At William Mills Agency, family is not just a buzzword
A lot of PR firms talk about how their teams are one big family. At the William Mills agency, it’s not just talk, it’s reality.
There’s William III, who’s CEO, and Scott, who’s President, Eloise, their mother, who is CFO, not to mention a new generation that is joining the ranks of the 30 full-time employees of the financially focused agency. And they are all still mourning the recent passing of William Mills Jr., who together with Eloise, started the firm in 1977.
How do they keep everything peaceful and professional?
“It isn’t much of a secret,” Scott told us Monday. “We all love each other and we have our own particular perspectives. We’re all very different and and we bring different perspectives. There are times when we have disagreements and the key is to stay cool; to consider everyone’s positions and reflect on what is the best path for the agency. But the bonus is I get to see William and my mom and my nieces a lot more than if we got together otherwise and didn’t work together.”
Scott and William III even met their wives working at the agency!
The non-relatives are treated like family as well. Said William: “I have never in my travels found another agency where everyone is so much like family. We attend everyone’s weddings, celebrate their births … It’s a big part of our lives. The average tenure of other employees with us is really long. People rarely leave as the agency grows. We have a couple of other VPs, who joined us right out of school that have been here 13 years or more. It really is an extended family. “
William III graduated from Florida State with a degree in communications and advertising and joined the family business in 1983. He even interned there in the summer of 1982. “Back then, we could all eat lunch together every day. There were five people then, now we have 30!”
Scott graduated from Georgia State with a degree in commercial music. “I wanted to go into the record industry and ended up working for a radio station for two years. Then I split jobs, and found myself temporarily working at the family agency. I guess I’ve stayed for 24 years now!”
The firm started as a general advertising agency with an emphasis on business to business and then they ended up working with a lot of financial firms. In the 1990s, PR became 100 percent of their service focus. A few years ago, they hired Jerry Goldstein, who helped guide the marketing at MSA (now part of Dun & Bradstreet) to bring back their marketing services arm.
William Mills serves more than 50 companies all over the world in the payments, banking, credit union, automotive, insurance, healthcare and mortgage industries, including Equifax and Jack Henry and Associates.
The firm recently opened a Mumbai, India, office, creating a joint venture with Indisoft to help serve a number of companies, particularly software integrators.
“Our India operation is not a carbon copy of our US firm,” Scott said. “We’ve been advised there are a lot of mid-sized companies in India that would benefit from our PR programs. Many of the large companies have PR, but as a communication practice we have mid-sized that have not worked with PR firm.”
The firm bought its 21,000 sf international headquarters on West Wieuca Road in 1999, designed by Robert Green, an understudy of Frank Lloyd Wright. They gutted all of the top floor and half of the first floor.
Who handled the renovations? William’s wife, Alecia, of course. She designed and oversaw the construction of the interior spaces, employing her master’s graduate degree from Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture. Scott’s wife, Kim, did all the interior design for the office space.
The firm probably didn’t have far to go to get excellent financial advice either!
– Chris Schroder