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many years and we recognised it could not sustain the company for ever. It had become imperative to explore new opportunities and possibilities if Hamilton was not to be left behind," he explains. To date, Hunter sees his most important achievement as spearheading a new drive to strengthen and optimise the Hamilton brand. Improving the marketing and sales functions has been a major preoccupation. "We want the name of Hamilton to be synonymous with a quality product that is recognised far more widely; and that means building on the strengths and values of the brand as well as expanding the product range. We have a well established niche position in the southern African retail paint market, but there is still enormous untapped potential," he comments. There are a number of facets to his plans to take the Hamilton brand forward. "Firstly, we want to find new products and new ways to do things," he says. "We mainly make and sell paint brushes and our strap line is 'the perfect finish', so we are looking for products, services and solutions that complement that proposition." A paintbrush may not seem like the easiest basis for innovation or exciting line extensions, but Hunter believes it lends itself to a number of new variants on the core product that have not yet been brought to market. He does not wish to be drawn on the details, but he believes that Hamilton can take the humble paint brush to new heights with a series of clever innovations that will be unveiled later in the year. He is also determined not to be limited by past experience. Industrial markets represent a new and attractive sales opportunity, but he does not necessarily want to be limited to collaboration within the paint industry. "Other industries, like mining for example, are expanding very rapidly and some elements of our brush technology could be applicable there. We don't want to limit ourselves to a paint environment," he says.As well as moving into new market segments, Hunter is also casting a keen eye towards new geographical markets. He is keen to move the Hamilton brand onto a global platform and the company has just established its first export division. This, he hopes, will quickly see the company extend its reach beyond sub-Saharan Africa. "We are part of the Freeworld Coating Group, which already has a global footprint and could provide us with a ready-made springboard into Australia and China. Meanwhile, we are already in talks to establish a direct presence in Europe," he says. All companies within the group enjoy a high level of autonomy, but Hunter believes there could be a number 80 www.bus-ex.com April 10

of benefits from establishing closer partnerships. Again, this is something he intends to explore in the future. "For example, we have a number of obvious synergies with Plascon, which is the largest paint company within South Africa, because the relationship between brushes and paint has an obvious synergy. Cross-merchandising and cross-branding are possibilities, but we have yet to really look at these in detail. I believe we could both also gain a lot from a better understanding of our markets and customers and sharing that information with each other."This year, he expects to see growth of 25 per cent as a result of the renewed marketing drive. Next year should be even better. "If all our various product and marketing initiatives could be put in place simultaneously, we could easily double the size of the business overnight," he says. Increasingly, Hunter sees the success of Hamilton depending on its marketing and branding strengths rather than its competence as a manufacturer. At present, approximately 50 per cent of brushes are manufactured Hamilton BrushApril 10 www.bus-ex.com 81directly, with the remainder outsourced to the Far East, but he has a strong desire to see some manufacturing activity continue. "Social responsibility is very important to us. We strive to look after our employees and over 100 people depend on our manufacturing operations for their livelihood," he explains. "We also care about delivering value to our customers and our impact on the environment. These are long-held core values that we do not want to change, although we do want to change the focus of the business in other ways."For a number of years, this company was far too narrowly focused," Hunter continues. "Now, we are firmly on the map as a vibrant and dynamic company with many exciting new developments on the horizon. Within the next year, we expect to see our strategy for the world beyond sub-Saharan Africa coalesce. We will also see a broadening of both our product portfolio and customer base and the Hamilton brand moving from strength to strength," he concludes. - Editorial research by Jeff Abbott