It’s the final day of 2016.
What a year.
The last 12 months were most definitely the most filled with change, plot twists and transformation than any I can remember previously. In conversations with many people, I’ve likened 2016 to a snowglobe being shaken – all the little snowflakes bubbling and bouncing off each other, with the ultimate outcome being them settled at the bottom of the globe once the water had calmed.
It seems I’m not the only one who felt enormous change this year – I wonder if you’re the same…
I’m writing this from the verandah off our cute little villa in Vanuatu – overlooking a lagoon. Our villa is right next to the local village, and the local kids play non-stop in the water from 9am to 7pm. I woke up at 7am this morning and spent a couple of hours reflecting on the year that was, and filled six pages in my journal with a little debrief to myself.
I also reread my journal entries from the beginning of the year – I had written: “Have a good feeling about 2016. Think (and hope) it’s the year that I make some brave moves, step into the person I want to be and – really hope this – that I have some adventures.”
Well there were certainly brave moves, some of which most definitely weren’t on the plan at the start of the year. And there were adventures, some which I didn’t expect to have.
I feel I made progress in 2016, however not necessarily the progress I set out to make. There were some big plans for the business that didn’t materialise, and the team in the business changed beyond recognition from the team we had going into the year to the team we have at year-end. Wade and I didn’t manage to have as much travel together as we had planned for. Plans we had set personally (e.g: starting a family) and had factored into our annual plan didn’t happen like we expected them to.
2016 was an interesting exercise in setting very solid goals, then having the course change, set new goals, the course changing again, setting new goals again… and ultimately towards the end of the year I felt an element of surrender and worked with the flow of what was happening more.
If I were to distil 2016 into eight “Big Things”, they would be (in chronological order):
ONE: Publishing my first book
This was amazing! I wrote the book very quickly late last year, before I had a book deal for it. Once I’d gotten a grip on what my “voice” was in it after the first three chapters, the rest was written on Mondays and Saturdays in seven weeks. I LOVED writing my book, however it wasn’t without a tonne of self-doubt.
The whole time I was writing it, I was asking myself:
“Is this shit?”
“Will anyone actually want to read it?”
“Omg, I am so boring.”
“My advice is too obvious, surely people won’t need this?”
“Other people’s books are so much better than this waffle.”
…. and so on.
I had a call from the wonderful Robert Watkins at Hachette Australia in February to make an offer on it, which resulted in a lot of screaming (from me) in the office that afternoon.
As the book was already written, he and his team undertook the herculean task of getting it published by the 28th June. The entire experience was a joy with them, and as a book obsessive, I found every step of the book editing/printing process to be fascinating.
My parents travelled all the way from Ireland to attend my book launch and the dear Lisa Messenger (who also wrote the foreword) spoke on the night. It was incredibly special to have so many friends – old and new – in the room, and I was touched at how many people came to celebrate with me.
Every morning in the run-up to the publication date, I visualised me getting one email, card or social media comment from just one person saying that my book had helped them. It was incredible how much that visualisation manifested itself. I have a box of cards from people saying my ramblings were of value to them, and I love hearing how people are putting my tips and tricks into practise!
The book went on to be in the top 10 business books in Australia for 12 weeks straight – meaning it qualifies as a bestseller. Take that the nasty doubting voice in my head the whole time I was writing it!
The book has connected me with so many awesome people, and became the starting point for my mentoring program later on in the year (more on that later).
To think that a huge dream of having a book has come true for me is one that I don’t think has hit home with me yet; I still get a buzz every time I pick up a copy, see it on a bookshelf or see someone’s social media post of them reading it.
TWO: Visiting Necker Island
I got an email from Emma Isaacs in March asking me if I’d like to join the annual Business Chicks trip to Necker Island. The financial investment was not small (at all), and it would be time away from the business, however on a gut level I knew I needed to go. I replied with a yes on the same day.
With some developments in the business shortly afterwards, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it after all – and I will be forever grateful to Emma for her email she sent me, which made sure I didn’t miss out on what would be a life-defining adventure.
I wrote about the best piece of advice I got from Richard Branson here, and having that time with him felt like an out-of-body experience. However beyond that, to be on that magical island with people far smarter than me was an equally humbling and inspiring experience.
I floated about in a state of constant disbelief that I was actually THERE ON NECKER ISLAND – me, Lorraine Murphy, from a small town in Dublin. Like, what the actual fuck?! The entire experience felt like a dream at the time, and still does six months later.
THREE: Launching Remarkable Pets
The first mention of Remarkable Pets was when Tessa – on our team at the time – said she needed to introduce me to her friend Eddie, who had a fun idea that we should talk about.
Eddie came in to meet me, and we had a very nice chat for an hour about his idea – essentially taking The Remarkables Group talent representation model and applying it to pet influencers, which was a trend I was totally unaware of (basically pet owners starting Facebook and Instagram accounts for their pets). At the end of the chat, he slid his resume across the table in case we were on the hunt for an intern anytime soon.
He joined our team not long after, and went on to become a full-time permanent employee. We’d talk about the pet concept on and off, however there always seemed to be too much going on for us to give it any attention. In our 2016 annual planning session in January, we decided that this was going to be the year and over the following weeks set July as our launch date.
