Episode 9 – Lisa Paasche – Founder of Verve Search

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Audio Transcript:

Voiceover Guy:

Hello, and thanks for coming along to … And We Have An Office Dog, the digital agency podcast, where we talk to agency owner directors, and learn more about what makes them tick. From the things that make them similar, to the things they’d rather have known sooner, where they’ve success, and where they’ve learned some hard lessons, all will be revealed with your host, Chris Simmance, the agency coach, and he’ll be talking to a different awesome agency person in each episode, asking them four questions and seeing where the conversation takes us over the next 25 minutes. Okay, so let us begin. Over to you, Chris.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Thanks, Voiceover Guy. And on today’s podcast, we’ve got Lisa Paasche, former founder of Verve Search, and now the founder and CEO of EKTE Vision. Hi Lisa.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Hello. Hi.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

We got, I got there eventually with the pronunciations there. So firstly, very quickly. And we’ll go into this later. What does EKTE mean?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

EKTE means real and honest in Norwegian.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Fantastic, that makes a lot more sense.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So we’ll talk about that really shortly. So in the first instance, if you can give me a plug of what you do, what you do now specifically, and a little bit of your pedigree/heritage. Give us a plug, who is Lisa?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So now I run a mentoring and advisory business for agencies and CEOs, wanting to be more of who they are, and help them grow their business to a potential exit. And then I was CEO and founder of Verve Search for 12 years, which I grew to 57 people, and we sold to Omnicom Media Group in 2017.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Crikey, that’s 57 people to keep track of, well done. So as with every podcast, we’ve got four questions, we’ll see where the next 25 minutes or so takes us. And I think we’ve got two streams to have a chat about here. One is how you got to the point where you did with Verve, and the why’s, wherefore’s and how’s you managed to do your exit. And then we can talk about the coaching, the mentoring and things like that you do, because I think that overlaps really nicely to any of the agency owners listening right now as well.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Cool.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So first question. What has been one of your personal biggest successes over the years of running Verve up to now?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Well, I-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Is it a big pot of cash you got for selling it?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

No, not at all, actually.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Good.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, the funny thing with money is that it doesn’t change anything really, other than the things that you are, obviously, the logical things. So I think trying to sell an agency just for the money, is likely not to get you to the sale of a business. So I think my greatest success was in the teams that I built, and the achievements that those people were able to do. There’s so many examples of proud moments, but most of them are all about seeing people go from juniors to seniors, to heads of departments, and seeing them being able to make their own decisions and their own kind of path.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And that really, is something really special. And then I would also say, being able to do a lot of things that normally, especially in the SEO industry at that point was like, “That can’t be done.” And that for me, was a huge motivator for striving for quality, is the more people said, “Look, that can’t be done. You can’t get link from this site or this site, or you won’t be able to get that kind of quality links for poker clients,” for example, those things really motivated me, and also motivated all the people at Verve, the Ververs.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. I mean the first part there, is absolutely key, isn’t it, into any agency growth? The people that you put in, ultimately help you grow the business, and watching those people grow can feel fantastic. There’s going to be people who have different kind of cultural beliefs, upbringings, families, different things going onto their motivations, are always different as well. But watching someone go from a brand new junior all the way up to a head of department or even exiting the agency and becoming an owner of themselves or something like that, is its fantastic to see, isn’t it?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, no, absolutely, [crosstalk 00:05:12]-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I think, sorry, go on?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and I think, yeah, I had, even as I exited, I had mentored and helped one person to take over the agency, and so proud of him, of Jonas, for everything he’s done after I exited as well. It’s really lovely to see.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It’s like you’ve helped leave the place in a safe set of hands, even though it’s not yours anymore. It’s nice to see it still grow, fantastic. Yeah, and I guess the other part of all of that, is that you can feel proud of what you’ve left behind?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

If that makes sense?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And like you say, at the beginning, it isn’t necessarily about the money. And if you do go into selling an agency with a figure that you want to get, then it’s going to hamper, the exit is going to hamper the sales, the selling of the agency. It’s got to be at the right time for the agency and for you, I guess.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I think that’s the important fact. I think it’s really useful to have a sum in mind. And I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting money at all, or wanting to have the kind of success framework that’s usual, society works by, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it makes the only a little bit harder if you concentrate on that, while if you concentrate on building a truly amazing business that looks and feels different from others, that is really where the quality comes and selling agency that’s really good, it’s a lot fucking easier than selling an agency that just churns over.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely. And to your point about saying, people can’t do something, or you can’t do that, knowing you personally, I know what you are like when someone says, “You can’t do that, Lisa.”

