Hayley is a partner and CEO at JCP Solicitors, one of Wales’ largest independent law firms with offices in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. As a result of her strong leadership at JCP Solicitors she was awarded the Institute of Welsh Affairs Business Leader Award in June 2013 followed by the Swansea Bay Business Woman of the Year Award in October 2013.
Hayley’s career began in 1990 as an evening typist with JCP Solicitors from which her role has developed and grown with the business. In 2002 she was appointed to the role of Director of Finance & Operations followed by her appointment in 2009 to CEO. Her appointment to full equity partnership is believed to be one of the first female non-lawyer equity partner appointments at an indigenous Welsh law firm. She has primary authority and decision making responsibility on operational and strategic issues including finance, IT, staff and compliance.
In addition to her role at JCP Solicitors she is currently President of Swansea Bay Business Club. During her time on the Board she has been instrumental in modernizing the club and significantly increasing the membership.
How did you find your way to your current role?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school and I ended up leaving school just before my 15th birthday as my summer job turned into a permanent position working on reception in a law firm in Australia. They soon trained me to process their accounts and become a legal secretary. Following my return to Swansea 2 years later I worked as a legal secretary until I gave up work to look after my young children. A few years later, I joined John Collins & Partners, Solicitors, as a part time evening typist.
Over the years my role developed as my children grew up and the business expanded. During this time I achieved a diploma with the Institute of Legal Cashiers and Administrators, Technician level with the Association of Accounting technicians and an MBA from Nottingham University.
25 years on I am the CEO of that same law firm.
Within your career to date, was there a specific action that you believe helped you to become the successful leaders that you are today?
It was primarily a result of working long hours, hard work and showing commitment to the business, but more importantly it was the fact that all of that was recognised by the business owners who were very supportive and encouraging.
What was the first job you had that entailed managing people and what lessons did you learn?
During my career development at JCP, I was appointed Accounts Manager at the age of about 25 and this was a huge learning curve. I expected that a training course would give me all the answers, which it didn’t, and I suffered a mixture of sometimes being too tough and other times being walked over. In hindsight, being a good manager was more about listening and encouraging and it took me a little while to get there! Maybe a mentor would have been more benefit in the early years as that’s how I now develop managers and leaders within my own organisation.
Throughout your career could you explain what leadership and management development you have undertaken?
The one that would have had the greatest impact would be the MBA at Nottingham University as it helped me to understand the psychology behind being a leader and how to behave differently with different people.
Throughout my career I have attended various training courses and conferences on management and leadership, but in particular I have contributed to various Boards at which I would watch and listen in the early years before feeling knowledgeable enough to contribute myself.
Studying for my MBA in 2001 played a huge part in my learning and development as my cohort was made up of solicitors who all thought they knew how to lead and develop law firms. I joined the cohort feeling very much in awe but after many months of role play as we created and built a ‘model law firm’ they in fact turned out to be great solicitors but hopeless business people or leaders!
My personal development continues on a daily basis as I meet new people and come across new challenges.
What has been the toughest decision you have had to make in the past 6 months?
Over the past 6 months the toughest decision has been a personal one for me as I decided to move to Fishguard for 3 months to help support and develop our staff based there since we acquired their practices 2 years ago. This was a difficult decision as I did not want to move way from my family and friends and was concerned about leaving the team in Swansea headquarters. However, the Fishguard team needed some care and attention to achieve its maximum potential and therefore my final decision was to live in Fishguard Sunday to Wednesday and in Swansea for the rest of the week.
The outcome has been very rewarding as I have been able to help support the team in Fishguard and demonstrate that they are important to JCP, I have met contacts and clients who are equally important to the business and most importantly I have learned so much about the different culture and expectations of the people in Pembrokeshire.
And conversely what is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part of the role of CEO is seeing the positive results that the business is achieving which enables us to invest further in our growth strategy. This enables us to employ more staff and expand our services into new geographical areas thus creating opportunities to develop people further within the business.
With regards to your current role, how would you describe your style of leadership?
My leadership style has been described by others as confident, decisive and inclusive. I do not expect anyone to do anything that I will not do myself. It is very different to my first management role as I was young and inexperienced and thought that management was about telling people what to do. I now spend more time asking others in management roles what we should do and use my experience to help guide them in the right direction.
Listening to feedback from people and seeing how my influence has achieved results has been the biggest driver to how I have changed over the years.
I don’t think that I have modelled myself on any one person however my participation on various boards has given me a broad understanding of how others work and achieve results.
What would you say is your greatest achievement in a leadership role?
Leading the organisation through the tough economical climate and changing the business model to ensure that it was sustainable for the long term.
What would be your top tip to other leaders/managers?
- Treat people as you wish to be treated.
- Be confident in communications and decision making. It’s better to make a decision and get it wrong than not make a decision at all.
- Understand that people are all different and that you need to adjust your style to get the best out of them.
The LMW Team would sincerely like to thank Hayley Davies for this interview.