“When one door closes, another window opens.” In this episode, we meet with Paul Lacey who made the difficult choice of closing down his agency. Having realised that keeping their agency going was not for them, Paul and his business partner agreed to part ways and are embarking on their own separate plans.
Paul shares the process of closing things down, his emotions, his thought processes and what life looks like now. A fascinating and inspiring journey and a reminder that nothing lasts forever, nor should it and change is good!
Connect with Paul on: https://paullacey.digital
How to sell a digital agency – click here
Lee: Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer Podcast. This is your host Lee, and on today’s show, we have a blast from the past who was gonna take us on a journey. Originally, back in episode number 109 on the 22nd of December, 2017 Paul Lacey told us about resetting an agency. A few years later, in 2018, the height of August with… I think there was a, pretty sure it was hot weather at that point, he shared with us how things were going with his agency, Dickiebirds Studio, and today he is back because everything has changed. Paul how are you doing today?
Paul: I’m doing great, thank you, Lee, and it’s great to be back and yeah…
Paul: I’ve really reset the agency this time, haven’t I?
Lee: Yeah, you have. [chuckle] We were just saying before we started recording that things finish, things are for a season and nothing can possibly last forever. Sadly, the Agency Trailblazer Podcast cannot necessarily last forever unless generations of Jacksons hand it down over the next 2000 years, and that’ll be pretty impressive, but it’s unlikely that it’s going to go on forever. So, it’s gonna be an interesting conversation, but me and Paul would like to assure you, the listener, that this is not a negative Nelly episode, this is a conversation about how change is necessary and how it can be a good thing, so let’s do a recap with you Paul, and I guess the first question I’ll hit you with is where were you, and how did you get there?
Paul: Well, the most important thing of where I was last time we spoke was which was my favourite Disney film, which I think back then was Frozen, [chuckle] and I think now it’s probably Soul, have you seen that one?
Paul: Yeah, I like that one. I will talk about that one again in a couple of minutes maybe, but yeah, that’s a good one. Frozen was great, Frozen 2 was great. What about you, Lee? What’s your favourite Disney film these days? I know you love Disney.
Lee: My favorite Disney film of all time is Mary Poppins.
Paul: The original?
Paul: Yeah, of course. Nice, nice. Okay, well, apart from that, where I was last time we spoke, yeah, so I think I’ve been running my agency Dickiebirds for about a year, and it was a business that myself and my co-founder, Peter, set up and we kind of set it up, we’d had a business like that before, and we sort of closed it down as in that whole season thing when some things didn’t kind of work out, but then we started it again when the planet seemed to align at that particular point and yeah, we just wanted to combine our skills to try and build something a little bit bigger, we didn’t really have an amazing plan or anything like that, but so that’s what we started, we had all the best intentions, and I would say for maybe a year, a year and a half, it was going pretty well. Our brand was building really nicely, thanks to people like you mentioning me every week on the podcast just for a joke. [chuckle]
Lee: Yeah, I think Robbie did you a little jingle at one point, didn’t he as well?
Paul: Carl [0:03:30.7] ____ did the jingle, right?
Lee: Oh was it? Was it Carl [0:03:32.1] ____?
Paul: Robbie did a gift, so there…
Lee: Ah yeah, yeah.
Paul: Was all sorts of stuff going on, there’s a whole media circus going on behind that, but yeah, so I was probably a year and a half or so, it was going quite well, and then probably once… At least once a year, I would kind of have a conversation with Peter where it was kinda like, “Hey, I really don’t know if I really should be still doing this or not,” and each year, Peter and the rest of the team would kind of convince me, “Hey, no, it’s okay, you got this, you can do this, and we’re here for you and we think this is the right thing to do,” and all that kind of thing, and so I would have these kind of moments of doubt, and then what I would do is when I have that reassurance from various different people that I might ask, I was generally asking people for a kind of keep-going answer in a way. I wasn’t really looking for someone to say, “No, you should stop this. This is not right for you.” I would then go okay, so I’m gonna carry on, but I’m gonna change something, and then I would probably head out to social media, Facebook or something like that, and see what everyone was doing in the Facebook groups, like what are you doing now? Oh funnels? All right, cool. That sounds cool, I’ll try and do funnels or something, or whatever it might be, or oh, there’s a new course, you can take this new course and it teaches you this thing or that thing, so I’ll do that and that would keep me distracted for a while, it wouldn’t… Yeah?
