We are Practice was founded by Nick Maynard, a Chartered Accountant, and strategist who has worked in the creative industries for over a decade across retail, e-commerce, tech, and not-for-profit. He noticed a gap in the market for a radically new sort of support system for start-up founders in the creative industries. Recognizing the need for professional services to evolve and support the booming creative economy, Nick launched Practice in 2019 to bring first-class, integrated, and affordable support to founders of exciting high-potential creative brands.
Nick qualified at KPMG where he worked with retail and financial services clients. In 2009 he tore it all up to study the history of art at the Courtauld Institute which kick-started a decade of working in leadership roles at a number of major creative and cultural brands.
On Starting Practice I’d spent a long time working in the creative industries, I qualified as an accountant, and I’ve worked in the cultural sector and in the creative industries, I had seen the transformative power of working with creatives and helping them to kind of Marshal ideas bring them to life. And it was always super exciting to be the person in the room who rather than being the kind of traditional faceless accountant bureaucrat, really understood the vision and potential.
I started practice two years ago more or less to the day after I left the art fund. I started practice because I could see the Creative Industries was booming, and people were finally starting to get behind the marriage of creativity and business. Creative Entrepreneurs had begun in its first iteration, and the Creative Industries Federation had also launched, so it felt timely and a moment where my skill set could really make a difference to this group.
On Practices model What we do is a little different to some accountant firms as we are boutique and our offering is a little more expansive working across finance, but legal and HR. Our model is more of an incubation model where we are invested in a few clients but very much for the long term, supporting them scale.
How working around creative people shaped Nicks choices Before working in an accountancy firm full time, I spent half a year studying and working across the North Wing of Somerset House, and if you aren’t aware of that space it’s got huge historical context, hundreds of artists studios filled with makers and designers and artists, a rolling exhibition program and live events. It’s simply a really vibrant and creative space to be, nestled in the heart of London against a backdrop of some of the hugest banking corporations in the country. That whole time was really inspirational to me and opened up my eyes to working in the Creative Industries.
On falling in love with culture I sort of fell in love with the cultural sector. I wasn’t an academic or an art historian but once I had studied at the Courtauld I knew I wanted to move into museums and galleries on the financial side. I worked with spaces like The British Museum which is a huge organisation, through doing this I was able to understand how a large cultural space worked, the culture and the individuals within it, and all on an international scale. I was then able to take those learnings and apply them to a number of start-up-type roles I took, including one with Art Fund. So essentially I was able to apply ideas in lots of different scales of business, to gain a broader understanding of how everything works and ultimately what sort of problems need to be solved.
On calculating the risk Running a business always comes with a certain amount of risk but understanding your finances can help you better understand that risk, and when and if to take it. We know that risk is there, but how can we help our clients take calculated, safe risks rather than running on intuition as a guide alone.
On building the right relationship with your accountant When choosing an accountant, at any stage of your business or as a freelancer it’s important to go into the conversation knowing what you want and what help you specifically need from them because when it works well this person should be an extension to your business. What we do at Practice, is that we aim to take the emotional burden from off a founder by wearing some of those problems ourselves and putting that strategic thinking where it needs to be, of course, this can lead to some sleepless nights from us but we love that, it allows us to as entrepreneurs too across a variety of exciting creative businesses.
And yes, you still need a business plan Our best advice is, when planning a business then think about your finances in the context of your whole business plan. So your business plan includes your concept, your audience, partners and other resources and finance should be one of those resources too. I know I should say, the first thing you should do is get an accountant but I don’t actually think that, I think it’s more important to stress test the idea with friends and peers first to really get that part right, then with that robust information go to an accountant with a plan.
When to seek an accountant A good time to consider talking to an accountant is around pre-launch because at that point you fully understand the business and what your small, medium and longer-term goals are. At this stage you will likely find that yes, there are a lot of resources to support you to grow your business, however, the amount of time it takes to find it and learn it, and of course that information is changing all the time, so this is a good point to get help – the right person will be able to help you navigate tax breaks and other schemes that might apply in your country.
On getting the basics of what your business needs, nailed So when you start to think about your business finances it’s good to think about your running costs so how much does it cost to run your business month on month, this might include such as a studio space, or materials you need to buy to make a product, freelancers and things like that. Once you understand what you need you can look at how much your living costs are which is your rent and bills, food and drink and anything else you need to live, by adding those two costs together you’ll start to have an understanding of how much money you need to make for your business to do well, and then you can scale up from there. But having an understanding of that figure is really important so that you can define things like your day rate, or project rate or how much you sell a specific item for, or how many you need to sell at minimum. I advise getting those numbers down in a spreadsheet and from there you will be able to see how to make your business flow. It can be useful to use an online financial forecast template to see how your business might run 3,6,12 months based on the predictions you can now make.
Feeling stuck on how to scale? Try this trick One of the things we do with our clients is we ask them to write their current job description and then their future job description. You can then see what knowledge and skills they might need to jump from one to the other with ease – It becomes a really visual way of setting goals and seeing how you might want to scale a business.
Remembering finance isn’t boring, it’s the backbone of your business Bookkeeping isn’t boring if you get into a good habit with it and stick to it. The reason why people struggle is that they wait until it’s too late to get help, or support making it a real chore and sometimes an expensive one too. Getting into some regular habits will help: keeping receipts, using software like quick books and Xero, and setting up a business account are all great starts.
When to get legal counsel The most important area to consider here is how to protect yourself and your business when working with clients, or partnering up with another business on a project, and so on. Make sure you have everything in writing and that work is clearly outlined in advance with potential business actions, and that you have some basic terms or a basic contract to protect you if things do go wrong.
When working Nick likes to listen to Otegha Uwagba’s podcast ‘In Good Company’ he also loves the FT Culture Call podcast and, Up with the Lark podcast, by Calandra Orton.
Nick highly recommends Courier Magazine’s ‘How to Start a Business’ edition is a nice bite-size precis of the things you need to consider when getting started as well as, Money: A User’s Guide – Laura Whateley
Do Protect Legal Advice for Startups byJonathan Rees and Open Up by Alex Holder.
Want to learn more? Listen to the full event on the Soundcloud link below