Lorraine Murphy: Why I Sold My Business

Lorraine Murphy: Why I Sold My Business
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Category-defining industry pioneer Lorraine Murphy announced over the weekend she has sold the business she started, The Remarkables, to her business partner Natalie Giddings. Here, the long-time friend of B&T shares her thoughts on this momentous occasion. This opinion was first published on her own blog.

Today we are announcing that I have sold The Remarkables Group to my business partner Natt.

That sentence was very surreal to write.

Even though we have been working on this for a couple of months, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that this is all happening.

I started the business on the 16th May 2012 in my spare bedroom. I was full of optimism, excitement and not a little terrified of this new frontier I was about to cross.

Starting my own business was a relatively recent ambition for me. I had an idea that I thought would solve problems, I had some savings, so I went for it.

In the months before I started the business, I worked every weekend on getting ready for launch day – working on my website, signing up bloggers who I would represent, figuring out accounting, legals and admin. I had no idea what I was doing but somehow, that didn’t seem to matter.

I left my job at Naked Communications, had a three-week holiday in Europe, and opened the (bedroom) door of the business two days after we got back. My business baby’s arrival was heralded with a story on Mumbrella – my first ever mention in trade media.

Those first six months were spent pushing shit uphill – I had started a business representing bloggers, however most brands didn’t see the value in working with bloggers (yet) and if they did, they didn’t necessarily want to pay for the privilege.

I spent most of my time educating those brands, running training sessions, speaking at events and pumping out opinion pieces and factsheets.

On the other side of the fence, I was attempting to put some structure around the bloggers’ offering to brands – figuring out rate cards, inclusions and evaluation metrics to create rigour around what was essentially the Wild West of the media landscape back then.

In October 2012, the game changed – we landed Woolworths as a client (who happily are still clients today), I increased the number of bloggers we represented from five to twelve, and I hired my much-needed first employee.

From there, the snowball started to roll with a tiny bit less hustle-factor from me.

The Remarkables Group brand began to grow, as did I as an entrepreneur, but also a person. Starting a business has a strange way of forcing you to deal with all your own shit – from feelings of inadequacy, fear of letting others down, to the omnipresent uncertainty. Ah the uncertainty!!!

There were many great times

Winning new clients and the entire team whooping it up.

Beating the competition that inevitably arrived to signing a new influencer.

Hosting our group of influencers at four annual RGMs (Remarkable General Meetings) that saw us walking on glass, flying to Hayman Island in helicopters and learning from the best in the business across publishing, digital media and branded content.

Winning B&T Emerging Agency of the Year in November 2013, and walking onstage as a teeny team of three to accept our award.

Being named Content Marketer of the Year in a category that saw us up against the behemoth that is Fairfax Media.

Launching the first talent search for influencers – Rising Soci@l Star, which has run for the last two years.

Launching Remarkable Pets, which was pretty much all anyone wanted to talk to us about in 2016.

There were also absolutely shit times

On at least three occasions over the last 5.5 years, I considered closing the whole thing down. I was either exhausted, overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of the changes I knew I needed to make in the business, or disillusioned after a much-anticipated hire not working out as hoped.

I have often made the assumption of other entrepreneurs that a) they know exactly what they’re doing all of the time, that they’ve somehow cracked some secret code that – if I can just find it – will make my business hum with minimal effort from me and b) that it must be easier for them somehow than it is for me.

I find it fascinating when others apply those assumptions to me and my business!

I can tell you that 90% of the time running The Remarkables Group that I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, and was scrabbling every week, day and hour to figure things out.

It was tiring, but God was it exciting.

When issues came down to the wire, we defaulted to the pillars of transparency and integrity. It never led us wrong, and it still hasn’t today.

In mid-2016, I started to think about building a strategy arm of the business as I could see that brands need guidance in that area. As we represented talent, I considered starting a separate business to provide objective strategy – I even had a name and a logo!

However on further reflection I didn’t feel we could do both with integrity, so I parked the idea to revisit in 2017 as my first book Remarkability was published in June and – to be completely frank – I had no idea what to do about the strategy offer.

Based on the success of the book, I launched a mentoring program and built up my speaking. I incorporated Remarkability Pty Ltd as a side hustle to manage that side of things.

Then I found out I was pregnant.

In a decision based 90% on instinct and 10% on insight, I decided that The Remarkables Group 2.0 needed to be an independent influencer strategy agency.

I knew that our brand clients needed “more” of us, and that our representation model couldn’t provide that to them. I acknowledged that I wouldn’t be in a position to make a pivot in the business in 2017 as I would be overseeing a major pivot already on the home front!

In the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in the business, I got on a plane in October 2016 and saw each of the 23 influencers we represented around the country, telling them that as of 1st January 2017 we would no longer be representing talent.

It is a testament to them as professionals how well they took the news, and I spent the following couple of months assisting those who wanted to to transition over to new management.

Then we needed to figure out our new model. To our delight (and my deep, deep relief! – talent representation brought in $2m in FY15/16), brands wanted what we were offering.

We quite quickly buily up a stellar list of brands, who we worked with on a much more elevated level. Getting to guide brands like Toyota, Westpac, NIVEA and Woolworths was a thrill.

Around this time, I decided the time was right to bring a partner into the business with me – to enable me to take some time to be with our baby, however also as I felt the business needed some external thinking. I had been the sole pilot for almost five years, and I felt the business would benefit from having a co-pilot in the cockpit with me.