Lee: I actually remember this, I remember you… I think we’ve had several conversations where you’ve been trying to consider a new angle and a new product or a new way in with your agency that you could sell to specific niches, and I remember you picking my brain over it as well, and we talk, and I’m not sure you necessarily even did them, but there were just ideas that you were coming up with in different sectors.
Paul: That’s right, I wanted to productise some things, which I did do to a certain extent, and that has actually been super useful, even moving outside of…
Lee: Spoiler alert, shh, don’t tell anyone.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. [laughter] But yeah, I think eventually… Then I think we hit the whole COVID thing and the lockdown, and I was very close just before that happened, to having a really good conversation with myself about what I was doing, but then the COVID thing hit, and I think it was a big distraction especially, it was for me, and it was probably for a lot of other people as well, there was a kind of period of time where you’re actually frightened for your lives and your families and friends’ lives, and not really sure what was going on so, the business side of things, which is kinda like okay, just appreciate that you’ve got money coming in and keep going and see what happens, and maybe this whole online thing will explode because people need more online things and everything, but I think what really happened, where I found myself towards the end of 2020 was that we’d had a year where we kind of coasted along, we’ve done no real business development because there wasn’t so many opportunities to do it, there wasn’t events to go to, there wasn’t go and have coffees with this person or that person, and what we seem to do over the year was help a lot of our existing clients survive.
Paul: But we hadn’t really focused much effort on ourselves, and quite honestly that’s probably a blessing in a way, because when I got to December, I made a decision in December that the business was basically no longer viable for the future. I just thought okay, it can probably survive another year or something, but with various different factors that I’m aware of in my mind, which I can probably talk about in a minute, I just don’t think this is a viable business moving forward, partially ’cause of COVID, but really because of previous things that affect it, but overall, I think I realised my heart hadn’t been in it for quite a long time and I was really just working through things, trying to find the excuse to keep going because sometimes keeping going is the easiest way to move forward or so it seems, so yeah, there was a pretty critical couple of months leading up to that decision, which I can talk about, but yeah, that’s where I found myself in December, I just decided okay, I’m announcing to my business partner and everyone I know that I’m shutting this thing, it’s gonna have to go into liquidation, bankruptcy, whatever you wanna call it.
Lee: Now, where do you find yourself right now and how are you feeling right now?
Paul: Right now, fantastic. Sorry, my dog just barked and so I can say…
Lee: I’m leaving that in because the dog was backing you up there.
Paul: Yep, yeah. It was kind of like, “Yep, [laughter] we got this.” My dog is always with me actually, to be honest, she is my little friend and I spent lots of nights with her just in the bed, just cuddling her like a little teddy bear when I was kind of having a tough time, and she was wonderful for that, she was always cuddly.
Lee: That’s lovely.
Paul: Yeah, she is. Where I am now, it’s probably normally what someone might introduce themselves of, so I’m a WordPress expert, I love working with WordPress. I’m a designer, I love design. I’m a speaker, I love speaking, doing podcast things about things that I can be genuine about, not things that I’m trying to do for the wrong reasons, and I’m a co-host of a couple of podcasts, one of them is This Week in WordPress with Nathan Wrigley, and then the other one hasn’t launched yet, which is the… Probably the first time I’ve publicly announce is that I’m starting a new podcast with my co-host with Adam Preiser from WPCrafter.
Lee: Awesome. That’s amazing.
Paul: Yup. Big news. [chuckle]
Lee: Wait, are you not gonna release this for at least another week, so I can break it?
Paul: You can break it. Yeah, you can break that news, so the pressure’s on for you to release this particular…
Lee: I’m sure the rumour mill would have gotten ahead of me before it, anyway.
Paul: We kept it very quiet ’cause we’ve been figuring things out.
Lee: That’s amazing though, that’s so exciting.
