Virginia had freelanced with the old Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS) on projects such as revision of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. She had postgraduate qualifications in languages and had taught in PNG, the USA and Australia and done some work as a book reviewer and curriculum developer.
Bruce had worked as a director and acting branch head in the APS, mainly in the international education field. His prior careers were in radio, newspapers and as a project doctor in commercial research. He also wrote prose fiction, film scripts and song lyrics.
Like many public servants Bruce was looking for career options in 1996. Virginia had edited key documents on competitive tendering and contracting out, and the couple saw opportunities emerging in this area.
WHH had two foundation clients: the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and Trade; and the University of Melbourne.
The couple formed a joint venture with Les Brown to provide integrated publishing services for DFAT; and WHH publishing activities grew out of that, leveraging Les’s production nous, Virginia’s editorial expertise and Bruce’s business development skills. After the closure of AGPS in 1997 more public agencies began to access WHH services.
Bruce worked the University of Melbourne on business development initiatives and the strategic review of the Faculty of Science. This led to a role managing an innovative program, the Graduate Program in Scientific Leadership; and a broader set of activities that include executive coaching and, with senior associate Jill Thompson, specialised program reviews and human resource assignments.
WHH professional and academic networks provide both referrals and access to talent. This aspect of WHH work has helped to underpin its success in combining different kinds of expertise to deliver innovation.
WHH currently holds panel contracts with government agencies in the communication and publishing, executive coaching and organisational renewal arenas.
Virginia Wilton’s motto ‘We’ll do it. What is it?’ reflects the responsiveness to client needs that remains central to the WHH business.
The firm is developing its next generation of people, processes and systems to realise the founders’ vision of an enduring company respected for excellent, innovative contributions to public good outcomes.