Willie Hamilton, chief executive officer, The Company of Master Jewellers

You can always rely on The Company of Master Jewellers’ chief executive Willie Hamilton to make his presence known. Describing himself as “direct, honest and sometimes blunt” he asserts that those who know him well know how passionate he is about the jewellery industry. “I am driven to achieve the best results for my members and I rarely lose an argument,” he states.

Seeing Willie dressed as Batman character The Riddler for this year’s Hot 100 photograph might seem like a riddle itself, but it represents a project close to Willie’s heart — the Just Ask campaign. Earlier this year, Willie made a call to the industry to ask suppliers where their products come from. “And if they say they don’t know, then at least you know they don’t know. And it may well prompt them to ask further down the supply chain.”

The scheme was followed by a trip to southern Africa, where Willie experienced the rawness of artisanal mining fi rst-hand. “You see the difference that Fairtrade International and Comic Relief have made, along with the challenges the miners still face,” he explains. Further to this, Willie has continued his work as a vice-president for The World Jewellery Federation (CIBJO), something he describes as “an honour and inspiration”. This has led him to further rouse CMJ members’ interest in corporate social responsibility, showing them that greater transparency, accountability and ethical trading are important to our industry.

But what about hurdles of his own? The business itself has notably grown under Willie’s tenure but he admits it has been tough to adjust to needs of its widening membership. “One of the challenges we addressed this year was to spend time with our members in smaller regional meetings. These have been a resounding success and something we will continue to do. Networking and communication with and between our retail members is vital and regional meetings are a way to voice opinions, concerns and be heard.”

At present, the CMJ’s members total more than 150 retailers operating 350 stores, and together they smashed a record in 2014. “Our greatest business achievement was comfortably breaking the £100 million sales fi gure through the group and seeing, yet again, record sales and growth,” Willie states. “Our sales have risen to just shy of £113 million, which represents a rise of 28%. Our group is in the strongest fi nancial position in its 34-year history, which is a wonderful platform for the next phase of our growth and development as the leading jewellery buying group in the UK.”

Next on the agenda is the 2014 CMJ Business Conference in October, teamed with Willie’s continued campaign encouraging CMJ retail members to become the go-to bridal jewellers in their respective towns. “Within the jewellery industry, reputation is everything. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and to fail from time to time. Everyone does,” he says. “But always be honest and ethical in your approach to business. And employ and invest in the best people in the business — no one person can do it all themselves. Teamwork is key to any big business success.”