Eddie and the team locked in a major partner, and we began to realise that this wasn’t just a fun idea – that it actually had potential to secure significant revenue for the pet owners and our business.
I have never been more hands-off with a new business launch. For the two weeks in the immediate run-up to our live date, I was overseas and once we got to launch I was pretty much just the face of this fledgling new business for media. Eddie went out and signed fantastic talent, managed all of the legals, oversaw the branding and website, and led the relationship with the PR team.
The launch went incredibly smoothly – so much so that we kept thinking we had forgotten something – and has gone on to be a perfectly self-sufficient business in its own right.
This is a Big Thing because it was obviously a great piece of work to be involved in.
However what was more significant to me than that was that it’s in any of us to be an entrepreneur. 90% of what Eddie and the team did on Remarkable Pets was brand new for all of them – however with enough motivation about the idea, all of the hurdles were overcome. It was an excellent reminder to me that with enough passion and support, making any idea a living breathing entity is possible.
FOUR: Wade and I sorting our “stuff” out
Wade and I celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary in November, and had been together for three years before we got married. 2016 was most definitely the toughest in our relationship, for various reasons including him starting his own business, me dealing with a lot of challenges in my business, dramatically reduced time together, plus probably a bunch of other small niggles that build up over time.
At one especially low point, I called a friend whose marriage I would consider my model of what a thriving relationship looks like. I knew about some ways she and her husband nurtured their relationship, and I was desperately in need of advice on how we could implement some of their practices into ours – which was in dire need of some TLC.
She was immediately forthcoming about that fact that they had invested in a relationship therapist the previous year, which had totally game-changed their relationship. I was shocked! They had the perfect relationship!
Then I thought about it – I have spent a fortune on coaching/mentoring/courses for my business, yet not a cent on investing in my relationship with my husband. And my relationship with him is far more important than any company could ever be! We found a therapist (or coach has I prefer to call it) and had a round of sessions with her, both together and individually.
She asked us in our first session what success would look like from our work with her – and we both said for us to feel close and in love, and to have a happy environment to bring a baby into.
This is easily the best money we spent this year, and the result has been that we feel more bonded and in love than we have ever been – and interestingly, Baby decided to make their appearance not long after we completed our sessions!
It’s interesting writing about this, as only some very close friends and family know that we did this work and I feel very nervous about putting this particular highlight out in the world. I have engaged Wade in a lengthy and slightly angsty discussion about sharing this this morning – “Why would I care? Do what you like babe”.
It’s almost like there’s a stigma with asking for help with your close relationships, and the easier option is to pretend that there’s nothing wrong and keep on keeping on. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a business coach, life coach or health coach – so why not a relationship coach? I am so grateful to my friend for sharing her experience with me, as it normalised the concept of going to speak to someone – and my God, was it worth it.
FIVE: Speaking at 9 To Thrive
Another yearly highlight that’s related to Business Chicks! I spoke at the first 9 To Thrive in Sydney in 2015, and was thrilled to be invited to be part of the 2016 events – this time going to Melbourne as well as my hometown.
We had a Remarkability stand at both events, which I thought we’d sell about 20 books if we were lucky. I spoke for just 20 minutes at both events – I could happily have spoken for three hours, the crowd was freaking awesome. We sold out of books at both events – including every display copy.
I had been receiving social media comments, emails and notes in the mail about the book, which meant the world. However there was something so special about being able to share some of the key principles of the book in person, and to meet people who had already read the book.
The biggest – and most gratifying – surprise was when people had packed their well-thumbed, highlighted and dog-eared copies to bring to the event with them, and brought it to me to be signed. They were so apologetic about the state of their books, however I absolutely loved that they’d been read and re-read so many times. What a massive honour.
SIX: Finding out I was pregnant
Feel like this warrants so much more than a few paragraphs in my annual wrap-up, and I’m keen to write a lot more about this whole experience when time allows.
Like pretty much anything I do, I set a plan to get pregnant. And like pretty much anything I do, I fully expected it to work out exactly as I planned. When that didn’t happen, I was shocked… to say the least.
I put a tonne of pressure on myself to make this baby – a lot of it wrapped up in the business. It became all about the plan, and not this precious little being we were trying to coax (or for me, command) into existence.
Note to self: this doesn’t exactly do great things for your relationship Lorraine.
It was a very interesting exercise in surrendering to whatever the bigger plan was, going with the flow – something that most definitely does not come naturally to me. Ultimately, we had a discovery that meant I needed to have some surgery in August and Baby was finally ready to join us.
That moment I caught a glimpse of the test result in our bathroom, shakingly turning over the second test result for confirmation, the agonising 45-minute wait for Wade to come home, and his face when I handed him a note from his baby are moments I shall treasure forever.
I had a lot of fears about being pregnant – would the baby be ok, would I be a puking machine, would I feel vile…
So. Much. Stuff.
I absolutely LOVE being pregnant – it has been a wonderful experience. As we approach the halfway mark, I can honestly say I have never felt better, and I think I look better than I have in years. I know that many women do not have this experience so I am not taking it for granted at all, believe me.
