Episode 167 – Nick Levine

Nick writes restaurant reviews and travels



Nick built up his writing and his accounting career at the same time. In some ways, they can even go hand in hand. This started because he began writing newsletters featuring reviews of local hot spots for the office! Overall, the progression of both his career and hobby seem natural.

In this episode, Nick tells John of this natural buildup of his accounting and writing as well as the perks of his writing in both his personal and professional life.

Nick is Head of Enterprise at ICAEW, where he leads the strategy of supporting ICAEW members that work within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and represent them within the media and in Government.

Episode Highlights

• Why Nick got into accounting
• How Nick got into writing professionally
• Travel perks of his writing
• How developing a routine and discipline through his accounting jobs benefits him in productivity with his writing
• How Nick used his writing to start networking within the company
• How Nick improved his business development and sales skills through his writing
• Why Nick feels that it is up to the organization to promote a more open culture

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    Hello, this is John Garrett and welcome to Episode 167 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in that stereotypically boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in your college degrees and certifications, sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that will make you better at your job.

    Really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s super short one-minute anonymous survey about Corporate Culture and how the Green Apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com, click that big, green button there, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and I really appreciate your help. It will be for the book I’m releasing actually pretty soon. Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the shows. You don’t miss any of the cool guests, like this week’s Nick Levine. He’s the Head of Enterprise at the ICAEW which is, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Nick, I’m super excited you were able to take time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Nick: Thanks for having me John. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    John: Absolutely, man. Before we jump in and we start with the fun, I figure we might as well run through the 17 rapid-fire questions. Just blow the doors open right out of the gate here and just get to know Nick on a next level basis. I know you’re friends with Bobby Chadha, who was a guest on the show, so I know you’re good people but I still got to run you through the tests. Here we go. Here we go. All right. First one, do you have a favorite color?

    Nick: I think, yellow.

    John: Yellow. Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?

    Nick: I don’t have one, sorry.

    John: Okay, no problem, man. No problem at all. All of them. Just in case, we’re listening you don’t want to offend them, right?

    Nick: Yeah. I’m friends with all of them.

    John: Yeah, right. How about do would you have a favorite TV show of all time?

    Nick: I think – do you know Black Mirror on Netflix?

    John: Oh yeah. Really great show.

    Nick: Yeah.

    John: Awesome. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Nick: Can I include David Bowie?

    John: Yeah, that counts. He was a little bit of everything.

    Nick: Yeah, isn’t that right?

    John: There you go. All right. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Nick: Definitely, early bird.

    John: Definitely. All right. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Nick: Completely ambivalent.

    John: Oh, that’s hilarious. How about when it comes to computers though, are you PC or a Mac?

    Nick: Definitely, a Mac fan.

    John: Definitely a Mac. All right. How about do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Nick: Mint choco chip.

    John: Oh, good answer, man. Do you put the chocolate syrup on top or just regular ice cream?

    Nick: I tend to just like buy it from a store and not go from like where they scoop it out. I don’t get toppings. It’s just a bit too decadent for me.

    John: Right. All right. Would you say you’re more Suit and Tie or Jeans and a T-shirt?

    Nick: Jeans and T-shirt.

    John: All right. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?

    Nick: Hot. In the UK, we need all the hot we can get. It is cold around here.

    John: Yeah, that’s true. I was going to say you might want to move. Although you guys got some crazy hot last summer. That’s for sure. How about do you have a favorite animal?

    Nick: I’m really into hedgehogs at the moment.

    John: Okay. All right.

    Nick: They’re big on Instagram.

    John: Yeah, right. There you go. How about more of Sudoku or a crossword puzzle?

    Nick: Crossword. I’ve never done Sudoku ever.

    John: Oh, okay. All right. How about since the accounting background I have to ask, prefer more balance sheet or income statement?

    Nick: Balance sheet. It’s all about booting up that long-term value.

    John: There you go. There you go. How about when you’re on an airplane, more of window seat or aisle seat?

    Nick: Aisle seat. You’ve got to be near the restroom. You got to go when you got to go.

    John: Right. Right. You don’t want to bother everybody. Yeah. Yeah. Three more, three more. How about do you have a favorite number?

    Nick: It’s a bit cliché, but I’d say seven.

    John: Seven. Okay. Do you have a reason?

    Nick: Just because it’s lucky, right? Lucky 7.

