An Interview with Lorna McKeown, Business Administrator at Summers-Inman

Q. How long have you worked for Summers-Inman?

6 years

Q. How did you get into your current role?

Actually, I had retired but more on that later!

I grew up in Campbeltown, a small village on the Mull of Kintyre but I was desperate to go and live in a big city. I studied hotel management at college in Glasgow, left there on the Friday and started my first job the following Monday. I started my career at a computing bureau, was promoted quickly and ended up working in construction, where I met my husband.  We decided to set up our own business in civil engineering and did that successfully from 1979 until 1996 when he retired- and so I had to!

But retirement wasn’t for me, there are only so many lunches you can go to. I originally started at Summers-Inman covering maternity leave, but three months after the contract finished, I was back again- and I’ve been here ever since!

Q. You are responsible for business administration for the Newcastle office and beyond, can you tell us a bit more about your role?

Well, I guess you could say I keep everything running. I make sure the Directors are looked after, I make sure reception ticks over and I manage all the invoicing and credit control, so I look after the pennies too!

Q. What does a typical day look like?

I work on multiple projects at any given time, so no two days are the same. Whilst most of my work is centred around the Newcastle office, our team are always on hand to help any of the other offices if they have queries or need support. We make sure that all the behind-the-scenes stuff ticks over nicely.

Q. What would you say is the most important aspect of your role?  

Keeping everything organised and making sure everyone knows what they should be doing and when! Communication is important, but I think organisation is the most important part of what I do. Thankfully, I love to keep things organised. I left home at 16 so pretty much had to fend for myself and learn how to keep things in order.

Q. From your own experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

I think the industry is at a stage where there are a lot of people retiring and companies need new blood to come up through the ranks. It’s great to see more people early in their career and women in the industry. Summers-Inman really promotes a culture that means young people can learn from those with more experience and vice versa!

Brexit and covid have obviously had an impact on the industry but the big one is going to be carbon neutral- and how that translates for our clients.

Q. What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the industry?

Pick up the phone and ask for some work experience- there really is no better way! Theory is great but practice is better!

Q. What’s it like working for Summers-Inman?

It’s great. I will be here as long as I am happy and healthy-and they will have me! Honestly, I enjoy it every day. The team is great and there’s a supportive culture here. Everyone who comes through these doors is given the same amount of support. When my husband wasn’t well, I was given as much time and flexibility as I needed to deal with that- that’s just the way it is here.  

Q. And finally, what would career plan B have been?

Well apart from running a farm with my husband, helping him get certified with the Jockey Club as a racehorse trainer and fostering RSPCA large animals and dogs, I would have liked to be a historian. I guess I am nosy and I love to travel, so if I could have combined the two that would have been ideal!

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