Paul: But in terms of how even that happens, it’s a case of, which we can get to later, that when you start moving away from the thing that you’re doing, and you’re not just pivoting to the latest course or the latest craze or whatever, you have literally made a complete… You’ve torn up all the rules, you’ve thrown the blueprint in the bin and you’ve said, “Okay, I’m prepared now to take a risk that could ruin everything financially and leave me with almost nothing,” but that risk is better than the risk of keep going on as it is because I can really see with that risk, with the risk of carrying on, I can see exactly what’s gonna happen and I’m not prepared to let that happen, so yeah, right now, co-host of a couple of podcasts, the new one that we’re launching with Adam, we’re really lucky we’ve got a sponsor, one of your friends Cloudways are sponsoring us so we’re even able to monetise it a bit, which helps me devote extra time into that kind of world and I’m not running an agency anymore, I’m just working as a freelancer and I also freelanced for Beaver Builder, which is an absolutely wonderful gig, compared to the kind of slog I was having to do to try and run an agency, it just wasn’t me, Lee. I’m just not a CEO, I’m not, I was one, but I’m not a CEO. I don’t care about sales. I don’t want to build and scale something and then sell it or exit it or work myself out of the job. I wanna play with the gadgets and get paid for it.
Lee: Our slogan is build an agency you love and keep it.
Lee: We don’t want you to sell either. Sure, I know there’s a lot of people who wanna build something and sell it, but like you, we just wanna play and have amazing fun and everything you’re telling me right now, it’s clear that you’ve been able to move from a multi-person agency with all of the stress and everything, and you’ve opened up some incredible opportunities where you can play and do the things that you love the most, and work is play. People often forget that if you’re enjoying it and you’re working, it’s still work. But it’s still value, it’s still freaking awesome and the gigs that you have are phenomenal, I’m just so excited for you, and you’re absolutely right, if you don’t make that massive change, it’s obvious where you’re going, and you don’t wanna be there. It actually makes more sense, excuse me, to go for the unknown, and you’ve gone for the unknown, which is actually out of Frozen and I think, too…
Paul: Into the unknown.
Lee: Into the unknown. [laughter]
Paul: Yup. [laughter]
Lee: You’ve gone for the unknown, and look what’s happened as a result, but interestingly as well, the opportunities have probably afforded themselves over time because of the one to two to three years of stuff that you’ve done prior to that, and it’s all built up to this point. I remember when I left my agency years ago, I wanted to start my own thing, I wanted to start Angled Crown, but then was called Lee Jackson Dev, so it was kinda scary, but I wanted to do more development, I was doing too much admin in the business, and I wanted to be more development side and get to play with the toys and everything, so I started Angled Crown, became a supplier of my old agency and started to try and attract new clients, I even launched this podcast as a result to get loads and loads of clients, and like you, it’s… It built up over time and I had all of these clients and all of this work and all this staff and all of this stress, but at the same time, I recognised that there was a whole other opportunity that I practically walked away from on the events side of things, that was a passion of mine as well, so we ended up collaborating over there, and we now have two completely random businesses.
Lee: One is this, it’s Agency Trailblazer, I get paid to podcast, amazing, and then the other business is over in Event Engine where we’re helping digital agencies all around the world run their events online.
Lee: It’s crazy how things have changed, but they’ve only happened because we took the relevant plunges at the right time. Now, what you and I have just described is major change, it’s like you have committed to building a business with somebody, and then you’re about to say actually no, we’re gonna turn around. What sort of resistance did you meet when you made this choice?
Paul: Yeah, so I think the thing is, what you gotta understand is, leading up to a decision like that, it’s not something that you can take lightly. If you decided to take a business and liquidate it and end up as a business bankrupt basically, because just to give you a little bit of framing around that. Halfway through the 2020, in one of my kind of “Right, how are we gonna work our way out of this COVID mess, all this kind of thing?” We took one of those government loans and we invested some of it hiring someone as a consultant to come and help change around the business, and they did a fantastic job with that by the way, but they did kind of expose what a successful business would look like to me, and it looked damn boring, I have to say. [chuckle]
Paul: But leading up to the resistance on how you cope with that, I’ll tell you about what kind of resistance you can have, and other people have told me about this as well, from who I’ve spoken to, who have been in similar scenarios. Leading up to this whole decision in December, I had a good six months of crying probably multiple times a month, maybe once a week I would just find myself… I know you’ve been there Lee, I know you’ve spoken about this before. And there was a time, I think it was October, it was shortly after we’d had an all company get together, where in my mind, I was trying to see how pliable everyone in the company would have been to change, and how much people were on exactly the same wavelength with me, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the right wavelength for just… I was just seeing what have I got to work with? I’ve got this loan, I’ve got a business dev, I’ve got a team, I’ve got me, what I’ve got to work with, and I came away from that whole experience quite distraught actually, because I thought, I don’t think I can actually make this work. A week after that, it was so kind of… It’s such a horrible week internally in my own mind, I was a real horror at home, and literally within a week, I had my bags packed in my house with my dog with a hotel booked, a pet friendly, dog-friendly hotel, and I was basically about to get thrown out of the house with my wife and two kids.
