“My wife tells me I’m an eternal optimist, often to her annoyance”

Sean Williams, director Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group

Sean Williams started his career at Leonard Curtis 13 years ago as a junior. Since then his career has developed and he’s now a director in its Yorkshire office, which was set up in 2012, and an appointment taking insolvency practitioner. He is also responsible for assisting with the running of its Barlborough and newly opened Team Valley office. Over his career he’s witnessed many changes at Leonard Curtis, with the group developing its national presence, growing from six offices in 2007 to 19 offices, with a plethora of service lines designed to assist SME businesses through every stage of their lifecycle.

I love the variety in my job. Variety in the clients that we advise, ranging from small limited companies with a handful of employees to multi-million turnover outfits with hundreds of employees. Variety in the personalities we deal with. Whether it’s business owners, banks and funders, trade creditors, employees whose livelihoods are dependent on our advice, or managing our team. I always aim to treat them with respect and empathy. And variety in the situations we are called into, either being introduced to business owners by a trusted advisor, or introduced to a company by a funder who is concerned over their facility and whether it will be re-paid. Whatever the situation, we treat everyone in the same manner, and are always solution-focussed.

As a team we are ready to develop the business further and bring on the next generation of advisors in our own business. We have a number of excellent associate directors and senior staff, who are extremely good operators in the areas of business turnaround and restructuring – skills that I foresee will be in high demand in the next 12 months. The time is now right, especially given the external market conditions, to involve them in our growth plans and to take the business to the next level. It is an extremely satisfying part of my role to see junior colleagues helping our clients successfully resolve the issues they face, and in so doing progress within our business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest global issue in living memory, and has severely impacted the economy, especially the SME market place in which we operate. We pride ourselves on being problem solvers, whether that’s our business recovery division, our brokerage division – Reach Commercial Finance, or, LC Legal, our standalone legal practice. Now as the Covid-19 pandemic comes to a conclusion, hopefully sooner rather later, it is inevitable that government financial support will stop and temporary measures such as the suspension of winding up petitions for debtors affected by the pandemic will cease to be in place.  It is at this point that our expertise will be in demand. During the pandemic we have witnessed a lot of creditor apathy, especially from HMRC, but this attitude is likely to change once the world returns to “normal”. Understandably HMRC and other creditors will want paying, but many SMEs are still going to be suffering the effects of trading through the pandemic, and cash flow is likely to be extremely tight. This is when we expect our services to be in the most demand. As a result we have taken on a number of new employees across the team, to ensure we are well placed to service the demand.

My wife tells me I’m an eternal optimist, often to her annoyance. I think this is a fair assessment, and it affects the way I approach business. However big a problem, we can find a way though. Even if it’s a worst case scenario such as a liquidation of a Company, the challenge is to make it as good a process for all involved as possible, given the circumstances. As the old saying goes, “You can’t keep all the people happy all the time”, and I think this is true, however I would hope that stakeholders are able to see why we have come to the decisions we have, and can appreciate the rationale behind it.

Whatever the situation, communication is the key. Not so much these days, but when I was starting out, the juniors were often given the tasks which no one else wanted to do. This would invariably be attending premises on the first day of an insolvency process to deal with anyone who might turn up, which would usually be angry creditors. I quickly learnt the best tactic was to sit down with these parties, explain what had happened and the process that was now in place and had to be followed. In our industry it’s inevitable that you will deal with individuals who are upset, angry and emotional, and I understand the reasons for this. To this day whenever we come across an aggrieved creditor, I still look to deal with them through early, clear communication.

In business, as in life, the early years are extremely important in shaping you as a professional. I have been influenced by the directors who were in charge of our business when I started out. I won’t mention any names, to save their blushes, especially as a few are still in our business. We have always had a very flat structure, with no room for internal politics or egos, which as a junior gave me first hand access to situations where I would see how the directors dealt with issues. There has always been (well almost always), a very calm reaction by senior decision makers in our business to whatever situation presents itself.  With a focus on always dealing with it positively. I hope now that these are the core principles which I instil into our people and the wider business community around us.

Out of the office I like to be active, and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Being with loved ones is extremely important to me and something which has come into sharp focus during the last 12 months, as I think it has for many. I also love sport and music and if I can combine all these things, even better. Which brings me to my happiest memories this year, long walks with our new born daughter whilst listening to Test Match Special on my headphones!

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