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And I can see how that, and just having looked at quite a lot of the things that Verve did in the past, I can see that was part of the leadership approach that you took in that how people also had the same sort of mindset. It did set you up for some great growth based on everything that you can see.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And I think that one of the keys to being able to do things that people think is impossible, isn’t really anything to do with what other people’s say, is how much you believe in yourself. And that was very much a key of growing the teams, and the agency as a whole, was concentrating on getting people in a framework, where they really believed in themselves-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

… and each other, which it shouldn’t matter if everyone else around you, or other agencies, or clients says something, if you think, you believe that you can, you just do.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and often actually starting something, is 90% of the task of actually getting it done. And when someone says, “You can’t do it,” either, you don’t try, or you start doing it and you realize, “Okay, it isn’t as possible this way, but I now know another route, or at least I know what isn’t possible, and I know that for myself for sure.”

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. And I think that’s also such a great characteristic of people in the SEO industry-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Oh, yeah.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

… is that’s really the DNA of an SEO in the first place, getting to a dead end and finding another way. So yeah, I think its [crosstalk 00:08:45]-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

There’s the scientific method approach there. You don’t know it’s not possible until you can prove it’s not possible. And if it isn’t possible, at least you’ve learned something along the way as well, which is always useful as well. So I guess if you could go back to when you founded Verve, is there something that you would, if you could take a time machine and go back, is there one thing that you would give yourself as a piece of advice?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yes. Don’t take things so personally. I think one of the biggest challenges with being a leader, especially if you really care about what you’re building and you put your all into it, it’s really challenging not to take things personally, and not feel personally connected to it. But if your actual identity becomes your work, then it becomes really hard once you have to take yourself out of it.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And also I people think that being a friendly, nice boss is the right thing to do. But it bringing up teams is very much like bringing up children, you need to help them have framework around, and rules, so that they feel safe. And at the start, I think I mistook being nice and friendly, and friendships for leadership, and those really need to be different. You have to be okay with not being liked, not being, not always being understood your way of doing things. And that I found really challenging. I think if I could somehow get to myself at that very early stage and say, “Look, that is the root of going down, getting so connected to things, that it becomes who you are, it’s going to break you.”

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. I mean to all the people who are listening right now, who I ever employed, I’m sorry for doing that personally. I was terrible for taking things personally, especially if you have a bad day personally, and then something professional happens, and everything in your business is, when it’s yours, everything is personal in a sense. It’s really hard to take a step back and remember that you’re the leader, and you’ve got to follow the same vision, and sing to the values that you set everyone else all the time. And I think it’s, part the part of the problem there, and I don’t know what your thoughts are on this, because you mentor people.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It’s very easy to be a good doer. And then quite a lot of the doers start a business for themselves, an agency or whatever, but it’s really hard to learn how to be a leader. And quite a lot of people start agencies off not being good leaders, but being good doers. Then it’s really hard to take a step back when someone else is doing something that isn’t exactly how you want it, or the result isn’t exactly how you want it, and you feel this little … I used to make it, in my head, it was a bit like waves crashing over a rock. It just slowly eroded my ability to keep calm. And you spot on, saying that.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I think that’s very true for me as well. I have very high expectations of myself, and I think it is really important to know that people aren’t you, and it doesn’t mean that it’s any worse, or it’s bad in any way. You need to let people make their own mistakes, but it can be really challenging. I was by no means in charge of that in terms of there’s so many things that I would do differently now, but I think all you can do, is the best that you can, but you have to concentrate on really making sure that this isn’t, knowing that this isn’t you. I think leadership, is really important to know that who you are as a person and a leader might be slightly different. That’s actually the opposite of what most people tell you, is that they’re [crosstalk 00:13:16]-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It’s true, yeah. [inaudible 00:13:18] the books.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, because you have to realize that, if things are really difficult and I went through a really difficult period during COVID, which was my last year of earnout, and that was honestly the worst time in my career, and probably in my life, in terms of my mental state, and how hard things were. But everyone was so charged, and everyone was so worried about everything. And if people come into situation, where they’re already triggered and worried, it is very easy to blame on their management, or the leadership. And you have to learn that, because people will maybe project that, but you don’t need to take it in. And so I think one of the biggest advice I would give to someone that are growing an agency, and especially if they want to sell, is you have to get yourself a therapist, because-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I shouldn’t laugh, but that’s the fifth or sixth time an agency owner on this podcast has said that. And I’m only laughing, because everyone agrees with you.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, honestly, I think it’s really hard to do this without-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

[crosstalk 00:14:35].

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

… and it would’ve been a lot worse for me if I hadn’t. And being aware of your, because you’re going to have to take the … Of course, if everyone is worried, and everyone is scared, and it is fight or flight, that happens in their brain without, it’s not a conscious thing. So making sure that you don’t take that on as everything being your fault, is just really important

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely spot on. And I think various different people need different levels of professional support. I think that’s either, that’s everything from talking to your mum, all the way through to professional therapy and everything in between, coaching, mentoring, and so on. But I think there’s something to be said, and you’re right for having something inside, like a mechanism where you can, not detach, but you can be aware that you are not the business, and the business is not you. But you still all need to be the right leader, that needs to be in the business.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And I think that’s quite powerful. Question though, if you did go back in time and give yourself that advice, would you listen to it?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Probably not.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

[crosstalk 00:15:44].