Paul: They would stay in the house, and I was getting thrown out because I was being such a horror, it’s probably a light way to put it, I was difficult to live with, and I’ve been difficult to live with for at least six months before that, and I probably hadn’t been that much of a great person to live with for the prior years where I was constantly in this doubt, so in terms of this resistance thing, and that thing I said earlier about weighing up the risk of keeping things the same versus going into that, into the unknown, like in Frozen.
Paul: The resistance that I knew I would meet, I knew I was just prepared for that but thankfully, my daughter, she did, as I was literally about to walk out the door, she did pull me back in and got me to… She did this weird thing with these ornaments, and I think it was some kind of metaphor, I actually still don’t understand it, but I understood what she was trying to do, she was trying to say, “Right, here’s mummy. Here’s you, and this is what you’re trying to say.”
Paul: And she’d understood the kind of arguments that she’d seen over the past couple of days, and she just stayed quiet because we were shouting at each other and that kind of thing, and thankfully, she pulled me back in and forced me and Lindsay to have a conversation about it, which at that point was the moment I said, “Right, I’m gonna have to quit this.” And this was in October, I then quit in October, but then I was again persuaded to un-quit [chuckle] and try it again, but then leading up to that in December, it was Christmas time, and I was having the best Christmas ever. It was so good. We were playing Fortnite on the Xbox all the time with the kids, and we were just having a great time.
Lee: It had been a terrible year of COVID and business, all that sort of stuff, and then we sat down for a family film and we watched the film Soul, which you’re gonna have to watch it if whoever’s listening hasn’t seen it, but I mean, it’s no spoiler to say that in a Disney film, generally someone goes on a journey and kind of finds themselves by the end and make some kind of life-changing decision, and this obviously happens in every Disney film, and I watched this film and then at the end, there was a sad bit where the person finds himself or whatever, and Lindsay, my wife had a small tear in her eye, Theo, my six year old son was just, looked unbothered about the whole thing, he just liked the colours or whatever. [chuckle] Lily May, my daughter looked slightly sad and I was just on the floor in bits. Just rolling around, everyone’s just like, what is wrong with you?
Lee: You and me are the worst in Disney movies, mate.
Paul: Oh, gosh, honestly.
Lee: I cry every time, the happy and the sad bits.
Paul: Yeah, I just watched Raya and the Dragon, I was crying my eyes out at that as well, but basically, I kind of just… I wasn’t rolling around the floor, but it felt mentally like I was rolling around on the floor, and I just said to Lindsay right, there I was like, “I’m closing this. I don’t care what anyone says.” Last time I tried, I was persuaded and I’ve been persuaded before by whoever, it’s friends or business partners, or family or whatever. I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m closing it, and it was a really good decision. So, I…
Lee: I have to jump in at this point, mate. What you’ve said is absolutely key. It’s not that you don’t care about those people but you have finally recognised, you’ve finally come to the point that you can no longer please everybody else and you have to focus on yourself and you have to do what is right for you and for your family, and you have to just make that choice, that no matter what, everybody else will find a way through their lives and their issues, and they will work it out for themselves and it’s no longer your responsibility. That is the hardest part, isn’t it, to get, and I think that’s probably what kept bringing you back, was that feeling of responsibility and yeah, alright, alright, let’s keep going, let’s keep going a little bit longer, but that what you’ve described there, I think is the… That’s the final hurdle I think many people struggle to get past for years and they end up trapped in their business.
