Distilled: the next chapter

If you told my brother and me aged 12 and 16 that we’d enjoy working together one day, I don’t think we’d have believed you. Like many siblings, we got closer when we no longer lived together. I think it might have been when the age gap became insignificant enough that we could compete properly on the squash court (he wins) and the basketball court (I win) that we got really close. There’s lots of people’s families I wouldn’t want to work with, but I’d take Tom on any team.

But now it’s time for him to move on to the next thing. Tom has contributed to Distilled since the very early days - first as a freelancer, briefly working remotely from Leeds, then moving to London and running our growing SEO team before finally heading to NYC to open our third office. I know there aren’t many things that would have tempted him away from Distilled (and yes, I know a bunch of you have tried over the years). You can skip on down to his section for the update on what he’s going to be doing next. Just to be 100% clear though, there are no euphemisms in this post. He isn’t “leaving to spend more time with his family”, we haven’t asked him to leave. He’s not fired. We’d like him to stay, but he’s decided to move on.

But first, a bit of the backstory:

Obviously I’ve known Tom his whole life. Duncan’s known him since he was 8 or 9.

Who knew, back then that we’d do all this?

Fast forward to 2006. Tom is working in Leeds. Duncan and I don’t have an office yet. It’ll be a year until we hire our first employee. Tom and I swap emails.

“Get as good at SEO as you can”

I write.

“We’ll pay good money”

I say.

Six years later, I think you could say mission accomplished. Tom has built himself a world-leading reputation. We’ve certainly paid him some money. Together we built what started out as an “SEO division” into a multi-million dollar business. Q1 this year was bigger than our whole fifth year of business (which itself was almost 5x the year Tom joined Distilled).

Thankfully, we’ve built a business that is big enough for Tom to move on from. I vividly remember the Sunday afternoon phone call in 2007 that closed the Spanish client that led to this post.

At the time, it was a couple of times bigger than our next largest client (today, it’d be about 2% of our revenue). The light-hearted write-up led directly to us winning a project with one of the biggest names we have (still) ever worked with. If we’d lost Tom back then, we wouldn’t have done everything we have done since.

(Incidentally, the tradition of trolling Tom is something that the team here have picked up admirably - you should see some of the memes that get shared internally).

In 2008 we started building the team in earnest. Pretty much the whole company came to my wedding.

In 2009 we ran our first conference in London. Remember that hot, packed room with the views over Bloomsbury?

Through 2010 as Rob headed West to open the new office, we challenged Tom to level up. He did that - first growing a team that could win without him and then building a great office in possibly the most competitive city on the planet.

A Message From Tom

TL;DR - after 5 years at Distilled I am leaving for a job at Google. I’ll be working at Google NYC for the Creative Lab.

Over 46,000 emails, 1,142 meetings, 4 offices and 5 years later I’m leaving Distilled. The most important question is why? Distilled has grown like crazy over the years and I’m incredibly proud of and humbled by the teams that I’ve helped to build here. We’re a people business and to see the teams grow and develop over the years has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And Distilled is at the most exciting time in our history - we’re kicking ass at client work, rocking events and just launched DistilledU. I’m jealous that I’m going to miss out on all the awesomeness that the future of Distilled holds.

But personally I’ve been stagnating recently and I decided it’s time for the next challenge and set of unknowns. The role at Google presented itself and frankly I think it’s something I have to go do. It’s going to be awesome and scary. I’ll be staying in NYC and working for the Google Creative Lab - it’s a marketing role but has little to do with search. The Creative Lab is a cross product team so who knows what I’ll end up working on. And before you ask, if I can get you access to Project Glass I will but me first :)

How will this impact Distilled? I’m not going to pretend that me leaving won’t impact Distilled but believe me when I say that the teams here are going to thrive without me. I work most closely with the team here in NYC obviously but they hardly depend on me at all these days - they’re going to carry on kicking ass without me. They’re an incredible group of people that constantly surprises me with ideas, creativity and hustle that I could never have dreamed up. Frankly I think it’s going to be beneficial to the team to have this crusty old-timer out of the way so that the new blood can step up to the plate and shape Distilled the way they want it to be.

I’m not so good with words but I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Will and Duncan for giving me the opportunity to help shape Distilled and grow something tangible and awesome. Working at Distilled has been better than anything I could ever have imagined and has given me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences.

And thank you to everyone at Distilled. You helped shape this thing which is beyond awesome and you’ve all made me look good so THANK YOU :) I give you the only gift I know, http://fuckyeahdistilled.tumblr.com. So long and thanks for all the fish.

T x

The future of Distilled

I have no doubt that Tom will go on to do cool things next. And while I think Distilled has always been stronger with him than without him, I have no doubt that the best days of Distilled are yet to come.

