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Sarah Lawrance’s love for inventiveness has birthed a very unique accounting and bookkeeping practice for creative companies.
Ms Lawrance started her career in SMSF auditing on the Central Coast, but after realising that it wasn’t for her, she got to thinking about how to combine her passion for creativity and her talent for numbers. Having decided to promptly exit auditing, Ms Lawrance became involved in documentary making and found herself falling in love with the art of storytelling.
“I was 23 at the time and I thought, what is the most interesting industry I could find. That question landed me at Film Australia acting as the production/management accountant. This role allowed me to peer into the world of TV production and from there I fell in love with the art of storytelling,” she recalls.
Her admiration of the creative industry eventually took her across to London, where she perfected the art of finance working in one of the UK’s most exciting production companies.
“Working in the UK documentary industry allowed me to stretch my skillset and really helped me to understand that being financially and commercially minded in a room of creatives was just as important as any other role in the production process,” Ms Lawrance says.
Upon her return, she landed in children’s television and then moved into one of Australia’s fastest growing production companies.
Ms Lawrance says that it was her varied experience that highlighted the gaps in the industry and led her to launch her own company, Hot Toast. “Why shouldn’t a small or medium sized creative company have the same level of support from their external outsourced finance function as a bigger creative company?” she asked herself at the time.
Although Hot Toast was a name enthused by a few drinks, Ms Lawrance admits, she always had an underlying desire to create a brand that spoke directly to the creative industries. “I wanted to ensure that every touch point Hot Toast had with the industry made its clients feel like we understood them because we were one of them,” she notes.
A quirky bookkeeping and accounting practice, Hot Toast has a creative soul but a sharp, numbers orientated mind. Ms Lawrance says that 95 per cent of her clients are production companies and digital, design or full-service agencies.
“I always knew that I wanted to be specifically involved in the creative industries, it’s what I absolutely love. I think there is something really beautiful about the art of storytelling and being a finance person, being able to be part of that process and really help and drive growth from that position,” she says.
Hot Toast is slightly over three years old and despite its short time on the market, it has achieved plenty. Just this year, Ms Lawrance received an award for CFO of the Year at the Australian Accounting Awards.
Nurturing love for business
Ms Lawrance’s love for business actually began in her living room, in front of the TV, at a tender age of eight.
“Dad was actually a general manager of one of the big companies back in the day. So, every Sunday morning we watched Business Sunday together and I just thought it was fascinating. The whole idea of being able to build something, I was all in on that,” she says.
“I ﬁnd the ﬁnance and business aspect of everything, the data driven analysis, really fascinating. You literally have a toolset that you can then apply to real-world cases. We have a real opportunity with the technology and access to different data sets today as accountants and bookkeepers to help our clients drive efﬁciencies and help them on their business journey towards success.
“I love people as well, I love clients, all of their stories and everything that comes with it.” Being commercially focused, Hot Toast also provides CFO services to its clients.
“I think that what our expectations are of a CFO now, compared to even ﬁve or 10 years ago, is very different. Having the ability to use our commercial background and take a holistic advisory approach to our clients’ business allows us to make an impact,” Ms Lawrance says.
She adds that her clients really appreciate the understanding Hot Toast has for the industry and the pain points that can be common across this section of the market. As for the future, Ms Lawrance believes exciting things are on the horizon for bookkeepers and accountants.
“I really feel there is an opportunity out there at the moment. I feel like somewhere between the accountants and the bookkeepers, there is a huge amount of demand on the market from small and medium businesses that really want those CFO services. That want to understand the story the numbers are telling,” Ms Lawrance concludes.
“Bookkeepers and accountants are in a really good position in terms of being able to leverage into these services.”