Paul: Exactly. I think anyone who runs a business needs to understand that you always do have options. You probably do feel trapped, but you compare yourself to someone who works for local government or something like that, that has worked for local government for 10 years, 15 years, they really do not have as many options as people like us do. If you run a small agency or small business, you can stop it and even though it feels like a mammoth task that everyone is gonna hate you for because you feel super responsible for the people that you brought along with this ride with you, whether that’s your family, it’s your friend, people in your communities, the people you employ, your business partners, you’re gonna disappoint them all probably, not all of them, some of them will be really happy. For instance, my family, my wife and kids were super happy that I made the decision and super happy that I was committing to it, and these are people who rely on me for money. So I was like I’m cancelling our money in our single income stream, and they’re like awesome. It’s the right decision, do it. And we’ll figure it out, we’re smart people, we can figure out. And that’s something…
Paul: We need to remember, we are smart people, most of us who do this. We’re not geniuses most of us, but we’re smart and we’re resourceful and we can figure things out. So you will have that battle if you are a people pleaser. People pleasers are some of the most depressed and sad people in the world because they don’t look after themselves, they feel this weight of the world to look after everyone else, and when you make a big decision like that, you’re probably U-turning a lot of things that you said that you probably shouldn’t have said or didn’t mean or weren’t really coming from a place of genuine honesty from inside, so you might have, the day before had a meeting with your entire team and said, “Everything is awesome,” and the next day you’re like we’re closing it, and that’s just something that you have to do.
Lee: Now, it’s not gonna be good news for almost anyone in your business, whether it’s your clients or your staff or your partners, when you announce something like that. They’re gonna immediately think well, how is this gonna affect me? And the truth is, in the short term, it’s probably gonna affect them badly, so they need someone to potentially lash out at or to… Not all of them, but some people will, some people won’t, it depends one company to another, you will get some resistance and at first it will be don’t do this, and then after it would be, why you’re doing this, and then after that, it might be, why didn’t you say something sooner, and that’s just the template. [chuckle] That’s just how it goes. I know you U-turn…
Lee: It’s kinda like a template for grief as well, isn’t it? ‘Cause they are going through a loss and they do have to process that, but then at some point, they’ll start to see the alternatives that are out there. I remember when we had to make some horrible decisions years ago and actually lay off a whole load of staff in the last recession. It was horrible, there was anger, there were tears. I know though that all of them were… With our support, we really wanted to help them, and I know you’ve been doing the same, helping each other out. We helped everybody get jobs or start their own business, and fast forward 10, 15 years later, they’re all really happy, really successful and think it was the best thing that ever happened, [chuckle] but didn’t feel like it at the time.
Paul: It doesn’t because you’re the person who’s basically saying to everybody, “Your life is about to change and it’s my decision that I’ve made this,” and no one can really understand the whole process that you’ve gone through prior to that.
Paul: It’s just one day they didn’t know about it, the next day they did, and then they’re kind of dealing with it.
Lee: I think as well, mate, that we’ll often take a lot of that burden on ourselves, won’t we? So, like you just said, “Hey, everything’s awesome,” on day one and day two, we’re shutting shop. The reason you have said that or the reason people like us would do that is because we feel the responsibility of having the burden on our shoulders and protecting those around us, which again isn’t necessarily a good thing because then things can become a massive shock when you suddenly pull the plug and say, “Alright, we’re done now.” But it still is the right decision when it’s right for you. If your family are willing to say, “Yeah, you’re cutting off our income stream but this is right, we will get through this together,” then you know it’s the right decision, it’s what you gotta do. Takes guts though, mate.
Paul: It does. It is a scary thing and some of the phone calls that you have or the meetings are pretty scary. But then after you’ve had one or two and one has gone well and one is gone not so well, you think okay, I know now that some of them will go well, and some of them won’t go well, and then you have to have a policy for that, and I think the only policy that you can ever go with is being absolutely, transparently honest as you can, and to be honest, that starts with you being honest with yourself, because I know I’ve been in denial for a long time about different aspects.
Lee: Where’s that, Egypt?
Lee: Sorry, carry on.
