As I chatted with Kay Lewington over coffee one morning, I could almost hear her personal soundtrack playing as she spoke —Whitney Houston, “I’m Every Woman,” complete with a montage of gorgeous ladies executing perfect choreography while impeccably dressed. Kay’s personal résumé reads like the character profile of “strong female lead protagonist” in a blockbuster film. She and her husband run CTS Systems, one of the largest travel data management corporations in the world. In addition to serving as director of CTS, she’s also a former British intelligence officer, an experienced midwife, a mother of three, accomplished in martial arts and part of the A/V ministries at North Point Community Church. Kay embraces every challenge thrown her way, hungry for the wisdom that comes with a variety of experiences. She’s using her gifts and honoring the journey before her in a way that encourages others to also be fully present in their own lives. She’s a jolt of energy on her own … no caffeine required! Join our conversation today.
What do you love most about the United States, and what do miss most about England? Have there been any cultural differences that have surprised you?
Honestly? Everything! I have loved everything American since I watched Starsky & Hutch as a child and thought I would end up marrying Paul Michael Glaser. I miss plain old English sense of humor. It is different, and you have to be a Brit living here to understand that. I miss certain food items that just cannot be recreated here (I should open a shop) and, of course, I miss my family.
What are some of the challenges you and your husband have faced building this company?
The competition has increased dramatically over the years. It seems that everyone wants to be top dog … no room for anyone else … join them or be beaten. We have done neither. This year was particularly harsh, as we lost our building to a fire in February. We rebuilt, and with the help of friends and colleagues, we emerged stronger and better than ever. Let’s hope that continues to flourish.
Part of your success comes from the relationships you’ve established, both externally with clients and internally with employees. What leadership skills do you find yourself leaning on time and again?
I worked for the British Army at a young age, serving in Germany and England. I had to learn how to deal with people at all levels from all walks of life, giving me a strong foundation in my most formative years. Recently, when my husband and I attended a conference where Andy Stanley was speaking, we connected with an organization called GiANT. What an amazing leadership program this is … “Know Yourself to Lead Yourself.” If you lead a team, you are doing an injustice to yourself to not get involved.
You’ve also developed a close working relationship with North Point Community Church. How do you serve in that ministry?
Not long after visiting and then attending North Point on a regular basis, I was taken aback by what I deemed as a first-class operation, run so smoothly and efficiently that I wanted to be a part of it. I applied and have been part of the production team running a stationary camera and serving as a speaker host for about four years now. You will not come across a finer group of people, both serving and attending.
We’re always searching for tips on work/life balance. Offer up some of your thoughts!
If you change what you do to please and accommodate others, you will make yourself unhappy and frustrated. Stick to what motivates you. That doesn’t mean let everyone else suffer; that means if you forget about you, you will be less productive for and with others.
Who have been your greatest mentors? What tidbits of advice do you cling to?
A South African midwife I worked with … she couldn’t understand why we tried so hard in the UK not to deliver a breech baby. As she put it, “Do you think we stop to turn the baby while we are delivering in the bush?” She impressed me. If we’re naming names, Colonel J.J. Glover, Brigadier Peter McDonald and WO1 McLachlan all believed in me. And, of course, my husband, because he’s cool. For advice, it’s an old adage, but please try to treat others as you would wish to be treated. That’s a hard thing to remember to do when you are in the moment, but such an important one.
How and when did you discover martial arts training? What are the benefits of this discipline for you?
We started martial arts to try and help with the discipline for our then-4-year-old (she and ballet did not mix!). Then we all got involved, so we could do something as a family. I am not a fan of feet, so it was hard for me to even be in the dojo. We were fortunate enough to find a world champion to train us. Now, I am hooked, wishing I was better at it and training for my third degree.
The holiday season has rolled in. Tell us about your family’s holiday traditions.
Pretty much the same as everyone else. In England, we do midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and I do miss that here. We open presents Christmas morning, stuff our faces with Christmas dinner, collapse, watch TV and then do it all again on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) at someone else’s house.
Give us your guilty pleasure song that you belt out in the car or dance around to in the kitchen.
Kylie Minogue, “Spinning Around”
When family and friends visit from across the pond, where do you take them around Atlanta — shopping, dining, sights?
They love to eat. As many steak restaurants as possible. Atlanta is interesting, eclectic and diverse. They are all Londoners, so it’s sort of a bigger London with accents. All the malls! Stone Mountain, World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium. We try to get to beaches like Hilton Head or places in Florida.
What’s in your travel carry-on bag?
Melatonin, ibuprofen, children’s ibuprofen, wipes, laptop and probably loads of snacks.
Do you have some bucket list travel destinations?
I have to take my family to Germany. They so desperately want to see where I worked. But for me personally, Iceland, Moscow and I must get to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Other than family, friends and your faith, what are three things you can’t live without?
Working out, the dog and TV.
Kay, you are truly a women of many talents and dynamic spirit! Thanks for sharing your strength with us.