This year Accuracy Matters is celebrating its first decade in business. So how did we get here? Rachel Nixon shares the origin story of the company.
A passion for words
Director and Founder at Accuracy Matters Rachel Davis (now Nixon) already had a well-established passion for reading and writing by the time she departed for university. After graduating from Oxford with an MA in philosophy and theology, Rachel took a job at a small publishing house Darton, Longman and Todd, where she quickly learned the ropes.
As editorial assistant and then editor, Rachel trained throughout her time in publishing, perfecting her proofreading, editing and copy-editing skills, and learning about contracts and publishing law. ‘It was a fantastic grounding in management and business as well as publishing,’ she explains.
After nearly four years with this specialist publisher, in 2004 Rachel’s search for a new challenge led her to a position as a proofreader and copy-editor at the Central Office of Information (COI) which was an executive agency of the Cabinet Office, and functioned as a vast marketing and communications agency for government.
‘Going from publishing, which involved a fast-moving blend of different elements, to a job focused soley on intensive proofreading was a really big adjustment,’ recalls Rachel. ‘I had to learn how to navigate a very intense working environment with constant pressure on schedules and budgets.’ Rachel also had to get up to speed with specific knowledge required for the job, from the machinery of government to the language of politics and politicians: it was a steep learning curve. ‘It took a few weeks to find my rhythm, but once I got the hang of how to adjust my routine I really loved it,’ recalls Rachel. ‘It was really like being at the heart of a big media agency, more than anything, albeit a very specific agency.’
In her time at COI, Rachel helped to produce some of the most high-profile and complex documents to come out of government between 2005 and 2011. These included The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the swine flu leaflet which went out to every house in the country, and the fascinating Civil Contingencies Guidance, which contains some extremely secret material. Rachel honed her management skills in this fast-moving environment and was promoted to team leader: ‘I never stopped learning,’ she remembers.
Going it alone
2010 saw the new coalition government bring in sweeping changes across the Civil Service, and there were immediately concerns within COI about the future of the agency; these fears were well founded, and COI was disbanded in 2012.
Luckily, Rachel and her colleagues had had some time to plan their next steps, and had decided they were ready to set up on their own. That year Accuracy Matters was born. As it turned out, there was no shortage of demand from government departments, who now had to outsource important and sensitive work to individuals they trusted. And, happily, after declaring themselves open for business in February 2012, AM was in profit within its first year of incorporation.
Operating with a team of five staff and a pool of experienced freelancers, the company quickly grew its reputation as a boutique agency providing bespoke editorial services to an illustrious set of clients, from government departments to large communications agencies.
Their specialist experience worked in their favour: the team knew exactly which protocols had to be in place when working on public inquiries, for instance. ‘These projects require a really specific approach,’ according to Rachel. ‘They are truly massive in size – and require appropriate processes, systems and behaviours to manage the sheer volume of data involved.’ Accuracy Matters quickly found work on a stream of high-profile reports including the Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, the Hillsborough Independent Panel and The Iraq Inquiry.
The business then went on to win new corporate contracts working for large communications agencies, and smaller organisations and charities who needed AM to finesse everything from annual reports to menus and cinema listings. ‘We worked our socks off from day one: we did everything ourselves, we had no overheads and we didn’t pay ourselves for many months, but it was worth it,’ explains Rachel.
Looking back now, it’s interesting to see how ahead of its time AM was: from day one, the business was staffed by a fully remote team complemented by an elite group of freelancers they could pull onto projects as and when they were needed.
Apart from the bread-and-butter work of proofreading, copy-editing and editing, AM also expanded over the following years to be able to offer everything from creating original and repurposed content to working on brand language, messaging and tone of voice and providing bespoke in-house training for clients. Their staff can work in-house with a client if that’s what is required, or remotely.
From the outset the business has always looked after the wellbeing of employees: ‘As a women-owned and women-led company, we were adamant that we didn’t want to create a burnout culture,’ explains Rachel. ‘Work–life balance is really important, and we always make a point of prioritising the wellbeing of our team, many of whom are mums and dads or want to have some form of flexible working built into their days.’
The next 10 years
As AM celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Rachel attributes the success of the past decade to the fact that the business has been agile from the outset: ‘We have always been able to turn on a sixpence,’ she points out. ‘We can scale up or down quickly, depending on what the work requires, and our fantastic team of freelancers never let us down: it’s all been about building up relationships which you can count on for years to come.
‘Words are about impact, and so are we as a business. Hopefully the next decade will see Accuracy Matters continue to grow, and to further step up the positive impact we want to make in the world.’