The CEO of growing law firm Napthens has unveiled her template for growth.

Alexandra Hatchman was born in Spain, studied in France, and has lived and worked in Australia, Belgium, Spain and the US.

After returning to the UK in 2016, she joined Fletchers Solicitors, and in her five years with the firm helped drive turnover from £18m to £45m and helped cement it as one of the UK’s Top 100 law firms.

She’s also held senior roles at Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Accenture in the UK before joining Napthens in February 2022.

Hatchman told TechBlast’s latest Going 4 Growth roundtable that she has a number of golden rules for leadership.

“My background is an engineer and I apply the same principles in business,” she said. “I then worked in consulting, which is all about problem solving. I guess my brain is wired in that way.

“I tend to go bottom up and top down at the same time. What I mean by that is it’s about getting the basics right.

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“It’s important to do everything right, every time and doing it better and better by 1% every day. It’s about the marginal gains that the cycling supremo Sir David Brailsford spoke about. You can go a long, long way when you do that.

Obsess about your customers

“You have to obsess about your customer. You have to understand how to serve them out and why they would want to buy from you. For me that whole customer obsession is absolutely paramount.”

In her previous role she used data from Experian to better understand the needs and behaviour of her customers.

“We are living in a world of machine learning and AI,” she said.

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“I see a lot of businesses that kind of try and operate on instinct. I think that’s really good in many ways and a lot of founders have been really successful doing that.

“My challenge to them would be ‘yes, use your instinct, but then also use the data. Why don’t you use both of those and plug them together?’

“The world is changing so fast that your instincts which have been fine-tuned on history may not be serving you right.”

Hatchman said when businesses go from startup to scale-up they have to get the right foundations in place.

Remember the bottom line

“We all know that businesses all too often will go bust while they’re growing, which always surprises me,” she said.

“They go bust while they’re growing because they focus so heavily on the top line. They forget about the bottom line and they forget about cash.

“When you’re growing really fast, you have to take care of those foundations, because your weakest link is going to be exposed.”

Napthens currently has a turnover of £20m and when it comes to recruitment, Hatchman’s advice is to recruit the best.

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“I would always rather have five A’s in my team rather than 15 B and C players,” she explained. “I can absolutely move mountains with five A players but I can’t with 15 B and C players.

“When you recruit attitude is very important because skills you can teach.”

Hatchman said being seen as a human being is vital in leadership – which is where her reputation for telling bad jokes comes in.

“Your CV is one thing, but actually it’s how you do business,” she said. “You have to inspire people and they have to want to work for you. It’s an employee’s market so there is fierce competition out there. People join businesses and they leave bosses.

“Before I joined Napthens I went and visited multiple offices and introduced myself in person. I then reached out to every single person on LinkedIn, which obviously took some time and I wrote them an individual email personally.

“The last thing that I do, which I am absolutely known for, is I tell really bad jokes. As a leader, stuff like that really humanises you. My jokes are so bad that they’re funny.

“My mantra is to lead people with a wise head, with a kind heart and with strong backbone and use them in that order. You only use strength if you need to. But if you use wisdom first and then kindness second, that will take you an awfully long way.”