement, particularly, as you say, in such a challenging, few years that we we’ve been experiencing. Your reputation as a leader in your field is highly recognized as is the reputation of your wonderful and experienced team. You’ve just touched on that. What would you say are the key attributes of a good business leader?
Katherine Rayden (07:14):
I think what makes me a good business leader is that I still do family law, not full time, but I still do a little bit as well as running the business. Because we specialize in family law, I’m still able to pick out a good lawyer, pick out a good IT product, that will service my family lawyers. Get a good website that will sell our services in a family law sense. So I think the fact that I know my product really well, and like my team, makes me a good business leader.
I’m happy to get up in the morning. I’m happy to meet everybody. And I’m still excited by the work we do. There’s always some story I can tell you about some case I saw last week. So that’s what makes me a good business leader. I like what I do. And I like who I do it with.
Jane O’Gorman (08:12):
That’s great. What do you consider to be the key to finding great professionals, to join the Rayden family team, and to retaining them? You’ve touched on, you know, how much you like your team, how much you like working with them, what’s your key to actually finding them?
Katherine Rayden (08:31):
Because we only do family law. I think we’re quite attractive to people who want to develop their career. There’s lots of other firms who have lots of different areas of law and they’ll obviously sell the multidisciplinary, but I, work really hard to say to my family lawyers that, I’ve got a really good HR team who can hire a family lawyer. I’ve got a really good recruitment consultancy, Jane, who helps.
Katherine Rayden (09:02):
So I work really hard to provide really good resources for all the family lawyers. Um, and so I think, that’s what I give them. And I try and give them a good working environment. I think it’s important to have recognition of, you know, people doing a good job and have a nice office. And they’ve got to feel that we are investing in them the whole way through their journey.
Jane O’Gorman (09:27):
Yeah. That’s very supportive and great tips there too. What do you think is, or what would you say your view is on the most important element of client care in business? We’ve touched on the employee care there a little bit, but particularly in your field of work, Katherine, what do you think’s the most important element of client care?
Katherine Rayden (09:51):
I think clients are coming to me as an expert and they want, to be taken on this journey as quickly and as cleanly as possible. Some of them want to fight and some of them want to settle. I’m meant to be there as a sounding board if they want to run a bad point, that’s fine, but they need to know it’s a bad point. If they want to run a good point, that’s great and I’ll run a good point as well as I possibly can.
So we have to share knowledge, the two of us, they need to tell me what they want and I need to explain to them how we’ll get it. And so empathy is an important element of it, but it’s only one of the elements because they don’t come to me to pass them tissues all the time. It’s to push them along the journey really.
Jane O’Gorman (10:41):
Amazing. There’s some good tips there, even in general business terms, in terms of having that and sharing knowledge and listening and understanding. So that transferability is a good piece of advice, actually, in thinking about client care in any business. What, what would you say for you is the most rewarding part of your work?
Katherine Rayden (11:03):
Our job is quite transactional. It doesn’t, it doesn’t last for very long and it’s really rewarding to see the clients move on with their lives. After, they’ve spent some time with us. I keep in touch with a lot of them, and if they come to me feeling uncertain or worried about where they’re going to live or how they’re going to move on with their lives, the most rewarding element is seeing them move on to the next stage of their journey with a optimism for the future. And then I keep in touch and hopefully the optimism is well placed. Um, you know, they have moved on and got a nice home and a good job and a good relationship with their children.
Jane O’Gorman (11:46):
Yeah. It’s so important. And, it’s lovely. That must be, I can imagine such a rewarding part of what you do.
Katherine Rayden (11:53):
Jane O’Gorman (11:54):
For our listeners out there. Particularly for those who after such a challenging few years, and you’ve, already mentioned for you particularly, that’s one of your proudest achievements that you have been able to come through this last couple of years and actually grow and build. But for those, those who are listening out there, who are currently looking to expand and grow their business, do you have any particular tip that you would like to share with them from your own experiences, Katherine?
Katherine Rayden (12:31):
I think you really need to look hard at what you are doing. What is your product? What is your USP can it be, multiplied and sent to another office? If it can’t then, don’t grow, you’ve got to decide why you are growing it. If you’re growing to meet demand. Well, that’s great. And then the next stage is well how do we maintain the demand or how, do we get more people wanting us? So really, really know your product, get a strategy in place and think about the first, third and fifth years.
And once you’ve done that have confidence, because the whole reason, if you are owning a business and running a business, you’re doing it because you are a bit of a one off anyway. And so once you’ve done your work on your side of things, just have confidence and go for it because the professionals, the bank managers, the accountants. They’re all providing some help for you, but you are the one who’s set up the business. And so ultimately if you know that this is the right thing to do, you know, shut your eyes, put your hand over your nose and jump in and go for it.
Jane O’Gorman (13:39):
Amazing. That’s great tips here and some good advice, Katherine, thank you so much.
Katherine Rayden (13:46):
Jane O’Gorman (13:46):
Thank you for joining us today and for this valuable chat, it has been a pleasure talking to you.
Katherine Rayden (13:53):
Lovely to talk to you Jane, hope to see you in person soon.
Jane O’Gorman (13:57):
Yeah, me too. And to our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our talking SME. Look out for future episodes coming soon from Ten2Two experts in flexible recruitment and consulting.