Paul: That’s a good one. You can tell your dad, that’s the why I found it funny as well. So yeah, you can tell… I know now, being honest with myself that the conversation’s about let’s try and pivot or do this or do that, where a conversation with myself where I wouldn’t be honest enough with myself, but here’s the thing, if you do have a conversation with yourself, I don’t mean you have to actually speak out loud ’cause you might get taken away for that, but if you are kind of thinking to yourself, writing things down, which for some reason you’re allowed to write things down and don’t get taken away, which seems like the same thing, but anyway the thing is, nobody else is listening, so there’s no embarrassment really if you’re being super honest with yourself, apart from fighting with your own ego really, so that’s the first battle. If you can be 100% honest about why you’re doing something, then the next step is that as you start to tell these different people who are involved the news that is probably bad for them in the short term, the simple policy is honesty.
Paul: Why you’re doing this? Why does the business need to do this? So in my case, it was a mix of I don’t think the business is viable. I literally don’t think we will survive another year, and secondly, and I’m the leader of this company, and if I can’t lead it, then it’s got no chance, because all the business relationships are with me and that kind of thing. So, then you go through the honesty of how can I help you? Okay, this is bad news to the person that you’re talking to, whether it’s the client or the partner or the member of the team, this is what’s happening, I know it’s not good, and I know you might not be happy about it, but I’m here to help like I always have been, and let’s have an honest chat about what you think your future might be and I can just give you some absolute honest feedback to what I think you might wanna do and how I can help you do that.
Paul: And honestly, these conversations probably last around a month or so typically, this is what I’ve heard from other people as well, who’ve gone through the same process of being the people pleaser turned brutal honest person, and after a month, people have moved on mentally because they have to. They have some resistance, they go through that grief process that you said, but at the end of the day, their bottom line is that they need to make some money usually, or if you are a client, they need to have a supplier, and they have that moment of resistance, they’re seeing if they can keep what was still there, if not they start making plans.
Lee: Absolutely, the one thought I had again about people pleasing. Just at the turn of last year, I had a little bit of a mini breakdown personally and was finding it really, really hard, I pulled back from the internet, a lot of people in the Facebook group will know, I’ve not been in there as much, I pretty much carved everything off of Facebook. I came off Twitter, I came off Instagram for quite a long time. I just had to kind of protect my brain and my energy and what I was doing, I was going through a process of looking after myself and dealing with some issues with family members as well, and with old clients and just all sorts was going on around me and just trying to restore myself, and I hit a point in about November time where that click, which is why I got so excited when you said it earlier, that click inside of me where I suddenly realized I’ve got to stop worrying about what other people think and what they’re gonna say and how they’re going to react.
Lee: I’ve got to stop pleasing people, I just have to be brutally honest, and I’m gonna have to say some real nasty bleep over the next few days to some people that I love, but it’s gonna solve the problem if I get it out and that’s exactly what happened. Over Christmas time, it was very, very stressful, it lasted an average about a month like you said, hey, we’re all over it, and especially internally as a family. I had to say some really nasty stuff to the people I really, really love like my mum and everything, it was like awful, but we’re all texting, we’re all meeting up, we’re all having hugs, it’s been… Things have been restored and redeemed, that’s the important thing. If I’d have carried on lying to myself and to everybody else, because I was hiding things and saying, “Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna be fine”, and trying to carry the burden myself, we’d probably still be in a crappy situation, and I think that’s really important.
Lee: And as we’re coming to land, mate, I just wanna… We’ve gone a journey here through you making these choices, you recognizing what you’re gonna do, how you’ve been meeting resistance, I guess the last question is, and we’ll leave people then with this thought, is what’s next, how do you figure out what’s next? You’ve clearly made the biggest change in your life. The agency is no more, how did you get that clarity, how did you figure out what was next when your family said, “Oh, you wanna cut off our income? We’re behind you.”
Paul: One second, the dog is snoring, you probably wanna edit that bit out and then I’ll…
Lee: No, that’s adorable. [laughter] Let’s leave that in. [laughter]
Lee: I just threw my baseball cap in the direction of the dog to try and wake her up.
Lee: We need a picture of your dog [laughter] so we can put the dog on the guest…
Paul: I think, well I’ll send one, yeah I’ll send one.
Lee: On the guest image.
Paul: She doesn’t leave my side, she never judged anything about me, but…
Lee: God bless her.
