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.

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About the author
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. For the...   read more