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Michelle Gamble

My best mistake: Merging with the wrong business

When you’re growing your business, there feels like an endless amount of opportunities for you to pursue to further that growth. However for some, like Michelle Gamble of Marketing Angels, some opportunities aren’t quite the blessings you were hoping for.

Marketing Angels, Michelle Gamble’s national marketing consultancy business, was in a period of growth in 2009 and 2010. During this time, Gamble and her then business partner decided to merge their company with another.

“Following years of consecutive growth, my then business partner and I merged our business with a creative agency as a way to fuel further growth and bring in extra skills into the business.”

Unfortunately for Marketing Angels, things didn’t go quite as planned.

“This turned out to be a big mistake for a number of reasons. Culturally we were not a great fit, this resulted in my business partner leaving the business and a lot of conflict with our consultants. During this time the GFC hit and hit hard – affecting both businesses. Because we had shared cashflow and shared costs, the impact on our business was significant.”

While the impact was drastic, it took around 6 months for Gamble to realise the full impact of the decision.

“I realised it was a mistake about six months after my partner left the business. I had to then work with a business advisor and negotiate with the other partners to buy the business back.”

By engaging external advisors, who advised to immediately split the business back up again, Gamble made some important decisions to avoid upsetting the business again, though some damage had already been done.

“During the conflict between my founding business partner and new partners, I had three very small children and dealing with that was exhausting and upsetting. Then after I bought the business back, I had to change the business model, which meant losing some people and then having to rebuild with a new team under a new model.”

Despite the problems, Gamble had some good advice from fellow business owners.

“I joined a business group called The Entrepreneurs Organisation. I received a lot of support from other business owners as a result which really helped. I also benefited a lot from the learning events run by the group.”

Following on from this experience, Gamble has taken the business to new heights and feels she has definitely learnt from her mistake.

“Our business is better than ever.  We’ve doubled our growth in the last year and significantly improved our profitability.”

After learning from her mistake, Gamble has passed on these three lessons for other small businesses who find themselves in tricky situations.

  1. Act quickly if profitability is being affected.
  2. External parties can help enormously when there’s conflict to give an independent view.
  3. Seek support from other business owners, many will have important experience to share