A Life of Service

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To some, a career, or a ‘job’ as many label it, is a means to an end. A way to earn the money they need to live the life they want to lead. For others, however, their career is more than just a job, it’s a service they devote years of hard work and effort towards.

Charles Wilson very much falls into the latter category. A Solicitor by profession, Charles, in the eyes of his peers, is much more than that, which is a key reason he was recognised as the winner of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management’s Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award at the 2020 British Credit Awards. It’s something he remains very humble about to this day.

“I won the award after 25 years in the industry and whilst it ‘officially’ recognised my achievements, in reality, it was recognition of our business and the people behind it. That was, for me, the most important thing, that these dedicated people who work so hard behind the scenes were recognised for their incredible work. To an extent, I was just the one at the front.”

However, it was Charles’ work with Lovetts Solicitors, the business he founded in 1994 with his partner Paul McCulloch, that started the winning process. At inception, one of the founding principles of the business was changing the way solicitors worked to serve their clients, ensuring they were not only effective but also efficient. It’s been his guiding moral compass.

“I abhorred law firms that were slow and expensive. To me, that’s the exact opposite of what a client wants. When a client is in a difficult position, unpaid debt is a threat to their business.”

This attitude is what ultimately kickstarted Charles’ ‘crusade’, as he describes it, for best practice within the industry, and led to some revolutionary systems put in place to make sure Lovetts’ clients felt not only supported in their endeavours but listened to on a personal level. After all, many of these businesses were the livelihood of their respective owners.

“When it reaches the point at which someone approaches a lawyer for resolution, they turn over a matter that’s incredibly important to them, and they need to know that it’s going to be dealt with quickly and professionally, without impacting their reputation. They also want to know that it won’t cost them an arm and a leg and that they’ll receive transparency throughout.”

This transparency is what led to Lovetts implementing two useful and important systems that its clients would go on to value very heavily: the CaseManager; and simplistic pricing.

“Our goal with CaseManager – which we launched in 2004, but built upon our in-house paperless document system from 1998 - was to give clients a clear view of what was happening with their case and to allow them to see how their money was being spent, not wasted. Every document, every phone call is visible to client. Similarly, our pricing was designed to be clear and unambiguous. Every case charge is visible on CaseManager. Legal measures can be expensive so knowing the cost before you move forward is vital, especially to those business owners looking to us as a last resort.”

This moral compass is something that’s guided both Charles and Lovetts throughout its 25-year history and something the firm still very much believes in, including the staff that now continue to push Lovetts forward after Charles became non-executive chairman.

“We always treated others how we wanted to be treated ourselves, as the award is a true affirmation of that intention and a very important one. Of course, we have clients thanking us for what we’ve done over the years, but to be awarded on a very public stage means so much for me and the team.”

Not only did the win have a profound effect on Charles, but his whole team were also just as elated. So much so that 10 of them went out to support their boss, who was unaware of the win until it was announced. In fact, he was so unaware, that the presence of his wife at the awards ceremony was kept a secret until that very evening.

“I thought to myself, this is really weird, why is my wife here? I’m so used to sitting on the judge's table amongst my fellow judges rather than with my team, that I should have clicked something was up. But I didn’t – it was so unexpected!”

The awards, Charles says, are pivotal to ensuring that the industry stays up-to-date, relevant and more importantly at the tip of the spear when it comes to performing at the highest standard.

“The thing about an industry body awards such as the BCAs is that it encourages people to hold themselves to a higher standard. Only being able to win by ‘being the best’ means individuals and teams perform at their highest level consistently, and subconsciously this raises the standard of the credit industry and those working in it.”

Equally, Charles admits it’s also a fun night out and allows members to reconnect with colleagues, team members and peers within the industry, something that as a former CICM branch chairman, Charles very much looks forward to.

“Besides the stoic benefits for the industry and the persons within it, it’s a great opportunity to see friends and colleagues from all of the industry. Especially as my day to day working schedule is now lighter than it used to be.”

Besides looking forward to this year’s awards, Charles has also taken more time to enjoy the little things in life.

“After winning an award such as the one I did, it gives you a level of appreciation for a long career, almost a full-circle moment. Since stepping into a non-executive role, I’ve been given a greater opportunity to enjoy the little things more, including watching the success of my old teammates on a day-to-day basis, from a distance.”

As well as revelling in the success of his former team, Charles is taking more time with his family – and his motorbike! At the time of our conversation, Charles was gleefully on his way to see his grandchildren in the capital.

Congratulations on your award Charles, enjoy some well-deserved time off with your family and see you on the night!