A New CEO at Distilled

In order to avoid any confusion, I thought I’d start with the facts:

Last month, Will Critchlow took the reins as CEO of Distilled. Co-founder Duncan Morris is moving to become Chairman and will be bolstering our growing investment in R&D.

That’s the punchline, but I’m sure it raises as many questions as it answers. I’ll do my best to answer them, but first, a personal note:

Duncan and I have been best friends since high school. I’m godfather to his son. Building a business together has been our driving ambition since we were teenagers. Anyone who has seen close personal relationships mixed with business will be pleased to know that Duncan and I remain as close as we always have been. We’re good. Both of us are happy. We have big ambitions for the future.

Photo credit: Mark Hakansson, Flickr

For a long time in the early days, we were just “co-founders”. But for the last five years, Duncan has led the company and overseen a period of remarkable growth, international expansion and the development of an exceptional team. I will be doing my best to continue building upon his success. Thank you D.

I thought I’d address some of the inevitable questions with a Q&A:

So you’ve fallen out then?

Gah. No.

Why is Duncan stepping down?

He’s doing what’s right for him, and what’s right for Distilled. This kind of decision takes a huge amount of courage - something he’s talked about in a podcast with Jerry Colonna. Jerry’s CEO Bootcamp (ironically) played a large role in Duncan’s decision-making process - so it’s fascinating to look into both Duncan’s thinking and Jerry’s work. [Paragraph updated when the podcast went live a few weeks after this post].

What’s this about R&D?

We’ve been quietly growing our investment in R&D for a while now - in particular moving Tom Anthony to a full-time R&D role a couple of months back. Anyone who has seen TA speak at our conferences or elsewhere will know the sharpness of his mind and the scale of his talent. Add Duncan’s skills and experience into the mix, and we’re going to see some great things coming from that team.

We’re already seeing prospective and existing clients loving our new capabilities and the future looks bright for this to help us differentiate ourselves further.

What does the Chairman role involve?

Alongside the R&D responsibilities, Duncan will be spending 2-3 days a month chairing our board and holding me to account for having a plan to deliver shareholder value. He’s always been great at giving me feedback, so I imagine this will work very well.

You have a board?

Yes - since we don’t have external investment, we haven’t got all the formal trappings, but we have a group of senior advisors. We haven’t talked about it a great deal in public, but they’ve been exceptionally useful to us behind the scenes. In the new setup, Niralee (our head of finance) and myself will report to a group made up of Duncan, John Varney (who previously chaired this team) and James Trumper.

This must have been pretty disruptive. How’re you all doing?

Yes. We have been through quite an interesting few months. As well as the changes above, we have restructured into geographical business units and created a new leadership team. You’ll hear more about and from them in the coming months, but suffice it to say that I’m extremely confident in the team and I couldn’t be more excited about taking on everything that’s coming our way. We believe bigger budgets and greater responsibility is coming towards us (see: the future of TV) and we’re all looking forward to taking it on. We live in the intersection of technology, creativity, and business strategy, and we like it here.

While all this has been going on, our exceptional teams have been taking care of business, looking after our clients, and driving real results. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head back to helping them do just that. Thank you for all your support. Up and to the right.

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