Features / The surgery

Business Surgery: Fiasco Design

By bristol247, Tuesday Apr 28, 2015

Name of Company: Fiasco Design Ltd
Year established: 2010
Sector: Digital Media
No of staff: 6
Owners: Ben Steers and Jason Smith
Location: Colston Yard, central Bristol
Key clients: Penguin Books UK, Channel 4, Aardman Digital, Situations, Tobacco Factory Theatres and Creative England 

The Background

Fiasco Design began in 2010, after co- founders Ben Steers and Jason Smith graduated from university. Fiasco was born out of a reaction to the poor job market and a struggling economy, and for the first year or so, the business was a part-time job. Over the course of the next five years, however, this would change considerably. 

Originally, Fiasco was labelled as a full-service creative agency offering a range of different digital and print design services. Following some key business advice from a Bristol-based incubator, Ben and Jason decided to refocus their proposition. 

Fiasco co- founders Ben Steers and Jason Smith

They rebranded and focussed on developing the web design and branding and repositioned themselves as a creative design agency.

“Our output was often quite conceptual and creative, we never recycled old work or templates and this approach seemed to resonate, work very well when attracting new clients or pitching,” Ben says.

Projects from Aardman Digital and Channel 4 Education soon followed which all helped cement Fiasco’s creative credentials and subsequently led to a list of enviable brands and prospective clients knocking at their door.


Over the last 12 months, Fiasco has moved to larger studio space, doubled the size of their team, won a few industry awards, seen turnover increase considerably and they’ve even started to put money in the bank which they earmarked for future investment.

Ben adds: “Of course it is all work in progress.  For a relatively young agency I think we’ve achieved a lot short period of time but we know we’ve got some big decisions to make in the next six to 12 months.”

The Challenge

After a record start to the year, a new office move and taking on new clients, Fiasco are now looking to grow the team further but are keen to retain the creative, founder based agency culture they started up with. How does a young, thriving business grow quickly whilst still retaining the culture that has helped it to where it is today?

The Experts

Edward Boal
Gregg Latchams

“Maintaining a sense of closeness and cohesion in any growing business can be quite a challenge, requiring clear leadership and effective communication. But in terms of growing the business, there are perhaps three approaches: One, grow your business organically – continue to win the work, recruit the talent to deliver that work and grow your reputation without any outside influence. Two, merge with other agencies which share your approach and culture (which probably sounds easier than it is). Or three, find an investor who can provide the capital you need to pursue more aggressive growth plans.”

Steven Coombe FCA
Director and joint owner

“Starting and successfully growing a new business is very rewarding and leaves you wanting more. However, continuing or accelerating that growth plan can lead to problems. The key is to continue to do well what got you there in the first place and not just grow for growth’s sake. The business essentially has two assets – staff and clients – and both need to be looked after. The main challenge will be finding new staff who share the owners’ creativity and enthusiasm for the business and its growth and to target quality clients that will allow sustainable growth.”

Brian Mansfield
Managing partner
Taxi Studio

“Culture is an accumulation of decisions overtime, an embodiment of a company’s values and it is often implicit not explicit. So the first task is to co-defy your values and understand what makes you special. If you haven’t articulated it, you can’t protect it. Secondly, you need to recruit very carefully. A longer interview process, where candidates meet more of the team and are tested in the working environment, pays dividend in getting the right people. Finally, make sure that some of the get-togethers that help you celebrate as a team are protected and held sacrosanct. A team that drinks together stays together!”

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