Diary of a start-up: Nine months in, the honeymoon is over

Nine months in, Al Fayolle, Founder and Chief Executive, gives his learnings so far and what the expectations are for the final quarter

Al Fayolle

Founder and Chief Executive Fearless Union


Launching an agency at any point is a huge, scary, exciting and potentially life-changing step. This is especially true in the current market. The team at Fearless Union needed to truly live up to and embody their name when starting their new creative agency. Nine months in, Al Fayolle, Founder and Chief Executive, gives his learnings so far, what’s changed since launch and what the expectations are for the final quarter of Fearless Union’s debut year.

It’s safe to say the honeymoon period is now well and truly over. The first few months in any venture should be exhilarating: a haze of figuring things out, pulling together a team, bedding in clients, working out how you’ll fund the business and developing the beginnings of an identity.  You can be forgiven a few teething problems early doors but that grace period can only last so long. Especially as you start to bring in new clients.

Growth needs to be deliberate

This is now (and forever more) your number one priority. Growth insulates you from damage if you lose a client.  It helps build momentum. It helps build your industry profile. It helps accommodate your ambition. And on a personal level, it allows you to pay the rent. Everything is linked to growth. 

See change, even forced change, as an opportunity - embrace it.

Al Fayolle, Founder and Chief Executive, Fearless Union

With this in mind, it’s easy to go for anything and everything. The creative industry is obsessed with pitches but they can pull resources (your most valuable asset) away from other important new business opportunities - like network referrals, knocking on doors, building your own brand, and building your reputation. So when it comes to growth, weighing up opportunity costs, realistic chances of conversion, and investment required, is crucial. I like to think in terms of being deliberate and mindful about what you choose not to do rather than vice versa.

Working out who you are

There is no better time to work out positioning than when you launch. Big agencies that are decades old will struggle with this and often fall flat on their faces when launching a new proposition or positioning. So now is the time to really go for it. And have some fun. It’s exhilarating sitting in a room with people you admire and respect and really getting under the skin of who you are as a business. We eventually found our way to ‘The fearless pursuit of the right solution’ (or did it find us?). Simply put, this positioning came out of the situation the industry and the world are in right now: clients, budgets and the talent market have completely changed; we have flexible working; there’s in-housing; tech is moving faster than ever before; the economy has gone nuts; and there’s a post-pandemic angle to everything. These are the fires we were forged in and these are what make us fearless.

Talent is an investment

See people and talent as an investment not a cost. Push on with hiring even when it feels uncomfortable. People are your business and they also drive culture and growth. Take advantage of the talent market and of things like job sharing and freelance.

Make adjustments

See change, even forced change, as an opportunity - embrace it. Even the best laid plan will deviate significantly, so you will need to make adjustments, sometimes huge ones, sometimes ones which will have a massive effect on your business and chances of success. See it as a chance to optimise further. Sometimes losing an investor or missing out on that expensive pitch opportunity might prove a blessing in disguise. In the same vein, now is the best time - before you get too deep in - to make hard choices: bad apples, as seductive as they can be, will cost you later on down the line. Dealing with them expediently will be a lot easier than kicking the can down the road.

Guest Author

Al Fayolle

Founder and Chief Executive Fearless Union


Alan is a dynamic, results driven business leader and marketeer with 20+ years’ experienced in client leadership roles across globally recognised creative agencies and start-ups; transforming and accelerating growth for some of the world’s biggest brands including Google, Amazon and O2. He has a track record of consistently converting new business and delivering growth. He is the founder of creative agency Fearless Union, prior to this he was the MD at Forever Beta, and worked at BD Network, Bates and VCCP.

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