How Paul Barnes of MAP Became the Go-To Business for 100+ Digital Creative Agencies

Katie Holmes
25th May 2018

Accountants play an important role in any business.

Regardless of their size and purpose.

Some people in the accounting industry are getting frustrated at how little they are truly impacting their client’s businesses.

Cloud accounting made it easier to streamline record keeping and free accountants up to give higher level input into financial strategy and performance, but not many accountants are seizing the opportunity.

Step forward, Paul Barnes. The founder of MAP.

MAP is a niche accountancy firm providing services ranging from bookkeeping to financial advice to over a hundred UK-based digital creative agencies.

Using innovative cloud-based technology, Paul and his team have blended automation, systems and industry expertise to provide a genuine full finance function specifically for the digital creative sector.

The start of Paul’s journey

Like many entrepreneurs, Paul noticed the problems facing his sector while working hard just to make statutory deadlines at the accountancy firms he’d worked for previously.

He felt that much of modern accountancy was focused too heavily on the day-to-day grind of financial reporting tasks, and not enough on using financial and strategic skills to help businesses achieve their full potential.

“I set the business up after having worked for three accountancy firms of various sizes and I became very frustrated at the lack of value we were giving to business owners,” he said.

“It was all about churning work out of the door and not about growing and improving our clients’ businesses. MAP was formed to genuinely become a finance function, working closely with the business to plan and achieve success.”

Once he was free to forge his own path, Paul’s first strategic decision to take was which sector he should specialise in.

The fast-growing creative industry in the UK is believed to be worth almost one hundred billion pounds, and the potential of the sector’s burgeoning digital arm made this an appealing choice for Paul.

“The ability to build digital technology, brands and marketing campaigns allows them to seriously grow businesses so they have a huge opportunity at their hands,” he said.

But it’s not just about financial returns. “I want to make sure that they use that opportunity to build a business that they are proud of and gives them what they want personally,” he adds.

Go proposal: The spin-out offer

Over the course of the 18 months, Paul and his partner, James Ashford, developed a platform that he says, “solved a problem that many accountancy firms face.”

Go Proposal, as it is called, uses the same methodology that contributed to MAP’s success – but packages it up as an application to help other accounting firms gain more clients, price their products better, and develop their service skills.

the story of paul barnes -

As well as a talent for accountancy and a flair for client relations, Paul and the MAP team clearly also have strong digital marketing skills too.

The success of Go Proposal (it now has over 400 firms based in over seven different countries on its books) reflects this.

But what, in Paul’s opinion, does it take to be successful in the digital marketing world, and where should firms looking to copy his example begin?

“We have a lot of marketing channels working for us and we aim to be giving value in as many different places as possible so that when the time is right, an agency will think of us,” he says.

The importance of understanding clients

When building MAP, Paul made the decision early on to focus his energies on working out what his clients wanted and then set about delivering it.

However, one of the major appeals to clients – and potential clients – of Paul and MAP lies in the company’s almost unrivalled sector experience and specialisation.

Running an agency can pose a whole host of financial issues, especially if that agency is operating in the fast-paced digital creative world.

But MAP learned quickly how to remove many of these burdens from the shoulders of agencies struggling with their finances.

By offering the triple whammy of agency-focused financial advice, an efficient financial reporting function and the common grounds of marketing and entrepreneurship, MAP quickly scaled to successful heights.

“We care deeply about helping business owners to be successful because I know what a great feeling it is to have a successful business and I want others to experience the same thing if it’s what they want.” Paul tells us.

“We are able to identify the patterns in agencies. We know what kind of prices, profitability, payment terms, challenges and opportunities they face.” He adds.

But a one-size-fits-all approach is clearly something Paul also seeks to avoid, and the degree of specialisation that MAP offers means that every client gets a bespoke service.

“We are also very careful not just to tarnish every agency with the same brush though,” he clarifies. “Every client is unique so we will advise based on what we learn about their own model, not just based on what everyone else is doing. Having the industry knowledge helps us to get to grips with their business really quickly.”