I can now feel our little baby moving inside me, and I cannot believe that my body is making this little being. Like, wow times a million. It all feels too big and magical to even comprehend.
I/we have got a lot to figure out for the next year. Our lives are very full, and we’ll need to do some thinking about how we want to approach this next chapter. Given everything I’ve experienced so far – particularly this year – I’m trusting that all will be well and we’ll figure it out as we need to.
SEVEN: Changing the model of my business
This was a biggie.
I had been feeling all year that we needed to pioneer another new model – one that would provide independent, unbiased strategy to brands – and I was trying to figure out how to do that in parallel with the business we already had (i.e: representing top social influencers). I just couldn’t get to a solution that worked, and mentally parked it to figure out in 2017.
Then two things happened: our GM Sarah resigned and two weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test result (ok, two tests). Just after both of these events, we were having dinner with close friends in Melbourne and one asked how the business was going. It was ok I replied, before saying: “If I wasn’t afraid, I would resign all of the people we represent and back ourselves with this new independent strategy model”.
I came away from the conversation asking myself what exactly I was afraid of. The biggest by far was of letting the people we represented down. Some of them I had worked with for 4-4.5 years, which is a long time by anyone’s standards. In that time, we had built close relationships and I had come to see them as friends as well as colleagues. How could I close an entire part of the business down and leave them high and dry in the process? It was just so BIG, that I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it.
Then there was the question of whether the idea for a new model would work. What if no-one bought it, and I had to close the business down altogether, and let my team go? The failure that would come with that… I didn’t know if I could handle it.
I decided that if we didn’t try it, we would never know and after a long conversation with our financial controller, I decided to make it happen. I made appointments to see each of the bloggers in the following week and got my assistant Nick on the case with booking plane tickets.
I don’t think I have ever been as scared in the business as I was that week.
There was very little sleep had, and I felt sick the whole time – nothing to do with the eight-week-old baby in my belly. The decision I had made was going to have a major impact on a lot of people, and that did not sit easily with me.
In five days, I was able to see every person face-to-face, a small miracle with how hectic everyone’s schedules are. Everyone received the news differently, however without exception during those conversations – and in the weeks following as we wrapped our “official” relationship – they have approached it with such grace, understanding and encouragement. I cannot quite believe how much so, and I am so grateful to each of them for that.
The two months since were spent researching other agencies for them to sign with, wrapping up all the logistics and starting to speak to brands about what this new offer will look like. The initial response from both brands and the broader industry has been very positive, so I’m confident that this has been a good move. 2017 will tell however, and I must say I’ve been feeling like this little girl a hell of a lot over these couple of months!
It’s a testament to the special individuals we represented and our amazing team that we have navigated such a huge course change so smoothly. I can honestly say that the entire experience was ten times more scary than starting the business was, or any time since then.
EIGHT: Starting my mentoring program
One of the big goals I had this year was to consolidate my mentoring into one program, that I would create.
I had six mentees last year, with various levels of formality and some via other programs, which I loved – however it was disjointed and I didn’t feel I was doing the best job for them that I could. I also felt I could be of most assistance to entrepreneurs rather than employees, given the specific set of challenges that that brings (oh the challenges!).
Once the book was published, I started to think about what this would look like and designed a program with all the “best bits” of the various coaching, training and kooky little team things we do in my business in mind.
I called it the Remarkability Mentoring Program, basing it on some of the key elements of the book. It had a balance of group support and one-on-one sessions with me, as well as bringing in external smarts at strategic points in the 12-month program.
At the same time I was very aware that I had a business of my own to run, so I settled on six businesses as the perfect number that I could devote energy and time to while still taking care of my own gig.
I put it out there to the world (ok my social followers) and the whole thing fell together very organically – I find that that tends to happen when things are meant to be! A group of wonderfully inspiring entrepreneurs has assembled around me.
We kicked off with a one-day Remarkability Bootcamp – in which we unlocked their five year and one-year visions, and set some clear objectives for the next 12 months we’ll be working together. I had gone into the day pretty exhausted, between the big change in the business and cooking a baby, however I was revved up with energy after spending it with these special individuals.
It is a thing of pure joy for me to do this kind of work, and I’m so glad I got over my own bullshit (will anyone actually want to do this, will people pay for it, blah blah fucking blah) to put it out to the world, and attract this kickass group to me.
I decided that evening that I wanted to take the day to a broader group of people, hence my one-off Remarkability Bootcamps in January. It’s been so exciting to see the ticket sales rolling in and I can’t wait to get on the road for these – I’m going to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Terrigal and Port Macquarie and will be working with small groups of people over a full day.
Phew, that’s my wrap of 2016. This has most definitely been the most “share-y” I’ve ever been online, and I’ll be hitting publish on these words with no small amount of trepidation. However this has been my story of the last 12 months, and if it helps one of you then it will be worth telling.
I’m now off to do battle with the resort wifi to actually get this post to you this side of midnight… Ha!
Wishing you a wonderful New Year’s Eve,