Paul: I’m really glad first of all, that you had that epiphany as such, and I think for some people, things have to get really bad, for others they are able to spot things early on, I think you and I are quite similar, that we are people pleasers and we do our best to try and please everyone and it just simply doesn’t work, and so I’m really glad that you got through that, and I’m glad that I got through it, and in terms of what it looks like on the other side, first of all, when you decide that you’re gonna do that, you probably don’t have a clear plan, if you are the type of person that leaves it until it’s kind of desperate like I did and possibly you might have as well, you probably just say I don’t know what is gonna happen, but you’re able to look at what you’ve done and say, “Hang on a minute, it wasn’t a failure, everything that I’ve done over the last three or four years with this agency, there’s a ton of things I can take away from that, relationships with existing clients that might be okay for you to work with in the future under a different framework as such, relationships with ex co-workers and those kind of things.”
Paul: So for some people, they have a plan and they know exactly what they wanna do, and they’re able to jump straight out of one thing, go through that rough month and then into the next. As for me, it was probably a bit different, I think it was possibly a bit different for you as well. I just needed to have some kind of downtime. By downtime, I don’t mean just siting at home doing nothing watching TV. I was able to take a bunch of the relationships along with me, for instance the small network that we were doing with Beaver Builder at the time, I had a chat with them and I’m doing more work with Beaver Builder, plus I was able to take a lot of their care plans, I know you had Dave Toomey on the other day talking about how important care plans are, and what I can say about care plans is that they give you breathing space right where exactly when you need them, that reminding them…
Lee: Episode 319.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. The 300 and which… What did you say?
Paul: There you go. One of the things me and Peter, my business partner decided, after we kind of had a few rough conversations about things, is that look, we need to keep the relationships that we both had, it’s almost like internal mental IP. So most of the care plan type relationships were my relationships and Peter had other relationships with some big UX clients and he’s doing really, really well now with that, and really super pleased for him on that front, and so I was able to kind of look and create an income stream that was enough to pay the bills that I needed to pay while I was getting through this process of closing the company down and just say, hey, do you know what, I’m gonna coast through 2021 and see what happens by 2022 when events start up again, go and start networking, and I had this kind of concept of maybe I’ll go and work one day for a big WordPress brand, get kind of head-hunted or something ’cause I’m too lazy to apply for a job.
Paul: So, instead of just filling out a form, I’ll work for two years building a personal brand to get a job instead ’cause surely that’s much easier. So, I thought I’ll focus on my personal brand. I’ll do something that I’ve really enjoyed, which was telling stories and sharing knowledge, which is something you’ve really, really helped me do, Lee, because you’ve given me a platform on a number of occasions that have been quite game-changing for me and mentally…
Lee: You’re more than welcome.
Paul: Yes, I thank you for that. But what the weird thing was, and I hear from other people that this is the same on a lot of situations, that when you go into that downtime where your mind is able to process and you start to think creatively again, the conversations you have with people are creative again, and opportunities start turning up, and that’s exactly what happened with me.
Paul: I realized that the time invested in building brand in the agency over the last few years had completely transferred to me, it was all on me, and I’d done some things during that time, you’d heard me speak at your event and I’d spoke at some other events and podcasts and stuff like that, that had built up my confidence hugely speaking publicly on the microphone or on the stage, and I’d love that, and people started to talk to me about opportunities like how about… Are you interested in doing something like that, we can even monetise it, it’s almost part of your job, and I had a number of opportunities come out of nowhere between January and February.
Paul: And that in the end, which led me to partner with Adam Preiser from WPCrafter because he was in a process of change as well, which I’m sure he’ll talk about at some point, moving into more of a kind of product owner sort of area, but still using his channel for promotion and also sharing knowledge ’cause he loves doing that as well, but he wanted to expand it from more of a channel to a network, so he was looking for people who were in a perfect scenario to jump on board and contribute something, and that was… And one of those people was me, and I just cannot believe, Lee, that I’ve gone from desperation, depression, anxiety, just almost complete burnout six months ago to, my job now is moving pixels around screens and talking on microphones and I get paid for it, it’s just… And that ending will be different for everyone ’cause not everyone is gonna do that, so one might stop their web agency for instance, and decide, you know what, I’ve seen a real opportunity selling garden sheds to people online, I’m gonna do that.
