Welcome to Working On It, marie claire Australia’s series asking CEOs, founders, experts and trail-blazers the big (and not so big) questions about how they work.
Today, we speak to Lisa Messenger, author, entrepreneur and creative director of marketing for The Messenger Group. She tells us about dealing with burnout, her workbag essentials and why she thinks there’s no such thing as a “bad” job.
marie claire: What is your current role and how would you describe a typical day?
Lisa Messenger: I’m a founder, CEO, entrepreneur, investor. There is no real “typical day”. However I do have certain rituals and routines that enable me to lead a very big full life on purpose. I typically divide my day into two (listen to the similarities not the differences but just know that you should give yourself permission to work to your optimal routine).
Pre 10am is proactive “me time” where I fill my mind, body, spirit. I meditate, journal, write down my gratitude’s in our Collective Hub journal, exercise, listen to podcasts and ground and centre myself for a really full day. Post 10am—its game on. Reactive time. At Collective Hub we stand to ignite human potential through tools to inspire and educate across print (we do about 60 books, journals, affirmation cards and dated products a year), digital content (collectivehub.com, masterclasses, podcast—Hear Me RAW, social channels @collectivehub @lisamessenger @collectivehubkids @collective_retreat) and events (I do a HEAP of speaking gigs, and we run regular community events).
So my day could be commissioning writers and designers, writing myself, jumping on a stage for a keynote, ideating and strategising, attending a photo shoot or being photographed, mentoring other entrepreneurs, making social content and a myriad of other things. We’ve massively expanding into the US at the moment so that is a large focus. And as I write this I’m currently in NYC exhibiting at and attending trade fairs before I jump on a plane to LA for a bunch of meetings and events. Never a dull moment that’s for sure.
MC: How did you get here?
LM: My career path makes no sense in terms of a logical sequence. But retrospectively it makes perfectly illogical sense. This is a really important lesson in life. Try lots of things and you never know what experience you will garner from each to set you up for your ultimate dream job.
I started as a horse riding instructor in England (that taught me about early mornings and being unafraid to jump in and get my hands dirty). I then went on to be a conference and event manager. I loved the sponsorship side (brokering deals) but wasn’t great at the detail. It exposed me to a lot of different industries. I then took a job in sponsorship working for clients like Cirque du Soleil, The Wiggles and Barry Humphries. I wasn’t there long before I started my own business in 2001. But that job taught me everything that became the basis of my current business—thinking differently and putting together deals.
I’m in my 21st year of having my own business and its morphed from “marketing agency” where I tried to be everything to everyone (overserving and undercharging – not a smart way to run a business). I then morphed into custom publishing (accidentally after my own runaway success with my first book Happiness Is… in 2004). In 2013 I tried my hand at launching my own magazine—Collective Hub—which was in 37 countries within 18 months.
After 54 issues and almost five years, I closed it which is well documented (I wrote seven books over those five years in real time documenting every stage). Since then, we’ve started producing books, journals, affirmation cards and dated products and the business has just exploded again. It was touch and go for a while in 2018 but when you really know your purpose, what I have learnt is sometimes you have to break something in order to remake it—stronger and more sustainably than ever.
MC: What was your first ever job?
LM: As a horse riding instructor for an outdoor activity centre called Boreatton Park in Shropshire in England. It was so much fun. I got to meet other travellers from all over the world for the eight months I was there so it created instant friendships, travel buddies and places to stay all over the world.
MC: And what was your worst ever job?
LM: I don’t think there is ever a “bad” job—everything I do in life—good or bad I truly believe teaches us lessons.
MC: What’s your career advice to other women?
LM: Probably to be unafraid to try lots of things. Its only through experiencing different industries, geographic locations, cultures that we can truly get a feeling for what it is that sets our soul on fire. Too many people choose a career based on other peoples expectations of them. Be unafraid to chase your dreams. Be unafraid to fail. Know that from failure and adversity (however painful it may be at the time) is where the true lessons and springboards come from. I know for sure that every single time I’ve hit a rock bottom, that is where I have learnt grit, tenacity and resilience. And although painful at the time, when I look back, these are the moments – both personally and in business that have truly shaped me.
