The main motivation in starting the business was a bid to abolish fees and retainers - not charging retainers or fees is key to the business. So many agencies charge a fixed monthly retainer or a fee for the work that they do on the clients’ behalf despite the fact that they get a commission from the media owners that they work with – they in effect earn their money twice and often at the expense of the client. James Robinson, the founder of Zeffa, believes that the best relationships are based on true understanding, good communication, mutual benefit and commitment. He wouldn’t expect to receive payment as part of a committed relationship in his personal life so why in business? So when setting up zeffa he decided, no fees, and no retainers. Customers don’t like them and it makes businesses like zeffa complacent. The major challenges at start up were an initial overreliance on local authority spending; managing cash flow in a growing business – feeling like you ‘spin all of the plates’; setting up a business in the midst of a recession! - there was no confidence within the business community about what the company was setting out to do - no one trusted zeffa and they didn’t want to spend their money with an unknown entity; and finally, recruiting top talent - the good guys are always difficult to prise away from a well paid role and convincing them that a small, new, independent is the way forward proved to be a real challenge

Success Factor

First of all is having a great team that has bought into the founder’s vision and who execute it with real passion and commitment. They live and breathe zeffa just as much as James does. The company wouldn’t be where it is today without their determination to deliver on the promises they make. James is proud of them all and for what they continue to achieve every single day. Secondly, referrals. Zeffa work in a people industry and if people like what they do, they tell others. If they don’t like what they do, they tell others that too! The team at zeffa has worked hard to build a sound reputation and are to be working with businesses who found the company through a referral. Finally, a solid relationship with the bank. Lloyds TSB have supported zeffa from day one and have there to listen, advise and offer a support network that money just can’t buy. Zeffa consider themselves fortunate to have a strong working relationship with the bank and a relationship manager that understands the pressures that businesses like zeffa face.

The Future

The goal is to have a network of offices across the UK allowing the company to be closer to where its customers are, fostering relationships with clients and suppliers alike. In the 2012/13 financial year, the plan is to open a 3rd UK office with the Midlands looking the most likely. Zeffa also intend to concentrate efforts on growing new business through the creative agency Hello Starling. The sister agency has been born out of clients telling zeffa that they think design is expensive and Hello Starling’s remit is to demonstrate that good design shouldn’t be a luxury, it’s a necessity!