    John: Yeah, I know. That’s the most popular answer on here whether it’s sports related or luck. It’s a good number. It’s mine. Absolutely. How about more oceans or mountains?

    Nick: Oceans. I’m a swimmer.

    John: Oh, there you go. Nice. Okay. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?

    Nick: I was thinking about this before. I got married recently and my granddad who passed away a long time ago — on my wedding day, I wore the watch the he wore on his wedding day. So definitely that. It’s got sentimental value.

    John: Yeah. That’s a great answer, man. Really cool. That’s fantastic. I guess we can hang out, man. We will do this. That was really fun. But one question that I love to ask everybody is just what made you want to get into accounting to begin with?

    Nick: I think it was really just, I’m sure I’ve said similar, it’s a great springboard to go and do work in any sort of sector. Once you’re sort of in it and you’ve got that qualification, no one can take it away from you. You’ll pretty much always employ but it was a worst-case scenario. Even if it’s doing something you don’t usually enjoy. You will always find work but it’s, for me, is really the flexibility to go in any sort of direction from your core training and qualification.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re not the Head of Enterprise, what hobbies, passions, interests do you love to do?

    Nick: For the last probably decade or so, one thing I’ve loved doing in my spare time is writing, because I really studied English literature at university. I’ve always been doing freelance writing on the side over the last sort of eight or nine years. Initially, I was doing tech writing for titles such as Wired Magazine. I just sort of built up from there and got more into the business and finance. Over the last couple of years, sort of really trying to get more pleasure out of the writing I’m doing. Moved into food and travel and it’s been the most exciting place to be for writing a review.

    John: Right. Does that mean you get like some complimentary dinners and trips and stuff?

    Nick: Absolutely. I was fortunate enough earlier this year. I was visiting my brother in California. I got to go and do a number of the best restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Some of which had three Michelin stars which is phenomenal. I was on a trip to Venice last year, saw some of the best hotels in the world. It’s definitely for the perks more than the money.

    John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s really cool. I think everyone listening is like, “I could try to do that.”

    Nick: The amount of emails, people just say, “How did you get into that?” I think it is as easy as people thought, everyone would be doing it.

    John: No, not at all. Exactly. That’s really cool though. Your undergrad degree was in literature. You’ve always had this passion inside you.

    Nick: Yeah, I really enjoy writing. I’m always someone who’s looking to try out and do new stuff. I’m quite sort of entrepreneurial by nature and was looking to new set of opportunities. It was just something I started doing because a friend that was a freshman journalist, he commissioned some of his friends including me for some work just to help us out. But this seems like side hustle stuff. It’s carried along for that path but actually one of the friends that was also started writing at a similar time for the patronage of our mutual friends – he’s totally reinvented himself as a full-time journalist. It’s quite amazing how — what you sort of get a few credits under your belt. Where you can go is very much you’ve got to keep chipping away.

    John: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So, this is something that you were doing on the side even while you we were working in your accounting jobs at Deloitte and what have you. I think that’s really cool and fascinating that you were able to keep it as a little bit of a side hustle.

    Nick: Yeah, I think for me, I said before I’m an early riser and I think the value in terms of just having the routine and the habit getting into work an hour, an hour and a half earlier before you’d actually start your actual work and just being very disciplined and using that for your own time. It’s amazing how much you can get done. It’s very much routine and discipline. I just love doing that.

    John: Absolutely. I guess, some people feel like hobbies and interests outside of work are distractions to accounting work or legal work or consulting or whatever corporate job you have. Do you feel like that was the case in this instance?

    Nick: You know I like telling people outside of work what I do outside of work. Actually, in my current role ICAEW, we can use that and that goes out to staff. When I started for the good way of just network to keep it more internally was — I could just start doing a weekly restaurant recommendation for staff members and to recommend restaurants in the area.

    John: That’s awesome.

    Nick: It started out as a bit of a joke because I was giving people recommendations informally because I’m in London. We have such an amazing restaurant scene that’s really — over the last 10 years, it’s hugely taken off. Historically, London did not have the best reputation for the restaurants. But that has massively changed over the last 10 years. There are always new places opening up of a really high quality. I just started showing these tips informally and people said to me, “Hey Nick, you should maybe as a joke, start submitting in a weekly email that goes out to staff members.” I thought, “Wouldn’t that be a great way to network?” Actually, off the back of that I’ve have had people in the organization do come up to me and say hello because they read my restaurant’s Tip of The Week newsletter. I made sure early on, that in this column I have my own set of photos that people would know who I was as well. It is good fun.

