Michael Blake is Joint Managing Director of Hamilton Laboratories – an Adelaide-based leading manufacturer and distributor of sunscreens and distributor of therapeutic skincare, nasal and oral care products.
Business SA: Can you tell us about your career and how it led to Hamilton Laboratories?
Michael: My initial academic background is a combination of a Bachelor of Science and post graduate studies in exercise physiology. I worked as a personal trainer for several years before a gradual transition over to the R&D department at Hamilton Laboratories. From there I worked on our formulations for almost 10 years and completed an MBA before taking on the role of Joint Managing Director.
Business SA: What would be the highlights of your career to date?
Michael: From an R&D perspective, it would be formulating our Everyday Face and Quadblock sunscreens, which are still both in the top ten selling sunscreens in pharmacy. From a marketing point of view, it would be working with Ken Cato on the rebranding of Hamilton Laboratories which was released late last year.
The exercise made me really think about brands and the multitude of elements which create a successful one.
Business SA: Did you always want to be involved in the family business?
Michael: I really had no interest at all until I started helping out in the lab, at which point I fell in love with the technical challenges of formulating sunscreens. I also enjoy the never ending challenge of being a small company competing against strong international companies.
Business SA: What are the most rewarding aspects of your role at Hamilton Laboratories?
Michael: The huge variety of people I get to relate to; from suppliers to customers, international distributors to leaders of other businesses.
Business SA: What major changes and new trends are you experiencing in your industry?
Michael: As pharmacy is our major retail channel we are strongly affected by the trends within this industry. For instance, as the majority of our business is now through branded pharmacies where category management rules, we have noticed a strong shift toward working with key buyers versus the owners of individual pharmacies.
Next, as our products are not available in supermarkets our challenge is to help pharmacy create a unique point of difference for their customers and generate as much loyalty and repeat business as possible.
Business SA: Where are the strongest growth markets for the company?
Michael: Our strongest growth market at the moment is probably New Zealand with our Business to Business sales also tracking well.
Business SA: Where do you want to take Hamilton Laboratories in your time as Joint Managing Director?
Michael: At a local level, I would love to see Hamilton Sunscreen become the default sunscreen that South Australians use. On a larger scale, I would like to see Hamilton seen as a Consumer Healthcare brand, which all consumers know and trust.
Business SA: Do you have any plans to relocate manufacturing?
Michael: It’s been on our wish list for a long time and will stay that way until the right opportunity comes along.
Business SA: How do you avoid sibling rivalry in business?
Michael: Ensure that all members involved in the business have their own clear roles and that they are aligned to their unique strengths. Also, make sure that there is a clear agreement on the big picture direction for the company and constant communication.
Business SA: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Michael: The small amount of spare time I have is mainly spent with the family but I also enjoy getting out for a ride, run, gym workout or even some target rifle shooting.