The 10-year challenge: How we overcame the financial crisis to create one of the UK’s leading brand engagement agencies
From humble beginnings…
Looking back now, it seems strange that we were able to start a company in the midst of the world’s most crippling financial crisis. The year 2009 was one of real uncertainty, reduced budgets and caution, and yet for the team at FMI it was the dawn of a new era and our brand engagement agency.
FMI started its life as a small subsidiary of a larger company, which went into liquidation not long after the global crisis hit. However, our team of six had developed strong relationships with our global clients, creating campaigns that resonated, so we were able to maintain our contacts, relationships and contracts.
Largely, what we offered at that time was extra support and expert insight. Our team started by specialising in promotions and events and then grew to include all of the other services we’re proud to offer today.
A decade of change
Being at the helm of FMI for the last 10 years has meant I’ve seen a lot of changes – both industry side and within our agency. The biggest changes I’ve noticed externally, unsurprisingly, centre around legislation and technology.
The introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 was a huge change for anyone operating in the incentives arena. It opened up questions relating not only to ethical practice, but also industry questions – ‘was an incentive a bribe?’
Largely, the answer was no. But it didn’t stop changes being made to the way brand engagement agencies conducted their campaigns and built relationships with influencers and advocates.
Earlier, the US-led Sarbanes Oxley Act had also impacted the industry, affecting the way our clients presented their financial performance and making the UK market more accountable.
Those few years were a significant period of change for brands and their creative teams. Budgets were cut and monitored more closely, and ROI became increasingly important when it came to reporting on activity.
More change came in 2018 with the introduction of GDPR. As with every public facing company, these data protection laws had a substantial impact on our work, but more importantly the work of our clients. It took careful planning and preparation over a two-year period to effectively navigate these new waters and ensure we – and they – were fully compliant.
A digitally enhanced way of working
Technology has also played an important role – especially with our clients in the telecommunications and mobile industries. On a wider scale, the early part of the 21st century saw an incredible boom for the advancement of human knowledge – from first class communication inventions to new medical procedures.
Ultimately, technology has changed the way we live our day-to-day lives – it’s now possible to fly across the world non-stop in less than 24 hours and quickly access instant communication through the internet. Compared to where we were a decade ago, it’s a giant leap forward.
In our line of work, it’s crucially important that we keep up to date with these changes and adapt the way we work and the projects we produce to bring in the latest technology.
Private portals are a great example of this, as we now create these for several of our larger global clients, allowing them to be at the forefront of their sector. For us, they’re efficient, a great use of budget and also provide us with a secure communication channel to talk with a number of stakeholders – this is something that wouldn’t have been possible in 2009.
Our new 10-year vision
For all of us who have been at FMI, the past decade has been an immense achievement. We’ve grown our amazing team and now have 20 incredibly talented people who now perform at an industry-leading level and offer exceptional insights to our global client base.
We continue to be based just outside of London, in our beautiful barn conversion, which offers a fantastic creative space for our team to develop ideas and take inspiration from our surroundings.
I think it’s one of the main reasons our staff retention rate remains so high, with many members of the team now having worked at the agency for several years or more. We offer all the benefits of working in a London agency, but without the need for the hustle and bustle (and traffic!) of city centre working.
The next decade looks to be equally as exciting and I’m looking forward to leading the team into the next era of FMI, making sure we continue to deliver exceptional service, outstanding ideas and a great environment for our loyal staff.
For all those who have played a part in our success over the past 10 years – both inside and outside our company – thank you.
For those working with us today, I’m very proud to work alongside you, and look forward to adapting to the many changes we’ll experience over the next decade.
By being at the forefront of these changes, the opportunities are limitless.
John Fisher, Managing Director