Alec Braun, co-founder and creative director at new live events agency Muster, offers his views on managing a start-up
Starting a new agency is tough. In the six weeks since launch we’ve done some stuff really right and other things less so. Below is an attempt to capture six key learnings from six weeks of agency existence along with six achievements.
Let’s get the background out of the way first. I’m Alec Braun, the co-founder and creative director at Muster - The &Partnership’s new live event agency. The other co-founder is Tom Rutter, MD and we’ve worked together for more than 15 years. A decade at Jack Morton Worldwide and four and a half years transforming Slice at the Engine Group, we now sit proudly on the second floor of our W1 office, on the brink of what we hope will be an agency at the forefront of the live event world for the next 100 years.
But, what does the first six weeks of being at a new agency actually entail? Is it all celebratory drinks parties, mass hysteria and incessant calls from clients begging for you to work on their latest campaigns? Not exactly. Now, we do have the benefit of working within a truly integrated partnership of 15 agencies with central support teams from finance to design but our thoughts below are pertinent advice whether you’re a start-up, new department or agency within an existing network.
Lesson one: Grand designs
You’ll have spent hours deliberating over the name and logo design of your new outfit but contemplation is a long way from concrete design.
Have a clear point of view. What is this new agency actually for? If you can describe it clearly in less than 140 characters and it has a real point of difference you’re on the right track.
Get your visual identity started. This will evolve and grow as the agency does so treat design as a process not a destination. Set out your stall with something that reflects your point of view but accept that it can change.
Ask other people. From friends to clients get an un-blinkered reaction to what you’re planning to do before you do it. From the name to the language to the visual identity, get honest feedback before you actually launch
Lesson two: Under pressure
The nemesis of the first few weeks is deliberation. We would have still been set choosing URL domains without a strict set of launch deadlines.
Set a live date. This sounds so obvious but forcing yourself to be ready for an agreed date will provoke action, decision and importantly excitement. Agreeing a launch date with the press means the date really is immovable.
Be realistic. You’re unlikely to be the lead article on the six o’clock news. Consider where best to put your energy and effort to reach the right audiences. While vanity likes are flattering, they won’t help you reach those all-important clients so think about who and what they’re going to read and build yourcommunication strategy from there. Target key media, clients and leads first.
Get social. Saying that, don’t forget to promote your new venture on your personal channels as well as your industry ones. There is nothing more powerful than passion to ensure an idea spreads so be proud from the start and get asmany people talking about you as you can.
Lesson three: Nice ideas
Now that you are out there and ‘live’ what happens next? Getting stuck in is the name of the game in these next few weeks.
Share as much as you can. Don’t underestimate the impact of quick fire ideas, acting as a sounding board for other people’s concepts or simply helping out. Before fame comes acknowledgment so make sure those nearest know who you are first.
Seek briefs. Million-pound event briefs are rarely sat on clients’ desks gathering dust waiting for you to simply call. Start close to home first and put 'live' on other agencies' or departments' agendas by walking the floors and talking to people.
Get creative. If ever there is a moment to not hold back on the ideas now is the time. Make a mark for yourself by offering creative help on everything you can. Live events rarely work on retained business models so offer concept development for free at this stage
Lesson four: Stand and deliver
You’re only as good as your last event so get one on the books, quickly. Do something: however small it might be, from suggesting suppliers for a piece of pitch theatre to sharing your H&S contacts. Prove you can do what the shiny new creds deck claims and people will come to you without asking. Get your ducks in a row – You’ll get asked for certain things in these first weeks for sure. Get your creds ready quickly and make sure they’re succinct. Similarly have a budget and schedule template branded up and ready to use.
Go beyond; inevitably the culture of the new place (even if it’s just you) is going to be different. Embrace it. Join the team drinks, talk to everyone; at this stage you need to stand out, not stand down.
Lesson five: Link about it
The very nature of ‘new business’ has changed dramatically with social. Use these channels wisely to make sure you get remembered. LinkedIn is amazing but it is networking. Tailor content to key people and take the time to consider each new communication properly. Imagine you were introducing the new agency to yourself and think about what you would want to read.
Don’t hold back. People move on, change jobs and side step careers. Take the time to go through that contact list properly and don’t leave anyone out. No one is going to curse you for getting in touch providing it is done genuinely.
Be authentic – don’t sell. At this stage, be proud of your new venture and introduce it to people. Ask what they think and strike up a dialogue and then go from there.
Lesson six – The devil is in the meeting
If you take one lesson away from this, number six is the key. Meet people, then meet them again, then meet some more people. That beer you keep promising that bloke from 10 years ago. Meet him. Meet as many people as you can face to face. Practice the new language of your new agency, share creds with whoever will listen and practice what you preach by leveraging the power of live to create advocates. Get back on people’s radars by being there and behaving like the great experience brands do.
We’ve done less wrong than last time. And loads right. In fact, in a rare moment of reflection I went through what Muster has achieved in those six weeks since January...One new client project delivered one project confirmed for Q2, live briefs on the table.... On to the next six weeks...