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Hayley Brightmore, Knight TS

Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Hayley Brightmore, Knight TS

Hayley Brightmore is the founder of Knight Transaction Services (Knight TS). She is driving the development of the start-up business, building an experienced and capable team, and growing the firm as it approaches it’s one year mark. In everything she does, Hayley strives to prove herself as a leader and self-starter, able to adapt and take on both managerial and creative roles. 

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I’ve spent the last ten years working in Transaction Services with two ‘Top 10’ multinational accountancy firms. I have worked with businesses at pre-profit stage right through to those with revenues of more than £500m – so I’ve had exposure to different types of clients, sectors and deal sizes.

I’m proud to say that Knight TS is the first female-led financial advisory team in the North West of England, supporting owner-managers, corporate acquirers, banks and private equity firms during the mergers and acquisitions process. We have offices in the North West and in London, but our client base spans the UK. Our team’s services include buy-side due diligence, vendor due diligence, vendor assistance and other bid support services.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

Although I was progressing professionally within a large organisation, I realised that I particularly enjoyed working on mid-market (sub £20m transaction size) deals, as these tended to be more personal and better suited to my ‘less corporate’ personality. The target businesses I’d be looking at were typically still owned by the person (or family or team) that originally founded them, and my clients tended to have a genuine passion to buy or invest in them. 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 deals of this size. Because the products offered by the existing Transaction Services teams were within large accountancy practices, the fees being charged didn’t work for this size of customer. To me, this was a sweet spot with huge potential.

How did you achieve awareness?

We decided to run a PR campaign when we launched, targeting regional business press, relevant sectors and professional titles.  My influence is reflected in the wider PR activity I have been involved with and media attention I have received since launching Knight TS. I have written a number of thought leadership articles and have contributed to multiple features in regional and wider business publications. I also try to be an active voice on LinkedIn.

PR has helped me to communicate our key messages, both in terms of the services Knight TS offers and the culture of our organisation – examples can be seen here: Intelligent CXO and Vestd.com.

In terms of clients, I brought my established private equity relationships into the business and, since launch, have worked directly with clients backed by companies including Graphite Capital, LDC, Foresight Private Equity, YFM, Boost, Maven, and Pelican Capital. As I’ve become more well known and respected in the market, smaller PE houses increasingly know they can trust Knight TS’s product – that it will be one of quality and one which better suits their requirements.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

The ideas for what a mid-market Transaction Services firm could look like had already started taking shape for me, when I was approached by the founders of Knight Corporate Finance in late 2020. They understood the vision and gave me their backing, and six months later Knight Transaction Services was launched. Our ethos is to work closely with clients to fully understand their needs and create a bespoke and flexible service that delivers on the areas that are most important to them.

What are the key successes?

On a personal level, I recently won the Manchester Young Talent Awards ‘Entrepreneur of the year’ which was fantastic! As for Knight TS, the company has already achieved and exceeded its Year One targets after the first six months of trading. This exceptional growth has led to two new members of staff coming on board 6-12 months earlier than anticipated.

Launching the business with the support of my brilliant all-female leadership team, who share the same vision as me, has been a key success factor – they truly are an inspiration to me.

Together we have received great client feedback – which feels like a real validation for the reasons behind launching the business. We have received numerous referrals and recommendations from senior leaders and business owners, for example:

  • “Hayley is an exceptional talent in the world of transaction services having demonstrated a broad skillset. She is equally adept at interrogating management information, providing insightful analysis and simplifying complexity. We have found her work incredibly useful and would highly recommend her.”

Adam Sivner, Director, GCA Altium

  • “We engaged Knight (Vendor Assist) to ensure we were prepared for our eventual exit. Knight allowed us to realise the wealth we had locked up in the business with plenty of upside as part of the team at Kerv.”
    James Passingham, Founder of Foehn Limited, following the merger with DoubleEdge Professional Services Limited to create LDC backed Kerv Group.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

I think learning to switch off and make time for yourself is important. It’s hard to ever turn down work when you’re an entrepreneur, as anything you can’t fit in feels like an opportunity lost. I’ve definitely developed a tougher mental attitude since starting Knight TS. It’s also a huge journey of confidence when something doesn’t quite go to plan, and you realise the buck stops with you for everything.

What are your plans now/for the future?

I would love Knight TS to be recognised as a highly regarded due diligence provider, rivalling the big corporates in the North West for mid-market clients, in the next 3-5 years. I also have ambitions to grow the team to 10-15 people within that time frame.

I will also continue to advocate for an alternative working agenda, where flexibility with responsibility is key – with the aim of nurturing happy employees and empowering more women to enter the profession.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

To believe in yourself and develop a thick skin! You’ll never get universal buy in or support, or even approval – it will be your self-belief that carries you through the tough and stressful times. But to build and develop something in your way is more than worth it in terms of reward and self-achievement.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Make sure there is a market for your product, a passionate team and (here comes the accountant….) a well thought out business plan! Remember your business plan is always evolving, so make sure to check in with it every now and then – you may be surprised how much your vision has changed from before you started the business.

Also, at least just once- ask yourself ‘what’s the best that could happen’ rather than the opposite.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

My two senior leaders, Erin & Jenny, as their belief in me and the risks they took to come on the Knight TS journey with me, inspires me to drive the business to success.

My husband as he took a huge leap of faith in his career and left a stable position to set up on his own in a completely different sector to mine! His confidence, commitment and work ethic inspires me daily.

One of my closest friends inspires me to believe anything is do-able with a positive mental attitude – she’s currently completely changing her career to achieve her dream of being a history teacher which means working for a degree and funding it with hospital shift work while being a mum to two children under five! Her mental attitude and tenacity is second to none.

And Amanda Brown of the Leading Ladies Company – her mentorship and chats have helped me to strive for more and test my own barriers

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

‘Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes’ – Maggie Kuhn

‘If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore’ – Michele Ruiz

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?