I worked on… growing a small music business
Published: 28 Sep 2015
I began my career in finance in my early twenties as an accounts assistant at a website design firm in London called Deep Group. I was then recruited as a management accountant by V2 Music – the record label that Sir Richard Branson had founded in 1996 after selling Virgin Records. Its acts at the time included Moby, Madness and the White Stripes.
I started my CIMA studies in 2001 when I was 26 – a little later than most students, but I’d already completed the Association of Accounting Technicians course and had also spent some time travelling. Becoming a CIMA student proved invaluable to me, particularly when I decided to seek a management accounting job in the US, as many potential employers there were familiar with the qualification. I ended up at Artemis Records, a New York label featuring artists such as Boston and the Pretenders. The company sponsored me for a working visa and I was able to complete my studies via distance learning.
In 2006 I joined fashion retailer Net-à-Porter, Name: Sue Chellew ACMA, CGMA CIMA qualified: 2006 Organisation: Spitfire Audio Industry: virtual instrument software Job: financial controller Start date: 2014 End date: ongoing Location: London where I experienced the spectacular growth of its online business. When I started there as a finance manager, the privately owned firm had a workforce of about 100. Six years later, when I left my role as financial controller to have a child, it was part of giant Swiss plc Richemont, employing more than 2,000 people in four locations. My time there was invaluable – I don’t think any other organisation would have given me the chance to work in so many areas. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.
I joined Spitfire Audio in 2014 as the company’s first financial controller. The business creates virtual instrument samples, which are used by some of the world’s most respected musicians. It’s a small enterprise, but it’s growing fast. Last year it decided to bring its accounting in house from an external supplier, so my job initially involved setting up the finance system and designing many of the business’s processes. Now I look after all aspects of finance and management information, from basic purchase invoice entry and bank reconciliation to producing monthly management accounts. It’s great to havean all-round role again and get immersed in the day-to-day running of the company. I’m even involved in HR management matters.
Spitfire Audio’s business is based on its great library of instrumental samples, recorded with artists as diverse as Hans Zimmer, an Oscar-winning composer of film scores, and Chad Smith, the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers – one of the biggest-selling rock bands of all time. The company pays significant royalties to a community of 200 musicians, engineers and technicians. Started in 2007 by Paul Thomson and Christian Henson – award-winning composers themselves – the business has a run-rate turnover of £4m, doubling year to year, and employs eight full-time members of staff, plus a number of freelance contractors. The firm also supports the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef ) – a particularly important charity to me. It gives away samples in return for donations and has become Unicef ’s second-biggest contributor via the JustGiving donation site.
When it comes to considering a job move, I think it’s important to understand which type of organisation and sector best suits your approach. Regardless of your role, it’s so much more enjoyable to work with like-minded colleagues in an environment that’s interesting. The office at Spitfire Audio is very similar to where I’ve worked before – apart from the presence of a pool table. The only thing that I find difficult at times is juggling my career and family responsibilities.
The challenges of working at Spitfire Audio arise from the fact that it’s a small company just starting out on its journey. Setting up systems from scratch and putting the right processes in place have required a lot of careful planning. As the business continues to grow, the next big task will be to use the depth of market information we now possess to provide timely, detailed intelligence that will enable the company to prioritise its efforts and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.
The company has big plans, expecting to double in size annually for the next few years. I relish the task of ensuring that we build on the foundations we’ve established by continuing to provide all the insights required to help the firm achieve its full potential.
Name: Sue Chellew ACMA,CGMA
CIMA qualified: 2006
Organisation: Spitfire Audio
Industry: virtual instrument software
Job: financial controller
End date: ongoing