WILL HAMILTON is the owner of Hamilton Associates, a consultancy which he set up five years ago. Born in Kent, his family moved to Bristol when he was one. He became a boarder at St Edward’s School, Oxford, followed by Kingston University where he earned a degree in business studies. He has lived in Henley for 22 years and has been a town councillor for the last eight, serving as deputy mayor in 2016/17. He is keen following of sport, especially rugby and rowing. He will take part in the London Marathon in April for the first time. His main love is the river and he owns a slipper launch on which he spends many happy hours with his partner Joanne Cope, who works for British Airways as senior cabin crew.
Describe your business
Hamilton Associates is an intermediary, helping clients to get the best from their communication partners. We advise on agency search and selection, negotiate remuneration and focus on optimising marketing relationships to achieve exceptional performance.
How many people does it employ?
I work alone but have many associated partnerships.
What did you do before you started this business?
When I was at university I had an intern scholarship at the University of North Carolina and subsequently took a masters degree in marketing. I became a graduate trainee at Asprey’s in New York and then a marketing executive for British Airways. Those two roles introduced me to the importance of managing brands. When I returned to Britain, I worked with some major marketing and advertising companies, becoming marketing director for McCann Erickson and Publicis.
When did you start your business?
What was your objective?
I wanted to use my experience to become an intermediary and have a better work/life balance.
Who or what influenced you?
It just felt right. I saw other pioneers setting up on their own and thought, “why not do the same?”
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I worked at Agency Assessments International for five years and Peter Cowie made a big impact on me. Every six months I meet with Murray Chick and Ian Armstrong who have become good mentors.
What would you do differently if you started again?
Looking back, I should have had more process. I didn’t really have a proper structure or business plan.
How is your business doing?
It has been quite a tough year and achieving top line growth has been hard.
How do you market your business?
Referrals are a major source of new business. Networking is a vital part of my marketing strategy. I’m a regular at the Henley Business Partnership’s monthly 3FM meetings. I follow marketing directors who I’ve done work for when they change jobs — I reconnect.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
I enjoy the flexibility and being able to do other things. It enables me to carry out my role as a councillor, which accounts for a good 10 hours of my time each week.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Making it all fit together in terms of prioritising.
Where is your business headed?
We’re warmed up, so now is the time to ramp it up.
Do you have a five-year plan?
Yes. The advertising industry is changing rapidly and it’s currently a cacophony of chaos. It’s a challenge to help clients understand how to navigate through what’s happening. I’m optimistic that this will present us with some great opportunities.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
The importance of listening to clients, having empathy and showing diplomacy as well as continually learning.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Carefully think through why you are doing it. It’s extraordinary what you can achieve if you believe! Develop a network of people with experience and meet lots of different people. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” in answer to a question.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Expecting to win everything I’ve pitched for. I’m a sensitive soul but now accept that I won’t win every proposal.
How organised are you?
Reasonably. I can’t stand people who are late.
What’s the secret of your success?
Being good at networking and having the ability to work with different people and helping them succeed.
What three qualities are most important in business?
Ability. Having a positive attitude and being prepared to work hard.
How do you dress for work?
Business casual. Ties only come out for weddings, funerals and Henley Royal Regatta.
What can’t you do without every day?
Lunch at your desk or going out?
Generally on the run. I’m a grazer.
Do you continue to study?
Yes, I read lots of business books.
What else do you read?
Lots of council papers. The Henley Standard as soon as it comes out each week.
How are you planning for retirement?
Everyone in my age group is almost certainly going to work longer, probably until we are 70. Eventually I want to play more golf and spend more time on the river.