Why Selling An Agency Isn’t Always The Smoothest of Rides

by | Feb 14, 2021

After a three-year earn-out, in late 2020 Lisa Paasche resigned as CEO of Verve.

Having set up the agency herself back in 2009, she sold Verve to Omnicom in 2017 – but from the beginning, she realised this wasn’t plain sailing.

“The sale was the easy bit,” Lisa says. “But it took nine months to negotiate the deal, and three of those were spent on a particular clause which included all the things they couldn’t make me do.”

For Lisa, selling the agency was never solely about making money. It simply seemed the natural next step.

“I had always concentrated on doing the best possible work, keeping my employees happy, and making sure they were fulfilled, feeling creative and happy,” she says.

Despite this outlook, those three years under Omnicom were starkly different for Lisa.

And that’s sometimes the problem leaders struggle with when it comes to earn-outs – you’re no longer the one in charge. But Lisa learned a great deal about herself.

“Being within an organisation that is very different to how I did things was very challenging for me. It’s like being an alien. I was so aware of not talking like them, behaving like them or pitching like them.”

Then the pandemic hit, and she felt she couldn’t leave her employees until she’d ensured they were in the best possible position.

“I had to make redundancies, I had everyone on furlough for as long as I could,” says Lisa. “I couldn’t really justify leaving all my people in the hands of the corporate company to handle their future, so I stayed on until it was all sorted. By September, I was knackered. It was really challenging.”

“I have learned more in the last 12 months than I have in my entire career. The story of all of this is that we can do so much more than we think we can, and we can keep on going.”

This is a chance to hear about Lisa’s bumpy ride to exiting an agency she built from the ground up – perfect if you’re thinking of doing the same.