As part of Business News Wales’ ongoing series of interviews we had the opportunity to speak to Rachael Wheatley, Founder and Co-Director of WATERS.
Tell us about your business?
WATERS is an independently owned, integrated agency based in South Wales. A growing agency borne from an entrepreneurial start-up, we are known for our creative approach to solving real business challenges for brands and businesses across the UK. We understand the importance of commercial return for our clients and the creativity, time and investment required to make profitable business happen in challenging times.
Our dynamic team of 14 highly skilled designers, developers and strategists think and act with entrepreneurial spirit. Our scale enables fast-thinking, agile approaches and accelerated innovation techniques, whilst remaining fully committed to the client orientated personable touch.
Rooted in reality, our work makes people care-about a message, a product, a brand, an organisation, or a relationship.
We work hard at building relationships that count, developing longstanding partnerships in the truest sense. We are grounded, never taking anything for granted, and feel privileged to work with clients such as O2, Welsh Government, Admiral Insurance, Swansea University and Reading Borough Council, just as much as we value our work with start-ups, realising their undiscovered and untapped potential.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
Our plan for the future is to offer our clients more innovative creative and strategic solutions. As a creative business we are not short of ideas, our challenge is implementing these ideas before anyone else does. This requires commitment, staff training and creating a demand amongst our client base for something that is a little different to the norm. We are going to be spending more time creating products that can make a difference to our clients, systems that enable them to be more creative, and get their messages out there as effectively as possible. We’re at a real turning point at WATERS and we cannot wait to start our next chapter of growth.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
That inevitably some initiatives and ideas will fail, and that every experience – good and bad, shapes you as a person and your business. I’d have been a much better leader back then if I had all of the experiences I now have. You have to take brave steps to create opportunities and risk- taking is all part of the adventure.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
I wish I’d valued my time a bit more when I was working for large corporates such as Oracle Corporation UK – I should have absorbed more and taken the time to learn more from my peers, I wish I’d thought more about where I wanted to go in life and business, rather than worrying what people thought of me right at that moment in time.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
Integrity, honesty and resilience – being able to bounce back from challenges is a huge advantage and something which takes a bit of getting used to. However, above anything else, I’d place having copious amounts of grit and determination to deliver the vision.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
Go for it! If your gut is telling you that you should create your own business, trust your instinct. Make sure you create a great network of trusted individuals (be mindful that people you think you can trust may not be what they seem). Don’t think that you know it all, because you don’t and never will – so keep learning. Always hire people that are better than you. Act swiftly when issues arise – don’t put anything off. Admit your mistakes, you are only human, and communicate your successes even in the early days – that’s vitally important. Hard work in = results out, there are no shortcuts.
And, only do something you believe in passionately, if you have lost the love for what you are doing, chances are it shows and your business will inevitably fail.
What are your top three tips for success?
- Work hard.
- Stay one step ahead, always.
- Keep your mind, your ears and your eyes open, and maybe not surprisingly, sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
What’s your thoughts on the EU referendum results?
It’s the unknown, so it feels very daunting at the moment as nothing is formalised and no-one seems to be stepping up to take the lead. I just hope that we’ve not severed the many hands that feed us. And I really hope we can maintain good relations with Europe. Now is the time for us to shine, so let’s make it good, we’re not called Great Britain for nothing!
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
The strengths are most definitely within our people, we are agile, instinctively friendly, have an abundance of energy and innovation, and are extremely trustworthy as a nation. Our weaknesses are mainly logistical and materialistic. We lack funding, support, and the platforms to experience the wider world sometimes, this can hinder our confidence and can often result in us being a bit forgotten about. We have space – in fact, some amazing, well connected locations to conduct business, our way of life promotes a good work/life balance and we have the right attitude to get things done. If we all portrayed a more confident, unified approach to business we could create something that would be unmatched on a global scale. Work needs to be done to define our offering, and then we ALL need to play our part communicating this vision – from individuals to businesses to government. This is our Wales, and our future.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Firstly, I think we should treat Wales as a business in itself – have a clear message and a strong proposition, short and long term investment plans and get key influencers promoting the offering. We need to be bold and clear in our offering – making Wales The clear choice in location to conduct business in.
We need to truly believe in ourselves – in the way we speak, and in the way we act, break down our barriers and work collaboratively to bring in investment on a global scale. We are fortunate that we have a unique agility, skill and attitude here in Wales, we just need to communicate it more.
At ground level, get businesses out there selling the Welsh dream – what better way than from the people who conduct business here themselves.
Create more hubs to get businesses together to share experiences, provide insight and the opportunity for collaboration that is most definitely there for the taking.
WATERS recently secured a place on the BBC’s Digital Services Framework which could see the company work on projects in areas including news, sport, children, radio and music and iPlayer.
Managing director and founder of WATERS, Rachael Wheatley gives us her top three tips for any SMEs applying for similar frameworks and aspiring to take the next step in business.
Tip 1. Don’t waste your time completing tenders when you don’t know anyone in the organisation, don’t understand completely what they do and don’t see how you can deliver what is requested profitably. Create a company tender decision maker and stick to it.
Tip 2. Do your research – make sure you know when large frameworks are due for renewal, who is currently fulfilling these requirements and check out their work.
Tip 3. Don’t give up, you have to be in it to win it!