Firstly, we’re bigger than any one person now:

Secondly, the people we have here are all the same people that helped Tom get where he has. They’ve supported him, he’s coached them. I love this post Tom wrote about the growth of Distilled. You only have to look at the picture of Rob to know that the exec team is in safe hands.

Thirdly, we don’t plan to stop improving. We’ve worked hard on our culture over the years and we are continuing to do so (also, we’re hiring in all offices right now).

Finally, we have all kinds of exciting things happening at the moment and in the pipeline. If you haven’t checked out DistilledU yet, you should, it’s proving popular - it’s part of our plan that to continue our growth the thing we need to be world-beating at is training.

So we’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. I’ll miss working alongside him, but look forward to the next chapter for all of us.

Good luck TC.

PS - I ransacked Facebook for a couple of photos to end with.

We’ve had everything from flying high:

To embarrassing tumbles:

Yes - that first one is me on a trapeze and the second is Tom. I couldn’t write a post like this without a few little digs.

And we’ve traveled the world and made great friendships:

It’s been a blast. Thanks Tom. Good luck from everyone here.

Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. Will is part...   read more

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  1. Duncan Morris

    I don't really have much to add, other than to publicly say thank you for everything you've done and contributed to Distilled. We wouldn't be where we are today without you.

    Thanks for standing up for your ideas and pushing me to be better. You've taught me a hell of a lot and I know I'm better at my job as a result.

    I look forward to seeing what you achieve next.

    Good luck, Duncan

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  2. Love all you have done for the SEO industry thus far, can't wait to hear about your Google exploits!

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  3. Sad to see you go Tom, but sound's like an amazing role that you really couldn't pass up! Awesome to see how Distilled has grown over the years - the figures Will quotes are pretty crazy!

    Will you still be doing things like whiteboard friday, searchlove/linklove & mozcon?

    Anyhow - good luck with the Google job!


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  4. Holy congrats Tom! Google?! Sounds like an exciting role/department.

    Only sad because we had plans for August in NYC - you better not break them :) Just kidding... this is a wonderful opportunity for you, and seeing the team operate first hand in the NY office last week I have full confidence you've built an amazing team and they'll kick ass for sure.


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  5. That is a sad and great news at the same time. I really enjoyed seeing Tom's contribution to the Distilled and SEOmoz SEO world. You will be missed Tom. Congratulations on getting job with Google though - well done I am sure you will be happy there - enjoy, all the best!

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  6. Wow, huge news! Good luck, Tom, and hope we still see you on the conference scene.

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  7. Alan Bleiweiss

    wow. Tom, you're going to rock Google! Congratulations on the change - you, Will and the rest of the Distilled team created something special, and I know both of you are going to continue doing great things in this industry...

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  8. Wow. Tom - sounds like an amazing role. And whilst I might joke about you joining the Borg, and wondering whether we'll be able to tell where they put the chip, my wife-to-be is a Googler and I know it's an amazing place to work.

    All the best mate, and, as you'll probably now be working with, rather than for, agencies, I hope that our paths cross very soon. Fancy a trip to Sydney?!

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  9. good luck mate

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  10. Just received an email from Will and immediately popped here to read more. Good luck Tom on the move to Google! As you said, distilled will continue to thrive nonetheless; am pretty sure your experience at Google will be priceless.

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  11. Good luck Tom!

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  12. Absolute and complete class acts. All of you. I wish you all the best. Sean

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  13. While I'm happy for you, does this mean we'll lose out on so much of the great information you've shared with us in the past? Because really, we're a selfish bunch. :)

    Seriously though - good luck, embrace the change and I'm looking forward to hearing, reading and seeing more great things from you, Tom, and the entire Distilled crew soon enough. You've all been a tremendous asset to the industry.

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  14. Congratulations, Exciting times ahead!

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  15. Best of luck for the future Tom, your advice has been consistently excellent and I am sure your advice and video interviews etc will be referred to for a long time to come.

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  16. Goodbyes are always difficult, but moving on to new adventures is a good thing. I'm sure we'll continue to see great things from you, Tom. Congratulations and good luck!

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  17. John Doherty

    Gonna miss you dude. At least we'll still be in the same neighborhood! Google's lucky to get you.

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  18. As someone who is currently growing a business with their brother I know how hard a decision that would be to make, yet it sounds like it is at the right time and in the right place.

    Congrats for your position at Google man! I look forward to hearing what you do there, as well as seeing where Distilled goes in the future!

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  19. Big news and a big move. Tom, you didn't just make Distilled better, you impacted the entire industry and movements within it. Can't thank you enough for some of the conversations we've had and the thought leadership you brought to the entire community. Best of luck in the future. Distilled, you guys will always rock and keep it up! :)

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  20. Huge news! Congrats, Tom, and best of luck!