    John: That’s great, man. I love that example because a lot of people might feel like, “I don’t want anybody to know.” And you’re like, “No, were blasting this to everybody with my picture.” That’s great.

    Nick: You just got to get yourself out there, so you never missed an opportunity.

    John: Yeah. Do you feel like that benefited your career?

    Nick: I feel like in terms of just my writing in general, if you put aside specifically the food and travel writing, I’ve made connections for more that the business finance writing. That’s actually led to opportunities for my day job whether it be companies I’ve worked in the past, if not new Clients, whether that be people getting up to me about opportunities which are relevant to companies I’m working at. I feel like when you’re doing something else on the side that can create some great synergies from the day job. What they say in the form of a better cliché, the sum of what you’re doing could be greater than the individual parts. That’s what actually works in that context.

    John: Yeah. No, absolutely. There’s clearly a skill set that you were developing outside of work that translated to accounting. At the end of the day, there are still emails that you need to send, there’s still communication written that needs to happen.

    Nick: Absolutely.

    John: So, that’s a skill that you’re sharpening.

    Nick: I think a big part, I’d say would be, is that a Business Development and Sales in essence to get a piece of writing commissioned is very much building and creating relations with people knowing how to target, how to talk to them gently about communication efforts. I think, for me, it definitely helped out on this more on the softer skills side which definitely benefits my day job.

    John: Yeah. I love it, man. I think it’s so fantastic and I love that you talk about it at work and are so open with sharing that in a way. You see the benefit of creating better relationships in the office. I have to believe that you had a different level of relationship with the people around you than maybe some others who don’t share what their interests are.

    Nick: Yeah, I feel like in my current place of work it’s a very open and friendly environment. I’d say maybe more sort of corporate environments I’ve worked in the past, I’ve been sort of so open that people quite often find out anyway, if you’re looking at my LinkedIn and social media. So, if someone asks me about it, I’m happy to tell them but I don’t necessarily go and advertising it.

    John: Well, yeah, you don’t want to be obnoxious in people’s faces about it. But what are you open about this from the beginning when you started your accounting career or was it something that you just sort of tiptoed in and figured, “You know what? It’s not dangerous waters. Let’s go for it.”

    Nick: To be honest with you John, I felt like I’ve built the two up at the same time. So, in terms of my own set of writing and journalism experience, I’d say that’s developed at a similar pace to my own accounting and professional career.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Nick: The two built together hand in hand, I’d say.

    John: So, it’s almost natural that you would share with each other both of them. It’s almost like you need both to balance out what the other one’s doing type of thing.

    Nick: Yeah. In terms of that doing side hustle, it’s a great way to build it up and get more energy from it and that can really benefit you in your day job and answer communications. I think with the changing nature of accounting for technology, I think there is increasingly going to be more of a need for sort of those softer people skills. I feel like knowing whatever that behalf is sort of cool summer from the phones, a cold call or because of good writing skills, these are things that can become more and more important as day to day nature of this back office having function becomes more of like an automation.

    John: Yeah, I know. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone’s all worried about the AI and computers coming for our jobs and all that. What computers can’t do is explain the results of a tax return to a Client. It can’t relate to a Client in a human to human relationship. It will never do that. If you use the computer as a tool like we do now just use it as a better tool. But you’re still have to have that human relationship there. I agree with you 100% on that. That’s really great. I guess, one question that I have though is how much do you feel — I think it’s awesome that you’ve been able to be at organizations where you can express yourself especially now. But how much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture or how much is it on the individual to maybe just create their little small circle on their own or be a part of the culture that’s there?

    Nick: I think the onus is more on the organizational level. That said, I think the younger employees increasingly people like having hobbies that define them on the side whether that be someone they do it for fun, whether that be a sort of side hustle that they earn a bit of cash from. I feel like from an identity perspective and I think social media has really helped fuel that in terms of being able to create different solid identities and find similar sort of individuals based on that has become easier than ever. I feel like it’s something that in the future generations are going to start thinking about more.

    Also, that’s the skill set of wanting to do this stuff in your spare time whether it be fun or a bit of money. It’s quite entrepreneurial. I felt like especially, all of the organizations they want to have staff that are quite entrepreneurial and challenge the status quo and look at new opportunities. So I think the trials that organizations need to think about is do they want to cultivate this cult that sort of culture where people are open to sharing because, obviously, it has pros and it has cons.

