Walter Hill Jr. wants results—and as his 35-plus years in brand promotion show, that hasn’t been an issue for the president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Icon Blue Inc. Hill’s success is the outcome of smart decision-making, coupled with a growing entrepreneurial spirit, that dates back to 1966 when he left Virginia for a fresh start in California. His first order of business? Launch a direct sales company at age 24.
From there, Hill took up motivational speaking and got involved with executive gifts. Soon after, he approached Idea Man Inc., a Los Angeles-based promotional products firm headed by Bob Waldorf and Les Morris, about being a supplier to the company. “[Waldorf and Morris] invited me into the promotional products business at that time, and that was the start of my career,” Hill recalled. Hill later branched out into other ventures. “I transitioned into the product licensing end of the business and worked on projects, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, and was a licensee for the 1984 Olympic Games,” he added.
But Hill wasn’t finished with the promotional side and, in 1988, he partnered with Idea Man to create Sekot. That same year Hill founded Icon Blue Inc. as an independent entity in the promotional products industry. “Four years later, the GE Pension Trust acquired a minority interest in our company, which gave us the financial stability of a much larger company,” he explained. “This partnership with GE still exists.”
Today, Icon Blue Inc. has a staff of 12 employees and generates $5 million in annual sales. Read on as Hill talks shop.
Print+Promo (P+P): How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Walter Hill Jr. (WHJ): I set goals in three categories:
- Personal and spiritual development
- Health and fitness
- Business (i.e., growth and new business development)
I take a bit of downtime each week to monitor my progress.
P+P: How does the economy continue to affect the industry?