Coming to Deià, Mallorca, changed Charles Marlow co-creators Patrick and Charlie Hill, as people, as budding entrepreneurs and ultimately as brothers. This is the story of how they made the life-changing decision to leave London and move to a tiny, tranquil village in Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains, fell in love with island life and became brothers in business.
Since Charles Marlow began in January 2014, we’ve sold E163 million of real estate to 76 couples and families in Deià, Mallorca and in Ibiza. We have rented homes on these islands to more than 650 people since 2016.
Growing up, we and our sister Chloe – who originally took over the real estate company Deià that became Charles Marlow – used to play at having businesses together.
We built businesses out of cardboard boxes and sold things to each other.
Although the great writer Joseph Conrad created a fictional character named Charles Marlow, this is just a happy coincidence. We came up with the name because we spent our teenage years near the English village of Marlow and Charles is a family name. Our dad’s middle name is Charles and we have an uncle with the same name.
Charlie is, of course, Charles but Patrick’s first name is also Charles. Confused yet?
I did well at school but I was one of those people who struggled to study for its own sake so I didn’t enjoy it. At 16, I left to become an apprentice at BMW. Despite the fact I had no interest in cars, I fell in love with taking them to bits and repairing them. I enjoyed the tactile learning experience.
At BMW, I was trusted, challenged and financially rewarded. In my first year, I won apprentice of the year. At that time, even though I knew money didn’t motivate me, I was conditioned into believing that being successful and making money were what life was all about so I was happy.
I spent 10 years at BMW and ended up in sales. It’s where I met my partner, the mother of my daughter Nova.
Around that time, our sister Chloe had taken over a real estate agency in Deià. But, after she separated from the partner with whom she’d done so, Patrick left innocent drinks, where he was working in finance, to help her.
Patrick could see that I was unhappy at heart and unfulfilled doing sales and living in London. He suggested I come over to Deià so that we could co-create Charles Marlow. When Chloe left to go travelling, Patrick and I were faced with the choice of going back to London or starting a new life while taking over the business. We didn’t hesitate in choosing the latter.
I first visited Deià when I was 22. One night I was sleeping outside and I looked up at the twinkling stars and understood the whole place is magical. I moved to the village when I was 25. It’s where I became an adult.
Deià gave me space and a pace of life that helped me find myself, even while Patrick and I were building the business. So, while I was using my talents and the skills I learned in sales, as well as growing my potential as a compassionate leader, I was beginning to discover a more authentic me.
This process continued when I moved to Ibiza with my partner and our daughter Nova to grow Charles Marlow on the white island. I’ve been free to explore mindfulness and practices such as yoga, the Wim Hoff ice bath method and various other spiritual technologies.
I really believe work is life and keeping them separate is a choice. So, far from being separate from my business as a lifestyle realtor, such practices give me a combination of open-mindedness and mental crispness and toughness. They also remind me of my real values, which are far more about helping to create and share a more meaningful way of life than they are about money.
It wasn’t intentional, but these practices and way of seeing the world also align me with the questioning spirit of Ibiza and the new generation of conscious business people we work with on the island as well as many of our clients.
Today, I love the adventure of my life. It’s not just about the thrill of building a successful business but also helping our clients and the members of our team make their dreams reality and live their best lives. My path of self-discovery, including learning how to be a father, is deeply enriching.
I can’t wait for the future.
I’m the slightly older and perhaps more practical brother. Unlike Charlie, I followed the conventional route of school and university before beginning what I thought would be my career.
I studied business management at Nottingham University in the UK and graduated in 2005. For me, trying to understand the reasons why, for example, two businesses on the same street selling almost identical products could perform so differently from each other. Why did one fail and the other succeed?
Trying to figure this out is like playing a particularly challenging computer game. There are just so many variables. I find that fascinating, to the point where it’s become a major obsession.
After university, I went to Deloitte where I qualified as an accountant. I worked in commercial finance at BskyB before taking up a more strategic and financial role at innocent drinks. The opportunity to join Chloe in Deià and co-create what was to become Charles Marlow arose 18 months later.