I wrote four names in my notebook (in order of preference) and I was beyond excited when the first name on that list – Natalie Giddings – agreed to buy into the business. From our first conversation, it felt easy. Our passion for the business, our preference for frank conversations and our pace of working was perfectly matched.

That year working side-by-side with Natt is up there as one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable I’ve had in the business. She has expanded the scope of what we can do for our clients, she is a leader who walks her own talk, and she cares passionately for our clients and the work we do for them.

Little Alexis arrived in June 2017 and nothing could have prepared me for how magical a being she is. I stepped out of the business for four months – during which I wrote my second book Get Remarkably Organised – and came back into the business via a study tour in London.

I flung myself into reconnecting with clients, mapping out a quarterly strategy with Natt and creating content for the business.

It felt different.

It felt different because I felt different.

My big gameplan for the business was always to work my arse off, take it global, sell it, work through my earn out, then I’d be able to write, speak, mentor and train full-time. That’s my “soul on fire” stuff. I feel fully present when I’m helping people through those channels, like I’m in exactly the right place, with the right person, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing.

I was talking about at least 2025 before that would be a reality. Lexi was already six months old, and I realised just how quickly those eight years would go by. I wondered if there was a possibility that I could cut to the end state I so desired and just write, speak, mentor and train.. now?

Listening to a podcast interview with Oprah recently (I LOVE YOU OPRAH!), she said: “Everyone knows that there’s a time that comes in your life that where you are is not where you’re supposed to be.”

This was that time for me.

But there was a lot of shit to figure out.

First, I had made a commitment to Natt to grow this business with her. How could I let her down just three months after coming back in?

Second, what would life look like without The Remarkables Group? It was my firstborn; my identity and its identity were tightly intertwined. Who would I be without it?

Thirdly, what would I do next? I had done mentoring and speaking as a side hustle for a couple of years, however it’s a very different proposition when that needs to become my main gig.

The first thing I needed to do was speak to Natt. With pages of talking points, my hands shook as I picked up the phone to call her.

In classic Natt style, she took it in her stride and by the end of the one-hour conversation, we had hatched a plan. She would buy me out of the business, and I would stay on as an adviser for the duration of 2018.

Much admin (so much admin) later, and the deal was done. I signed my resignation letter and officially handed the reins over to Natt.

So that’s it.

Those close to me who I’ve told about the business sale have asked me two questions:

How do you feel?

I feel so damn grateful. To Natt for being so understanding and excited to take the business to the next level. To Ash for rolling with yet another big change in the business. To have had the idea to start it. To have had the opportunities that idea gave me. To have the relationships I have as a result. To have had a big, beautiful sandpit full of opportunity to explore.

I feel proud of the brand The Remarkables Group is today – and the brand I know it will continue to be.

I feel free. Not in a sense of having off-loaded something, but in a sense that I don’t feel I have anything to prove anymore. I built a great business. I entered the awards, wrote the opinion pieces, connected with the right people, all to move that business forward. And – for the moment at least – it’s just me. Lorraine. Weirdly, that feels like a strange place to be and I’m enjoying feeling my way around it.

I feel excited. I know for sure what sets my soul on fire and to have the opportunity to pursue that full-time feels like the most outrageous luxury. I have more work than I quite know what to do with, which I think means I’m on the right path…

What’s next?

Staying true to my default setting, this couple of months is jam-packed with promoting the new book, mentoring sessions and launching my mastermind group. So once this is done, I’m going to hit the Pause button. In fact, I’m going to hit the Stop button.

Life has been at one speed (90km per hour) for the last six years, so it’s time to stop. Think, recalibrate, listen, allow ideas to drop in. Lexi and I are off to be hippies in Bali for a couple of months. Think Eat Pray Love, but with a baby! I’m going to dye my hair pink, wear an ankle bracelet (Lexi’s getting one too) and do a shitload of yoga.

I’ll start more businesses, I know that for sure too. But for now, I’m going to explore my writing, speaking, mentoring and training – and see where the path takes me.

It’s not possible to run a successful business without an A+ support team. While I was seen as the figurehead for The Remarkables Group for the first five years, I was in fact standing on the shoulders of giants.

My husband Wade has had my back every single step of the way, and has never doubted my ability to lead the business – even when I was filled with doubt myself, and even in the face of some pretty risky moves. Meeting him gave me the inspiration, motivation and belief that I could make a go of my own business. Making him proud has been the sweetest joy.

My parents and sister have answered the anguished phone calls – often at deeply inconvenient times – as I worked through some problem with the business. Even though none of them own their own businesses, they have never once questioned why I was doing it.

I have had the privilege of having absolute rockstars in my team over the years. Some stayed longer than others, however every one of them taught me something. My greatest souvenir from my time in The Remarkables Group is the relationships with past team members. There’s a special connection there with a few of them, which I know will last a lifetime.

My friends forgave me for neglecting my relationship with them diabolically while the business was in its early years and, if I’m very honest, beyond that too.  My friends who also have their own businesses have been there in the trenches with me, and their support has been so very appreciated.

Many mentors have gifted me with their advice – either in a formal or informal capacity. Mike Wilson, Mark Ryan, Marina Go, Clair Jennifer, Jack Delosa, Julie Masters, Craig Hodges, Emma Isaacs.. but really, there are far far too many to mention.

Thank you for reading this rather self-indulgent post. I felt it was important to honour The Remarkables Group, and all the people who are part of its story at this special moment in mine and Natt’s life.

I’ll hand over to my girl Oprah to close (talking about taking her talk show national):

“I had no fear. I knew I was stepping into destiny in a way I could not even explain to myself.”

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