Since the start of One Inch Whale, the story behind our enterprise and what we stand for has never been written down. Until now. Wim was interviewed by Voka to translate the human side behind this business: what One Inch Whale stands for towards clients, employees but also fellow entrepreneurs and the experience that goes with it. Read the full article below.
In a world that is becoming more complex and challenging, large and small companies are increasingly investing in market research, brand positioning, customer experience and consumer psychology. Together with his business partner Jasper Scheir, Wim Hamaekers founded the market research agency One Inch Whale at the end of 2019. From their office in Hasselt, they provide numerous companies with strategic advice for an unforgettable 'customer journey'. We went to visit Wim for a portrait
The label 'starter in the spotlight' is very relative in this case, because just like Jasper, Wim already has quite a few professional kilometres on the counter. He outlines his career path: "During my bachelor's studies in marketing and communication sciences, I was fascinated by the subjects of market research and consumer psychology. After my internship, I started in 1995 as a market researcher at what was then Gemeentekrediet (which in the meantime has evolved into Dexia and Belfius). It was there that I really got the hang of the profession, based on the central question of how, as a company, you can gear your products and services optimally to the wishes and needs of customers, in order to make the difference compared to competitors."
Instructive trajectory in a small market research agency
After a stopover at bpost, Wim switched to the small market research agency Haystack in 2003. There he continued to learn the tricks of the trade. "In this office I got the chance to further develop my knowledge and expertise in market research and related fields. Together with my colleagues - including Jasper - I could let myself go in collecting relevant business information, processing this data into clear reports in order to make concrete business recommendations. In the course of time, I grew from research director to partner at this firm. I helped Haystack grow into a solid market player in terms of turnover and number of employees."
Dream becomes reality with the creation of own start-up
Wim stayed on board with the company until 2019, but decided that year to set up a market research company together with Jasper. That step was a dream come true. Wim: "We felt the momentum was there to swim against the tide as market researchers and start a contemporary and agile company. In our sector, disruptive trends have been visible for some time, for example in the field of capturing company data and the role of artificial intelligence and predictive modelling in market research. The time was ripe to use our available knowledge, experience and digital solutions with our start-up One Inch Whale for large and small companies that want to be and remain relevant and sustainable through their mission.
"At One Inch Whale, growth is not an end at itself. Above all, we want to invest in happy employees and satisfied customers."
At One Inch Whale, both the customers and the company's own employees are central. This approach was an important motive for Wim when setting up the start-up. "If you want to be relevant as a (growing) company for both young and older employees, then everyone must be able to develop his or her own talents to the full. With our entire team - two partners and three permanent employees, supplemented by a large pool of freelancers - we create a professional environment in which people have wings and want to give something back to society. We do things that give us energy, and you can feel that. At the same time, we act very value-driven, with authenticity as a spearhead. We also want to give opportunities to people who are falling behind professionally for various reasons."
Inspiring network partner
Managing and growing a business requires skills. Brand positioning is also essential. Through Bryo ScaleUp (the programme for growth starters at Voka) Wim found answers to important entrepreneurial questions. He explains: "Growth is not a goal in itself for us. Thanks to our compact team of permanent staff and freelancers, we are flexible and can realise unique projects for our clients. This flexible approach is very much appreciated, also by large, international market players who call on our services. Via the Bryo traject, I have already collected a lot of useful tips to help shape our sustainable growth. And the Bryo advice and accompanying model documents were also more than welcome when it came to drawing up a business and financing plan!"
"The contacts with colleagues from other Bryo Start- and ScaleUps and individual discussions with Voka coaches are enriching anyway. I have already learned a lot from the various contacts with fellow entrepreneurs about how they approach certain management issues. Learning from each other's experiences helps you to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes yourself."
Tips for fellow entrepreneurs
As a market researcher, Wim has been in many different waters.
What tips does he have for fellow entrepreneurs who also want to take the step to starting their own business?
"One thing is clear: it is never too late to start your own business. I am living proof of that (laughs). Do not be put off by obstacles, but on the contrary, make sure you have good professional guidance. Talk to like-minded entrepreneurs at networking events, and share both success and failure stories. From each story you can distil useful insights for your own growth path."
"And also: tackle things as professionally as possible from the start. To make money, you have to spend money. Or in other words: invest in a robust business plan, logo, brand name and of course talented people. Those investments will pay off in full later on."
"I also advocate hiring experts from the start, who moreover fit your company's DNA. This approach also has a price tag, but you can avoid having to make extra investments in coaching and training afterwards."
"And finally: dare to make yourself vulnerable as an entrepreneur. Be open to criticism and have the courage to adjust your business plans where necessary. In the year 2022, it is essential to be agile. The current corona crisis proves how quickly and radically market conditions can change. By the way, with our company name One Inch Whale we make the bridge between depth (the 'whale') and manoeuvrability ('one inch')."