During my time at Deloitte and BskyB, I’d felt extremely trapped working a 9 to 5 job and being judged purely on the volume of work I produced. I hated only being able to take 28 days holiday at strictly regimented times. While I loved working at innocent and I learned an enormous amount there, it was obviously not my business. I wanted to be in control.
Although I had no idea how or even if Charles Marlow was going to come to fruition, it was the opportunity to take charge of my own destiny I’d been waiting for.
I jumped at the opportunity to come to Deià.
The funny thing is that it had never occurred to me that the chance to fulfil my dream would be to work with my own family. Chloe, Charlie and I had pretty much always done our own thing.
When I moved to Deià, I didn’t really get it. I was living in London and used to lots of friends and stimulation. I also had no idea how one went about selling houses. But Deià shone a light on a different way of living. I began to learn how to slow down and enjoy nature.
I knew Charlie was unfulfilled at work and suggested he come to Deià, initially to work with Chloe and me and then, after she left to go travelling, to build the business together. I’m extremely happy that he did.
It’s safe to say that Charlie and I are very different. He’s far more willing to question everything while I’m the logical one who sees his role as making sure things actually work.
The journey of spiritual exploration Charlie began in Ibiza has also been hugely beneficial to our business. And, around the time he became a father, he found a remarkable level of focus on shaping our future. Together with his newfound mindfulness, his level of commitment is a wonderful thing for me to see and enormously important for our business.
Combine this vision with my interest in systems and technology, as well as my pure fascination with business itself, and I believe we’re a great partnership.
It’s safe to say that we’re very different from each other. Patrick is more grounded and rational. Charlie is more of a visionary.
In the early days of working together we were content to divide up responsibilities. Patrick focused more on taking care of the practicalities. Charlie concentrated on sales and marketing and defining the vision for Charles Marlow.
Being brothers, we’re aware that we’ve got each other’s backs. Neither of us is going anywhere. The difference is that, in the past, that was unspoken. Now, we communicate openly, honestly and compassionately, as we do with the team and everyone with whom we do business.
We also have an almost unconscious ability to sense when one of the other of us needs to drive the business a little more. No matter how mindful we’ve become, we’re also competitive people. So, at the same time as wanting our business to lead the way in lifestyle real estate in Mallorca and Ibiza, we also enjoy pushing each other in the service of Charles Marlow and developing the culture that’s increasingly proving to be our secret advantage.
So, while we’re driven to make Charles Marlow successful, we’re equally driven to create a culture that benefits our clients – sales and rentals – our team in Mallorca and Ibiza and the network of businesses and artisans we work with.
We invite our team members to be committed, transparent, treat everyone with respect and discover their authentic selves. Then, we encourage them to be themselves with our clients and our network – go inwards to go outwards, if you like.
Also, we’ve realised that if we and our team know how to live a life we love, we connect better with our clients who, after all, are looking to do the same thing.
Our clients tell us that they love this approach, which is why we devote as much time to creating space in Charles Marlow for shaping our culture – physically getting together as a team to celebrate and grow – as we do searching for concrete opportunities.
Today, we’re at an interesting point in our story. Although we’re still mastering the art of real estate, we’re proud to say that we’ve succeeded to a level that has taken us happily by surprise. Figuring out where we’ll go next is challenging but great fun.
Apart from the constant process of finding ways to grow in alignment with our culture, there are two main areas on which we want to focus. In Ibiza, we quite simply want to grow the business. In Mallorca, although we’ll continue to grow the sales side, we’re really excited by developing our rental business to make it more experiential.
We’ve recognised that the holiday of a lifetime isn’t just about the house you rent. It’s equally about what you do. We’re developing rentals into more of a curated experience where we organise events for people that showcase aspects of Mallorcan culture they might otherwise not experience – everything from music and art to cooking.
This offers us another opportunity to connect visitors to the island to the amazing artists and artisans who live here and enable them to go deeper into the rich culture of Mallorca.
More than 10 years into growing Charles Marlow, being brothers in business is more exciting than it’s ever been.
In our second brothers in business post, we’ll look more deeply at how our experiences have helped shape our philosophy and culture. We’ll also hear from members of our team, some satisfied customers and members of our network.