IPHONED Nick and said: it’s General Petraeus, he’s the man! This is our strategy,” says Michael Hayman, the co-founder of the campaigning start-up Seven Hills. He leans over his honey porridge and the rim of his glasses and says: “You see, General Petraeus – Bush’s general in Iraq – believed that if you are technically superior but numerically weak the best thing you can do is surge. That is, punch your enemy in a hard and focused way.”
Nick Giles his co-founder looks at me with an expression somewhere between exasperation and amusement and nods. After all, this is how their public relations business was born just one year ago.
“This is why we’re gazelles,” Hayman says, leaping to a new metaphor. “We have jumped over our competition by offering something that our competition doesn’t. The mistake our industry makes is trying to please everyone. It’s as happy to sell Daz Automatic as it is high profile entrepreneurs. The promise never realises. Clients don’t get what they really want. We thought, let’s keep it highly specific and start a campaign agency for entrepreneurs.”
And the new venture has certainly made an impact. Seven Hills is the campaigning force behind MADE: the entrepreneur festival, Virgin Media Pioneers, the UK contribution for Global Entrepreneurs Week and now Doug Richard’s Entrepreneurs’ Union, a campaign-group-cum-think-tank that aims to speak for fast growing businesses. Richard’s message is that there is a big difference between fast growing businesses and small business – he is shamelessly uninterested in those willing to stay small.
It all began a year ago off the back of a two-week contract with Doug Richard. “I think he gave it to us because he wanted to see if we could do it,” Giles says. “He saw us as part of the entrepreneurial tribe,” insists Hayman.
“Nick and I both worked in big agencies before and whenever an entrepreneur came on the scene there, the immediate reaction internally was, this person is going to be a pain in the arse to work with. By specialising in entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship we thought we could surprise the market,” Hayman says.
Seven Hills has proved that. They equip their clients with strong clear campaigning messages and direct, no nonsense access to the media. “Well as they say in Layer Cake,” Hayman explains, “you’ve got to be a good middleman.”
But why now, when the economy is only just beginning to recover? “At the darkest point of recession the market is most tired, so coming along with a fresh face and a clear positive message is a powerful thing,” Hayman says.
Then with a cheeky glint in his eye, Hayman peers over his glasses again and says: “Without sounding boastful, the last pair who made this sort of impact in the marketing world were the Saatchis.” Giles laughs and tells Hayman to be quiet.
“We want to be the next Saatchis. We’ve got the glasses, we’re already looking jowly. We want to be the defining people in the sector.”
CV | SEVEN HILLS; TURNOVER £500K; STAFF 10
Co-founder: Michael Hayman
Studied: London School of Economics, Queen Mary, Millfield
Motto: “By their deeds shall ye know them.”
Talent: “Staggeringly stylish.”
Co-founder: Nick Giles
Studied: Birmingham City University
Born: Crawley, West Sussex
Motto: “If you don’t ask you don’t get.”
Talent: “An unerring ability to slice a golf shot.”