Nick Lawrence

Our big-thinking accountant Nick Lawrence is unlike any accountant you’ve met, working creatively with you over the long-term in a way that goes well beyond cold numbers and spreadsheets. From basic book-keeping to royalties and foreign assets, he is essentially a finance director in a box.

As Nick says himself: ‘Think of an accountant. Actually, don’t. Because who you’ll think of won’t be us. You’ll think about someone else. Someone who sees a cash register, not a client. Someone for whom time is money. That’s not us. Yes, we’ll have all the same letters after our name. Probably the same certifications on our walls. (Every now and then we’ll even wear a tie.) But that’s where it ends. There’s no paper shuffling (everything we do is cloud-based). There’s no filibustering (everything we do is on retainer). And there’s no bean counting. Because we’re accountants who actually care what our clients do.’

We have a cracking interview with Nick here talking music, failure, talent-spotting and the importance of connection and good relationships in business

Tell us a little bit about what you do, Nick.

We are a team of business managers, accountants and advisors doing everything our clients need from paying bills and collecting income, to setting up virtual accounts departments for them, handling all their finances. As accountants, we make sure they meet requirements – as advisors, we make sure they make the most of what they’ve got.

You specialise in music and the entertainment industry. How did that come about?

It’s something I’ve always been passionate about. I’ve been going to gigs and music nights pretty much every week for 40 years. I set up a record label and also worked as a DJ, nationally and internationally, albeit quite badly! I don’t DJ anymore – no one wants to see a grey-haired man with his vinyl in the corner – but I’ve been able to turn my love for it into a different kind of career instead. It’s good to have a niche. You can recruit based on specific knowledge, experience and passion to make sure service delivery is amazing. It’s great to have reputation within a sector which ultimately attracts a premium.

Does this passion influence how you work with clients? 

We work with everyone across the industry, from emerging artists to international touring bands, big labels, music publishers, festivals and promoters, and I really see it as being part of our job to help them reach their aspirations. We are able to connect different clients together when we can see potential for them to collaborate or help each other – match talent with management for example, or link festival organisers up with new bands.

What does the day to day look like for you?

Day to day in this job is wonderful… and crazy! You never know what it’s going to be. You could be anywhere and everywhere. I like that though. Routine can be a bit depressing. You only get one shot at life, so being all over the place is something I embrace.

What challenges do you face in your work?

One challenge for us, particularly in the entertainment vertical, is recruiting individuals who are emotionally invested in what we do. You want them to be passionate and emotionally engaged and love it as much as we do.

How have you seen accountancy change over the years?

Accountancy as an industry in general is woefully inadequate. It has been operating in the same traditional manner since the dawn of time. It undervalues communication and service values. There are still accountants out there who are buying quill pens and failing to grasp the importance of actually talking to clients and providing transparency and building relationships. It has been struggling for relevance for a long time, largely because accountancy businesses are often run by accountants.

How does that impact on people?

People don’t call their accountant because they know the clock starts as soon as they ring, and they’ll be invoiced for the call. So they wing it. They can then make bad decisions that affect them and their business.

How have you tried to break that established model?

By putting relationships with our clients first and making sure everything is open and transparent between us. We are entirely Cloud-based, so all clients have access to their accounting records and can see what’s going on all the time. We set up monthly retainers with clients, so they aren’t afraid they will be invoiced for every additional thing. They get a direct helpline and call any time for free. Our retainers are often pegged to affordability. It’s one way we try to support the industry by nurturing new talent.

How does that work? 

My ears have become good at spotting talent and determining if it has legs or not. It is a form of investment in an artist to offer them a cheaper or more realistic retainer at first, that grows as they agree. For example, in 2016, I went to see a musician called Tom Grennan play to 60 people. I knew he’d go somewhere so we charged him nothing because he had nothing. Sure enough, two years later, he sold out Brixton Academy and is headlining the Royal Albert Hall – and now everyone is winning.
You have to have that approach, or it will affect a client’s ability to progress their talent and that is most important thing in life.

What have your highlights been so far? 

Establishing a record label and DJing internationally was a high point for me personally, as was growing my previous IT services business and taking it through to a trade sale. With my current company, it felt good to be named one of top 25 accountants in the music industry recently.

Has failure ever helped you to be better at business?

Absolutely! For one, failure gives you a manageable base of anxiety that is essential in business. It’s great to have at least one failure. I established a business in the dullest sector possible – disaster recovery – and the irony was, it was an absolute disaster! But I was cocky, off the back of another business selling successfully, and I needed grounding from things going wrong.

What advice do you have?

Love everyone! Respect all your relationships, both internally and externally. Show people you care and you are passionate about what you do – you’ll find, a lot of the time, it comes back. You breed advocacy and that generates growth and all the benefits if managed properly. Show love to people you work with. That’s a winner.

Where do you think your sector will be in 10 years’ time?

I’d hope the accountancy sector will be in better place, and businesses and accountants within that have a better idea of service delivery and value for money. I think the music industry will still be in rude health. And whatever the changes are, I know I’ll still be embracing them.

Want to find out more?