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Pioneer of the Week: Tom Walker from Whitecoat Productions

Community Manager

Pioneer of the Week: Tom Walker from Whitecoat Productions

Today almost every business is encouraged to use video content to connect with their online audience, but it wasn't always that way. Tom Walker, @tomwhitecoat, is a co-founder of Whitecoat Productions which started out as an idea driven by a passion for film back in 2002.


Introduce you and your business in one sentence.

Tom Walker (1).pngI’m Tom Walker and I'm one of the owners of Whitecoat Productions - a video content agency which covers branded content, short film, music video, and TV documentary as well as live, interactive and 360+VR content.


Tell us 2 interesting facts about you.

  • I trained in Ancient Greek and Latin at university before taking the natural step into video editing.
  • I collect films the old fashioned way (physical things), and I love sharks. I have a collection of over 80 shark films - however only 4 or 5 are worth watching!

How did you start your business?

We borrowed a small amount of money from parents to buy a Mac G4 and a video camera kit and started from there. Luckily it was 2002 so most people hadn’t realised you could make decent videos with this small amount of gear. Neither of us could even edit digitally yet when we did our first job.


What made you start your business?

I left university with no real clue about what to do for work (aside from working in the local video rental shop) and my business partner was already working in an advertising agency but not enjoying it. He kept seeing poor videos being churned out by the internal department so we started making better videos, at lower cost. The agency tried us, then used as more and more.


What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

Having a company that other people want to join and that everyone enjoys working at on a day-to-day basis (mostly…). It’s incredibly important that even when the work is tough and stress levels rise, the office remains a very positive and upbeat place. Freelancers especially have always pointed out how different we are to many other companies, and ultimately it’s really helped us to attract talent across all departments - both freelance and permanent.


What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

The biggest challenge was moving from the small do-it-all-yourself mentality to trusting others enough to delegate the work. I wish I’d learnt it years sooner - would have made my early 30s a bit more fun.


Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

Bringing in a full-time, experienced producer from a larger agency plus a head of graphics from a larger post-house has made a huge difference to our output and working practices. It very quickly pushed us up to a higher level where we’re being considered for much larger jobs.  If you bring in the talent, the jobs will come…


Where do you work from?

We have an office in Soho, London and a small office in Soho, New York (in a WeWork building, which is a great concept and has been really helpful for us over the last couple of years).


What do you wish you knew when you first started in business?

I guess anything would have been more helpful than nothing - I was absolutely clueless, and it was a slow learning process. 


What are your three top tips for your industry?

  • Make sure that working with you is a pleasurable experience - if people like working with you, you have a very good chance of them working with you again.
  • Treat your suppliers well. Even when clients don’t treat you well. We do our utmost to pay suppliers on time, despite clients taking 60 days, 90 days or years even… it can be tough on cash flow at times, but means good people stick with you. I’m always amazed at how many agencies don’t do this, and how many good people stop working with them because of it.
  • New business and client retention was something we neglected for far too long… don’t assume that the good work is enough in itself to keep you going - you have a to keep a conversation up with clients, or else you can find you’ve been forgotten. It can take lots of work to get a reliable, long-term client, so you don’t want something like staff turnover their end to push you out.


What would you like to ask the Voom Pioneers community?

Does anyone actually find it easy to transition from a tiny do-everything-yourself operation, to a larger company?