    John: No, absolutely. Yeah. That’s an interesting point about firms are wanting more entrepreneurial people. Well, you can’t say you’re entrepreneurial, you have to be entrepreneurial.

    Nick: Exactly.

    John: Sometimes that’s a little bit going rogue that’s why they’re entrepreneurial. That’s certainly something that they’re going to have to embrace more if that’s what they really want to do with their firm in the future. That’s a great point. I guess, is there anything that you’ve come across in your career where you’ve seen organizations do something specific that help to get people to know each other on a different level?

    Nick: I think in terms of some of the more commercial roles I’ve done in companies more commercially-focused companies where you have companies that are sales focused where salespeople are really riding the show in the organization. The culture of sales organizations and sales teams that tends to be sort of work hard, play hard. In terms of encouraging employees to socialize outside of work and have a budget specific team events, I think getting people out of four office walls into a different environment and that send can you have it only helps encourage people to share where else. It’s like up in the work out drink cocktails at work, right?

    John: Right, right. You’d be surprised, man. Some people try.

    Nick: Well, a couple but you know.

    John: Right. Yeah, I know. But I think that’s interesting how you said it’s getting outside the office because it’s changing that environment. That’s what’s so weird to me is like people they act a certain way when they’re in the office that isn’t how they act at all anywhere else. By removing them out of the office then it shows them that it’s okay to be who you are unless you’re like a total jerk face then don’t be that, but just be who you are. Because that’s got to be exhausting for the people that are one way in the office and then another way outside. The anxiety and depression levels there’s been studies on that as well. It’s too much and it’s an unnecessary.

    Nick: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think especially if you have seen me at members of staff that are leading, lead by example in that respect.

    John: Right.

    Nick: Yeah. I think it’s important because Senior Management companies to that will. that they held on trying to help lead that culture.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. What might be some barriers or reasons why people don’t want to share, or do you have any words of encouragement for people to open up? Maybe they have a literature undergrad degree and they love writing, but they think it has nothing to do with accounting.

    Nick: I think it can show you some of a more human side and so it shows that unless you bring your whole self to work, if you let people know what else you are doing and so you’re going to help, you create better working relationships with your colleagues in that respect. It can help you benefit your career. It’s important to have good relationships at work.

    John: I agree. Every example of someone that’s been on the podcast that has said at first, “I was reluctant and now, once I shared, it was amazing.” It’s just cool. You’re sending out restaurant reviews and people are jazzed about it.

    Nick: Yeah. Actually, another thing I’d say, John, is in terms of when I used to work with Bobby at Deloitte in terms of how we bonded, it was really more through him being where my profile from a lot of the writing I’ve done, more of the business finance writing at an under side rather than the food and drink for us. Bobby was a good friend of mine. That was a real great way for us to bond is to talk about some of my writing and people would have his blogging and how maybe that’s sort of position that to reach more people.

    John: Right, which is so cool because that’s who you really are, really at the end of the day. That’s what you’re spending your free time on, then Bobby as well. You’ll talk about that all day long which is really cool. So that’s fantastic, man. I really appreciate it. I do also want to offer you the opportunities since I grilled you in the beginning with the rapid-fire questions. If you have any rapid-fire questions for me, put me on the hot seat if you’d like. You can fire away.

    Nick: If you could go back to university and study again, what would you study?

    John: Oh wow. I guess it would still be accounting because it got me to where I am today. This is a pretty good place, but I guess probably marketing just so I could better understand how that world works. I always thought marketing was the person wearing the colorful tie and there’s a lot more numbers behind it, I’ve come to find out.

    Nick: Then you can do accounting in your spare time, right?

    John: Right. Yeah, exactly. Just for fun. All right.

    Nick: Yeah. I’m saying that as I’m British, I’m staying here in London, I’ve got to ask you, Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle?

    John: Oh, excellent question. Gosh, I’ll go with Meghan Markle just because she’s the new one to the party.

    Nick: Sure, I bet American patriotism as well.

    John: Right, right. This was really fantastic, and I really appreciated you being a part of the Green Apple Podcast. Thanks so much, Nick.

    Nick: Great, thank you so much, John.

    John: That was really, really great. If you’d like to see some pictures of Nick and read some of the articles that he’s written and maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big, green button and do the anonymous research survey about Corporate Culture. It will really help for the book that I’m launching early next year. Thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.


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