The Entrepreneur: Michael Hayman, Seven Hills

One of the UK's "most connected men" and co-founder of a leading PR company shares his regrets, ambitions, and views on the impact of cloud-based apps...

Co-Founder: Michael Hayman
Company: Seven Hills
Website: wearesevenhills.com
Description in one line: Seven Hills – Britain’s campaigning company
Previous companies: Hill & Knowlton, The Communication Group plc
Turnover: £2.3m
12 month target: £3.2m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We are Britain’s campaigning communications firm, delivering some of the most high-impact enterprise initiatives in the UK. All of our campaigns are about leadership, people and organisations that want to make a difference.
  • Seven Hills blends the optimism of a start-up with big business skills. The success of this formula is reflected in the fast growth of the firm.
  • Our business offer is based on three core strengths; campaigns, communications and connections. We have found this to provide a unique and powerful capability.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Going into business with Nick Giles and co-founding Seven Hills. It has completely changed my life (for the better!).

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

The forecast is the holy grail of the business. It keeps us completely focused on revenue and profits.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We work with a number of fast growth businesses that are based overseas, including Evernote – the life organisation app, which is based in Zurich.

Since 2011 we have led the international media campaign for global youth charity One Young World, coordinating the PR outreach for three summits to date, including Zurich, Pittsburgh and Johannesburg.

In addition, my business partner Nick Giles was last year named UK Ambassador for Startmeup HK – the 2013 Venture Programme for Invest Hong Kongand  the inward investment arm of the Hong Kong government that promotes the territory as Asia’s leading international business destination.

Expanding our international reach is a key priority over the coming year.

Describe your growth funding path:

Our business is 100% self funded.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Smartphones have been the single biggest technological advantage followed by Twitter and cloud apps such as Harvest and Dropbox.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We would like to be a £7m-plus consultancy and be seen as Britain’s campaigning company.  We see London as the continued capital of our business but would seek to increase the footprint of the business internationally also.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Mistakes in hiring have been the hardest lessons to learn. We rarely get it wrong but when we do we act fast to address the situation. It’s never easy or pleasant.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not getting started earlier. I was almost 40 when we started Seven Hills. We could have gone for it some years before.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Procurement obligations with big companies and the public sector.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Underestimating where they can get to in their early years and overestimating what they believe they can get at exit.

How will your market look in three years?

There are massive and much needed changes underway in the field of marketing communication. We want to make campaigning a new category in the market.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Watch your cashflow. A good business goes bad if it loses control of its finances.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Jaguar XK convertible.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Probably both.

What would make you a better leader?

Time.

Business book?

Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

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