MC: You’ve recently begun working with Pureology for their Pure Origins campaign—how important is it to you to work with brands you personally align with?
LM: I don’t do a lot of brand partnerships because I prefer to go deeper with brands that I really resonate with and that share the same values – integrity and sustainability really stood out for me when we connected. Pureology is one of those brands that just made sense for me.
MC: The sponsorship included a photoshoot, documenting your hair transformation from long brunette mane to short blonde bob. It’s a dramatic change! How are you finding your new ‘do?
LM: It was super fun. I just felt like a really dramatic change and the team were really accommodating. I am terrible at doing my own hair. But their products have really helped especially the hydrate conditioner and colour fanatic, multi tasking leaving in spray.
MC: What does beauty mean to you?
LM: Beauty for me is all about an inner confidence. A strong sense of self. An unwavering self belief. It really is true that people shine from the inside out. And a few little pampering treatments don’t go astray.
MC: Back to working life: how do you deal with your inbox?
LM: So I TRY not to look at my emails before 10am. And I try to have dedicated “email” time throughout the day so it doesn’t interrupt my flow of writing, ideating, strategising, having team meetings. We can become way too “reactive” and glorify being “busy”. Its really important to set aside specific time for specific priorities – email being one of those.
MC: And how do you deal with burnout?
LM: In 2018, after having had a “bricks and mortar” office for 17 years, we did away with the office completely and decentralised the team. I then wrote a book, Work from Wherever detailing how we’d done it.
For me I changed my mindset to be all about output and productivity rather than time in office and bums on seats. It has given me and my team way more flexibility to work how we want, when we want. As long as people are delivering I’m happy for them to enjoy a flexible lifestyle. Hustle culture is out the window now. For me its all about a blend of work and play. I find when you allow flexibility coupled with strong deliverables / KPI’s, people tend to give the best of themselves.
MC: What have you bought that’s made the biggest difference to your productivity?
LM: My non-negotiables are my Apple Airpods, my Apple Watch, Monday.com, Slack, and my HP Dragonfly laptop. All of this helps me to be super productive on the go – wherever I am working in the world. And we are living between Bangalow, Sydney and the USA so these things are my ride or die.
MC: Describe your power outfit.
LM: So this is a super important one for me and it really depends on what I am doing. I do believe outfits can really ground us. I do a lot of speaking to big audiences—anywhere from 400—10,000 people generally. I ALWAYS wear all black. I always wear pants instead of a skirt. I’ll often wear my black Balmain blazer that I bought in NYC a few years ago (a power blazer I bought to reward myself for a big win in the US). And either flat black boots of Frankie4 sneakers.
The reason for this is that people have no choice but to listen to what I have to say, rather than focus on what I am wearing (great advice given to me years ago by a few top global speakers). I wear pants because if you need to sit on stage there will never be an issue from any angle (I’ve seen too many accidental stage flashes over the years to risk it) and flats because I always run around the audience to take questions the second half and I want to be ready for anything.
Now—when I’m working from home—I’ll often spend all day in my training gear (Nimble, Dharma Bums, The Upside, Aje Athletica are my faves) after training and straight into Zooms etc. Or ripped jeans (Frame-store.com) and a white tee. I also get to go to a lot of launches and events so that’s when I get super dressed up. I love to wear a different outfit as often as possible so I’ll often hire something from The Style Squad.
MC: What’s your current work bag?
LM: So for years and years, I didn’t spend any money on bags or myself really. I poured it back into the business. But a few years ago, I realised as en entrepreneur and business owner, I needed to reward myself rather than putting it all back into the business. My go to is Louis Vuitton. For every day I have the Neverfull MM. And I just bought myself the Keepall Bandoulière 25 in LA a few months ago for all my sporting and evening occasions.
WFH or office? ‘
MC: BYO lunch or takeout?
MC: What’s on your desk right now?
LM: Airpods. Gratitude Journal. Laptop. Iced Latte. iPhone. Blank A4 notepad.
MC: Email sign off?
LM: “Big love Lisa xx”