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I was right cocky early 30-something.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I don’t believe it for a second, Lisa.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Nothing I know about you suggests that to be true. I think you’re probably really easy going and calm.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, that has never been words described about me. It might be in the future.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Ah, well, everyone’s on the journey.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

One day. And so you’ve built Verve from zero up to 57, I think you say, and then you got to the point around exit, what is it that you learned about the agency and the growth trajectory that you were on, that made you decide, “This was the right time.”

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So it’s quite unusual actually, because in 2015, I really shook up the agency, and changed a lot. And I always knew that I wanted to build to sell. I’m not sure that my motivation at the start for that was money. I think it mostly was, for me, I grew up with both my parents being bankrupt. So not ever having had the security of money, was a real-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

.. but then-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It’s bit of a motivator.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, but it’s evolved a lot, but in 2015, as I said, the agency turnover and profit, and the results of what we were doing, was actually really plummeting. And we were at that point doing, what we were then calling content marketing, which was mostly writing content and getting links and stuff, which was really slow, and not very helpful for ranking-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

[crosstalk 00:17:26] as well, isn’t it?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and so I had to make a very difficult decision, and I made half, nearly half, no, 35, 40% of the agency redundant. And I closed down what was called the content team. And then created, then started growing more of a production team for development design, and then outreach, which is slightly different to content marketing, because the outreach people was more a PR and journalistic.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

They know how to talk to the people they’re sending the emails to, rather than-

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And so from 2015, to when we sold, we literally were on, our profit had halved from the year before, in 2015 and we tripled profit onto 2017, when we sold. And because we were on such, it was basically making that difficult decision that everyone hated me for, because it was wrong, and obviously people had to leave-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Tough.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

… and it was really, really tough. But it was the right decision. And it was what allowed us to become the agency that we could be, and doing the great work, winning the awards. And so by 2016, we already had people come to us. And so actually Omnicom had already contacted us and was interested. But I had to hold them off, because we weren’t really at the profit margin I wanted to sell at. And then, and I worked of course, going back to this, with the advisory team, to help the growth. Now they also became my advisor on the actual M&A, which was super useful, but I’m not sure that they necessarily did that much in the growth period. But it was all useful. So it wasn’t actually that long between 2015, no real profit to talk about, to actual [inaudible 00:19:39] enough to sell.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And the right, so in a sense, at the point you got to a good revenue and profit figure, was the right time in terms of the pivot between, “Now I’m ready to sell. I’ve built to sell, and I’m ready?”

