July 14, 2022

Chapter 14 — Realise what you’ve achieved

For me, I:

  • couldn’t quite comprehend that it had happened
  • felt like a rockstar, as I’d autographed more paperwork than ever before
  • felt like a total rockstar after this anyway — forget the paperwork, I was on top of the world
  • built a super close relationship with a lawyer I finally met in person 2 years after we did the deal
  • arrived at a new company to start my new job without taking any time off

On top of all that, there began a steep learning curve around reporting because I’d joined a listed company and the pressure was definitely on. I was straight into chasing a number as part of the earn-out, and that’s hardcore. This was definitely not for the faint-hearted!

My 18-month earn-out period tied in with the timeframe I was used to as an interim. It was a whirlwind to a certain extent. At first I really thought it was going to drag, to the point where I’d be crawling across the finish line. During earn-out, I found myself constantly learning, building new relationships, and continuing to win business. All this while navigating the dizzy heights of regular reporting in an Alternative Invested Market (AIM) listed environment.

Staying on with Difrent, it was still a separate entity until I left. The structure remained, with the continuity of me being there, the Town Halls, the senior management team meetings… all of it. It functioned in a business as usual way. It was a bit of an unknown situation and I’m sure the familiarity helped the integration, making sure the transition into a larger organisation went as smoothly as possible for our team.

After those 18 months, I knew being part of a much larger entity wasn’t for me. For me, it had been about start-up to scale-up — and going bigger than 200 or so employees didn’t give me what I wanted or needed. The transition was quite natural. No hanging on or flogging a dead horse. I did the agreed time and it was definitely the right time. Anything longer wouldn’t have worked.

Realising what I’ve achieved is not as easy as it sounds, and it’s not like I’m writing this whole thing to get to this point and start bragging. I achieved exactly what I set out to achieve. There was the building and growth process, we delivered projects, the valuation and selling was a real challenge, and even another 18 months after the sale when others may not have had the same commitment — I feel satisfied that I saw it through and did my best for everyone concerned.

I’m driven by purpose. It was now time to create space for myself and rediscover what that purpose would be in my next incarnation.

I’m proud of how our team worked as part of the bigger group we sold to. They collaborated with wider teams, continued to deliver, started bidding for bigger and better deals, and took the culture with them.

My takeaways

  1. I needed a break after due diligence and the sale. I was shagged out and should have found a way to make this happen.
  2. I still struggle being managed and will always prefer being my own boss.
  3. Finance should have been a stronger part of my armour earlier in my journey with Difrent. This will be corrected next time round.
  4. Selling Difrent was the right decision for me. I’m proud of what we achieved and I’m excited to see where TPX takes it.
  5. Knowing when to step out is key. Always.

What helped me realise what I’d achieved

Space and time is the short answer here. It was impossible to realise the extent of the achievement immediately after. It had been a real adrenaline rush, especially seeing the offers on the table and working towards the sale. And with every adrenaline rush, there’s a comedown. You can’t stay up there forever. The comedown is not where you start to brag, but it’s where the realisation begins.

External feedback, social media messages, friends, family, colleagues — the support and positivity completely reinforces the feeling of achievement. But with that, there’s the flipside of internal validation. Self-acceptance is an ongoing battle.

I think I have much stronger relationships with people I’ve worked with now. And maintaining those relationships is proof of getting things right — that means so much to me. As bizarre as it may sound, maintaining the relationship with myself is true testament to the whole story. I’m proud of it all.

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