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  21. Wow! Congratulations, Tom - cheers on all your successes and next steps. Your new role at Google sounds awesome! Doherty's right: they're lucky to have you.

    And as much as we all love SEO, it's great to see that there is life after it. :)

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  22. Wow, Tom! How exciting! I'm looking forward to reading your updates about life inside the Big G. :)

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  23. You went to The Dark Side... But I don't blame You - they've cookies. Congratz ;)

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  24. Kudos Tom, thats a heck of a move! Don't forget to create something weird with your signature on it :)

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  25. Huge congratulations! I'm glad I got to meet you in person. I can't wait to see how you rock Google. Good luck, dude!

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  26. Jon

    Good Luck Tom, Best Wishes!

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  27. Best of luck Tom! I will definitely miss your insights into search, but I can't wait to see what you help the guys at Google create next.

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  28. Wow this is big news! Congrats Tom. I bet you'll work on all sorts of cool projects at Google. Thank you for all your contributions to the community and the industry at large.

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  29. All the very best Tom.. Its been always good to follow this company & its culture..

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  30. Good luck for your new job Tom! Hope to see your smart posts somewhere :)

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  31. This is kind of a big deal. Congratulations, Tom. Sorry for your loss, Distilled. I look forward to the amazing things both parties will do in the future.

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  32. Hrm. I guess all this time I've been trying to get my brothers to work with me by making my coffee and doing my laundry - I must have been doing it wrong. Sigh. Lesson learned. I'll guess I'll let them win at squash every once in a while.

    Tom this is crazy exciting and you have definitely earned it. Congratulations - cant wait to see what you do there!

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  33. Tom Critchlow

    Wowza - more people than I can thank individually here and on Twitter... Thank you to everyone. I'm still here for a few weeks more and will be in Seattle for Mozcon still so hopefully see some of you IRL


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  34. Wow, congrats! I've hear that life at Google is an awful lot of fun! Whatever you're doing there, enjoy it!

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  35. Distilled has earned a worldwide reputation as a Class A SEO firm and Tom is no doubt a big part of why that is so. Congratulations and good luck on your move.

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  36. Exciting news!! Congrats dude.

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  37. Good luck, Tom! You'd best still be speaking at SearchLove...! :)

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  38. Stephanie Chang

    Tom, it has been an absolute pleasure learning from you this past year. I came to Distilled with exceedingly high expectations on what it would be like to work here, and you (and Will/Duncan/rest of Distilled) have surpassed all my expectations. I know the entire NYC team has learned so much from you - not only about continuously striving to make things better, but also about taking chances and constantly challenging yourself. Although I'm super sad to see you go,I'm also really excited for you and what the future holds. Please come by and visit often (with promises of good meat, potatoes, and beer!) and stay in touch. :)

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  39. Congratulations Tom, this sounds like an awesome move. I'm glad (going back a long ish time now - oldness creeping in...) that the Distilled move proved as enriching and exciting as you hoped. I kind of can and can't believe you're going to work for Google, but who wouldn't take that opportunity? Slides at work? Free muffins? Sweet. Enjoy your last few weeks with the cool kids and please do not ever mention all the awesome perks of working in a Google office and inflame our collective epic jealousy. Kthx.

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  40. P.S. What was the final Critchlow vs. Critchlow chess score?

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  41. Hi Will Critchlow,
    Great news !!
    This is really an awesome move.Just utilize the opportunity and all the best in your future endeavors !!

    Thanks again

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  42. Wow, how did I miss this in my feedreader last week? I am sure that Distilled will be just fine without you, Tom & hope you can make a bigtime dent in Google's corporate hierarchy!

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  43. Big move Tom! Good on ya, and good luck at Google (maybe you can help them see things from an SEO perspective.)
    I have to say I am surprised you are going to Google. At first I thought you were leaving because on 'The Newsroom' was too time consuming.

    Just kidding, but seriously you guys look alike.

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  44. Congrats Tom on the new opportunity. Glad we got you on the cover of the magazine before you got way too important LOL!

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  45. This was one of the nicest goodbye posts I've ever seen. Good luck to Tom, and keep up the good work, Distilled!

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  46. Congrats Tom on the new gig. And to all of Distilled folks you've been able to create something bigger than themselves, that's no small goal. Impressive goodbye post, cheers!

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  47. Wow, an SEO is going behind the screens. I'm glad you are taking this leap. Best of luck Tom.

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  48. Very informative and impressive post you have written, this is quite interesting and i have went through it completely, an upgraded information is shared, keep sharing such valuable information.

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  49. RLL

    Congrats and good luck Tom on your next gig. You'll be a great addition to Google.

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