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and to be honest, I think the biggest sign for me that we were ready is I think it was 2015 when I looked for a head of operation, someone that could do all the things that I wasn’t very good at. So I basically wrote down a spreadsheet of all the things I did. And then I put out all the things that I knew I wasn’t good at, or things I didn’t like, and I made a job description of that. And that’s how I found [Becks 00:20:26], who then in the end became my COO. And one of the most important parts of getting ready to sell, is to be really honest with yourself, about what you can do, and what you should be doing, and what you shouldn’t be doing. The change from when I got her onboard and her doing those things what was my blind spots, was amazing. I could never have done this without her.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely, and I think the sale figure, and the earnout time make a big difference, depending on how much you physically do in the business, and how much needs to be handed over, or how much is at risk if you don’t hand over, and things like that. So having the right operational lead-in there at the point of growth, is essential, because you can’t be the visionary and the implementer all the time. You can be good at some of it, but not all of it. And like you say, splitting the, dichotomizing your abilities between things you like and things you can do, versus things you don’t really like and shouldn’t do is key at any stage of agency growth, I think.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And as soon as you can afford it, one of the things that I’d always advise to an agency owner, as soon as you can afford it, get someone in on an operational level, whether it’s at the start, a project manager that you can upskill and bring into a COO level, or something similar, because it will pay for itself in dividends in the future. Whether it be systems, processes, or sometimes, I found this really hard, I don’t know about you, but being told, “No,” when something wasn’t necessarily feasible, being told, “No.” And having a good person you can trust to say, “This is why,” and you can trust why. It’s invaluable.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. So also I think, it’s really, for me, it invaluable to have me and Becks were very different in the way we worked and the way we thought, but our values were identical, I would say. What we really think is important are our respect, honesty, and the value system was exactly the same. And you need to be able to really trust someone to kind of share that work. As entrepreneurs and founders, I think that’s the biggest difference between entrepreneur CEOs, and CEOs that have worked the way up as CEOs, is that you can’t take away that thinking way as an entrepreneur. Which is mostly, “Go at 100 miles an hour, want to solve problems, big problems and go with it, and be able to change, and move, and do things quickly.” It’s the heartbeat of founding business and having the CEO there. But it could also, it’s very different to then being the CEO of an agency. For me, when I was a CEO, and I was part of Omnicom, they felt like very different jobs.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I can imagine. And I think that, I guess, your mindset around the business has to shift slightly around the long term plans that you have, personally and professionally, when you effectively got new leaders in the larger scale. And part of that merging, is key to getting it right, and obviously having the right mindset is key.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and I was totally unmanageable.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I think I can only imagine how I would’ve been in your shoes as well, having exited the web development business that I had, I was terribly unmanageable, and that was a small business with very few staff. And again, if you’re listening now, sorry about that. So I guess all of the stuff you did with Verve, all the way through and going through the exit stage, has probably set you up massively well for the agency coaching and mentorship that you do now. Do you feel that there’s things that you’ve learned throughout that journey, that you just couldn’t learn from a book in order to help people in a similar position you used to be?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, absolutely. And weirdly, most people that come to me, think that they want help with those things, the processes and, “What should we do in this scenario? What should we ask for? What is this sale process?” All those things. But it’s rarely that, that ends up being what I help them with, because the real challenge, is setting yourself up for that growth, and be the keeper of everyone’s goals and ambition as well. And yeah, so it’s, I do all of those things, and I think it is very beneficial, but mostly I think it is hugely beneficial, having, I have five clients at the moment. And to be honest, I think that’s almost as much as I can take.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Because you only, when you’re mentoring, you are literally talking … I do three hour sessions once a month with these people and you, it’s the space where you listen to them and feel their pain, and they’re difficult challenges, but it’s mostly about being able to understand it. What most people want, from a psychological point of view, is being heard, and leaders, because they’re the ones making the decisions, they are heard, but they’re not heard from a personal point of view, and what they feel. Because you can’t say that, you can’t say like, “Oh my God, I feel so upset about this.” You can’t say that to all your employees, because again, it’s like a parental situation. It’s not fair to tell your kids all your problems.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Exactly, and I think having had the experiences that you’ve had similar to me, in a sense that if you don’t, if you haven’t lived through it, you can only have sympathy for someone’s problems. If you have real empathy, because you were there, you felt similar feelings, you had similar issues, then it means that you actually do listen better. And I think, listening to the real problem, and then understanding, through empathy, the problem that caused, or behind the problem, you can really get to the kernel of truth, the thing that really actually helps them, to either, you can either coach them past the problem, or mentor them into their own solution. It really does depend on the context of the problem. But if you haven’t had an experience similar to that, and you’ve just learned in a book how to be a coach then you’re not necessarily, like you say, listening and hearing properly.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. And I think the biggest challenge for people when they’re looking for a mentor, is obviously looking for someone that have done similar things, I think is very useful. But again, what I mostly do, is not, they tend to look for someone that can tell them stuff, but what I really do, is help them question stuff. And for them to come up with their own way of what they, what is right for them. Because even if I’ve done what looks like exactly the same route, it is so individual, because it’s all about people. An agency isn’t the same as another agency, because it has the same amount of people, and they do the same thing. All those individuals makes that a completely different business, it’s [inaudible 00:28:13], it is a completely different business.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So to be able to successfully really mentor and help people through something, you have to ask the right question, so that they can come up with answer that is right for them. Yeah. And that’s basically, I think in my head, mentoring is mirroring, to help them get to that bit. And quite often, CEOs and founders don’t have those people that they can do that with. I also have a very big interest within psychology and neuroscience, and I’m doing a lot of personal studies now. But also possibly starting a degree in September. And it’s just so interesting to be able to help people get more of their own ideas, their own thoughts, because it’s often the insecurities that are keeping them from making the right decision. Because it’s a hesitation thing. So quite often the right question is what will happen if you don’t do that, rather than what will happen if you do do that.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. There’s a non-judgmental curiosity that is required.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, absolutely.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So in all of the years that you’ve been doing the agency running and all of the stuff with Verve, the exit is finalized now. And obviously you’re working to help support people who run agencies and other businesses to mentor them into the right sort of mindset and success. What would you, if I was, say for example, a potential agency owner of the future was listening, someone who is thinking about starting an agency, or has literally just started an agency, what would you tell them, from the coaching and mentor perspective, as a piece of advice to take away?

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Concentrate on making good teams and do great work, and make sure that you have other outlets for you, that I think will be the summary. It’s difficult to say, because again, it all depends on their thinking, but it’s going to be a lot more fun than you think, and it’s going to be a lot harder than you think.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you very much for coming along, Lisa, it’s been great to have you on the podcast.

𝗟𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗲 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

No worries.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And then in our next podcast, we have different agency owner, director, telling us their story. So in until then, enjoy.

 

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