Not many people would recognise a ‘problem with authority’ as a virtue, but the directors of design and digital media consultancy FRS Ltd cite that idiosyncrasy as a catalyst for their setting up one of London’s most dynamic and fresh young creative companies. Commercial director Peter Stormonth spoke to inspiresme.co.uk.
FRS (Flatt Rapacioli Stormonth) was founded in July 2010 by Alex Tom and Peter. Peter’s was a sales and marketing background whilst Tom and Alex worked independently as graphic designers. All claim that working for management teams in whom they had little confidence brought about the beginning of the west London firm. They had a belief that there was a happier, more productive way to do business.
There's an element of sweat shop culture about some agencies.
“There’s an element of sweat shop culture about some larger agencies,” says a reflective Peter, “It’s all about gaining new business, about the selling process rather than fulfilment. FRS aims to be very different to that.”
He added: “The inclination is that you have to become much bigger, and quickly, to be better. I don’t think that’s the case. We were all tired of doing business that way and when Tom, Alex and I ended up working from the same business premises, the idea of doing something ourselves started to take shape.”
Starting a new business at the height of the biggest recession the UK has seen since the 1930s has not been without its trials. “Cash flow I would say is the biggest obstacle to face any start-up,” says Peter “and we perhaps made it even harder by not seeking investment at the outset”. “I think we’ve succeeded because, as a new SME, we’re aware that it’s important not to panic and take any old business that comes along. You have to strive for quality and invest time and energy in developing the right kind of relationships and fulfilling the right kind of work.”
FRS differs from other agencies, Peter says, because they don’t wheel out the big guns to win business and leave clients to be serviced by more junior staff. “Our designers aren’t just designers,” he says, “They are consultants. We’re all equipped to have high-level conversations with clients and they respect that. Often we are asked to advise clients on the performance of other creative and media agencies on their roster.”
So now that FRS Ltd is approaching its first birthday, what of the future? “In five years’ time,” says a buoyant Peter, ”we’d like to be able to maintain our current high standards of output but for a much broader client base, for us it is all about servicing interesting clients and doing interesting work. “Having said that if we find ourselves with more than 50 staff then we have probably lost our way a little”. FRS’s philosophy is all about structured growth. We’ve tried very hard to avoid inorganic growth over the past year. Our objective is to now grow the business steadily and with purpose.”
It is clear why Peter, at least, enjoys being a new entrepreneur. “It may sound trite,” he says, “but it’s a matter of being master of your own destiny. I think both Tom and Alex feel the same.
“We all get a tremendous kick out of working closely with staff and suppliers and, at the moment, being this hands on and not part of some huge corporation is a very attractive proposition.”