Paul: And they’re super happy doing it and they love it, and they love using the hammer to build those sheds or however you build sheds, normally now, and it’s different for everyone but I think some people, and I am one of them, need to have that downtime where the… It’s just a bit of a reset mentally and let those ideas happen, have those creative conversations because you cannot start ventures like that, that I’ve started with Adam, while you’re full-time running an agency as a CEO, it’s impossible. So you kind of see the other side that there’s more things to life and there are more things to work than what you thought there was, so.
Paul: If that wraps up, maybe answering your question hopefully.
Paul: It does. Well I think the main thing there is… There’s kind of two big things I’ve drawn from that mate. Number one is the importance of taking a rest, you took some downtime. After all of that, you didn’t make the mistake of rushing in to try and do something else. You’ve taken some time out, but the second thing is, is you recognize the equity that you’ve already built. We are all people and we have relationships, and that’s… It’s really important that we do have relationships, that we do talk to other people, that we do look after our clients in whatever situation we are in, because we never know in the future when we might be able to do something again in the future. Just like as it happened with you and Adam, it’s been the same in Event Engine as well. We’ve had relationships where we got on really well with someone who worked within a client, that client moved on, but then that specific person years later, is working for a different company and brings in one of the biggest contracts we have ever had because they liked us and we had good relationships and they knew me and all that sort of stuff.
Lee: What you realized is, although the entity of the kibbutz is no more, that does not cancel the years of work that you’ve put into it before, during and after. And of course, that rest was all important. Guys, do listen to episode number 319. It’s Dave Toomey’s journey with regards to what he did through COVID. It was tough, he, like Paul here, had to take stock and look at what he was doing and said, “Hey, hang on, I have something here,” and he was able to weather the storm of COVID, and it’s a fascinating story. So no more spoilers, go ahead and listen to that episode as well, 319. Be sure as well, if you wanna go on those journeys, check out the show notes and you can go and listen to Paul’s previous episodes, where he said where he was at those times. And I hope everyone, you can take a big lesson from this, which I certainly have as well, that nothing is forever, there are seasons. If you do feel trapped, perhaps it’s time to do something about it, and although things can be hard, there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel, there are definitely brand new and exciting opportunities, and sometimes when the choice is to go in a direction that you don’t wanna go, perhaps it’s time to follow in Mr. Paul Lacey’s footprints.
Lee: Mate, I absolutely felt like Jerry Springer just then, I felt like I should say. And take care of yourselves and each other. Now that would be cancelled nowadays, that would definitely be cancelled nowadays. If I think back to some of those episodes, they were horrific.
Lee: Anyway, moving on. Mate, thank you so much. I would love to speak to you again in a few months time, to be honest, just to catch up and see where you are, talk about what you’ve been doing with Adam. That’s crazy exciting. So, well done you, for that. And hey to Adam, tell him I say hi.
Paul: I will do.
Lee: That’s phenomenal. But also, working with Beaver Builder, I’ve used Beaver Builder for so long. I absolutely love it. I envy you, you get some really cool projects. Well done on everything that’s going on. I’m hoping if I can do ATL 2022 physically, we’re still planning that. We’re just waiting to see what Boris says, whether or not we’re gonna risk it, but it would be great to see you on my stage again, sharing your story.
Paul: I would love to. You can actually… Thanks to you actually, you can go to… If you go to paullacey.digital, there’s nothing for sale on that website, there’s no plugs, anything like that, but you were kind enough, Lee, to let me put both of the talks that I did on my website. So you can watch the talk from 2019, the physical event, Agency Transformation Live, which was called “How Giving Back Saved My Agency”, temporarily saved it, I guess. And then the second talk from the online event, which was also amazing in 2020, was called “Scale” with a question mark, so I think it was quite clear even then.
Lee: Oh, man. It ways.
Paul: Do you know what I mean? If you look back on those… Even those two years, it’s pretty clear if someone has followed my… Any of the… It’s kind crazy enough to follow what I’ve been talking about online, in talks or podcasts or on the stage for the last couple of years, you could connect the dots and see that this was gonna happen.
Lee: Hindsight, mate, 2020. Thank you so much being on the show. How can people connect with you? Is it paullacey.digital? That was it, wasn’t it?
Paul: Paullacey.digital. And then I do like to chat a little bit on Twitter, wp_paullacey. That’s probably best place to get me.
Lee: Awesome. Fantastic. Paul, thank you so much. I love you forever, mate. Take care.
Paul: You too. Cheers.