Interview with Carmel Murphy.
NOTE: *best read with a thick Irish accent*
Q: Let’s rewind to when you were working full-time; what was that moment when you said, “I can’t keep doing this”?
For many years I felt a niggle. I had a niggle that there had to be something more. There had to be something different.
But I had responsibilities. As a single mum of three, it was my job to keep everything together. There was no time to lift my head and see if there were any other opportunities, and if I’m honest, I was too scared to.
My whole life, I’d been a good worker. I had a ‘head down, work, work, work’ mentality. But as good as I was at hospitality, I was also sh*t scared of being found out.
I feared that one day they were all going to wake up and realise that I couldn’t do what I was doing. It was a fear that ran deep, and it came to a head on that fateful night…
It all started when I transitioned from hospitality management to working in recruitment management (for hospitality). It was a completely different role and a huge challenge for me.
As State Manager, it was my responsibility to ensure all our clients had staff when they needed them. There were two aspects of recruitment: Temporary Staff and Full-time. The temp desk at this time was booming. We had over 450 staff on the books. And staff at venues all over Perth. They were crazy times, and keeping it flowing was a lot to keep track of.
One of the things we offered was a 24-hour hot-line for our clients. We had a list of all staff members available and on standby and would place them as needed.
That night it was my turn to manage the 24-hour phone. But the hot-line phone wouldn’t stop.
I remember I was getting phone call. After phone call. After phone call. And I had my stand by list, and I was placing chefs here, kitchen hands there, waiters and cleaners somewhere else, figuring out who was going where after what venue – I’d never experienced a weekend like it. It was absolute mayhem!
My list of available staff was getting smaller and smaller, and then my state manager’s phone started ringing because they couldn’t get through on the hot-line. So, I was juggling two phones — one in each hand. I was putting people on hold and freaking out because I couldn’t keep up with the requests!
Then, my personal phone started going crazy as people realised they couldn’t get through on either of the two other ones!
Three phones were blaring at me. My poor list by then had disintegrated before my eyes. I had no staff and angry clients screaming at me and me trying to keep them calm. I had no way to sort it all out. I literally could not find any more staff.
Defining Moment #1:
“I just remember standing there crying and going: I can’t do this.”
The stress was too much. It was at that moment I knew there had to be something different for me! There just had to be. I couldn’t do this anymore…
It was a turning point for me. I needed to do some soul searching. And that was where I went looking for something else. All I knew was I didn’t want to do recruitment. But I was good with people. And I loved helping people. And being of service.
That’s how I found coaching and went down the road of becoming a qualified coach. I thought – I’m good with people, I can talk to people easily, and they’re going to love working with me and ultimately pay me oceans of money!
Little did I know it’s never quite that easy…
Q: Tell me more about becoming a coach and starting your business – what was the biggest challenge?
So, I started coaching, and I had to travel interstate several times for training sessions. And of course, I upgraded to the highest program at the time too (I mean I wanted to be the best). It was a very big personal development change for me learning about coaching – like it was a significant shift – because you discover so much about yourself whilst doing it, and some of it was quite confronting too.
I became quite good at it. I was getting lots of rave reviews from the people I coached pro-bono, so I finally decided in 2011 to launch my own business - The Communication Queen.
“Ta-daaaah!” I remember putting a post-up on Facebook going, “I’ve finally done it – I’m leaving my job –– I’m starting my own business” I was super excited.
The plan was to offer leadership and teambuilding coaching and training to the hospitality industry in Perth. I was convinced they needed my help. And that I was onto a winning idea!
So, I started organising free workshops. Lots of free workshops. Some of the most prominent hotels in Perth came along. But nobody would book me beyond the freebies. It was demoralising, to say the least!
I’d found the gaping hole in my whole plan: I didn’t have a clue how to market myself!
I also had one-on-one coaching clients at this stage, but not enough to sustain myself full time. I was still spending huge amounts of money investing in my training but wasn’t getting near enough back to start turning a profit…
So, I started mentoring other coaching students. From there, I also became a paid facilitator, and I used to do live coaching demonstrations. People would say, “oh my god, you’re brilliant”, but all the while (I would never admit it to them), I was actually working full-time behind it.
You see, to stay afloat, I was back in a hospitality job, doing 50-60 hours a week, and I was also doing anywhere between 10-20 hours of coaching on top of that!
I wore the badge of BUSY as a badge of honour, “oh, I’m too busy, I’m too busy…” I said it so often people stopped inviting me to go out with them. I isolated myself in a world of non-stop work. I believed I had to do it all on my own. Work and grow my business. Because I was stupid if I couldn’t…
I truly believed asking for help was a sign of weakness… that something was wrong with me if I couldn’t do it all by myself…
Q: What was the ultimate thing that made you go: Enough’s enough, time to stop living the double-life between employee and entrepreneur?
Early 2015 I was in Adelaide, and I knew my sister had been a bit ill.
Many, many years ago, she had had cancer, and her treatment damaged a valve in her heart. So, now 35 years later, she had to get an operation to repair this valve. But after she had that operation, she was still having some shortness of breath.
So, I talked to her a lot even though I was away interstate; I knew she had gone for some more tests, and they thought she had pneumonia, so she was awaiting the results.
Defining Moment #2:
“Then I received the phone call. She had stage four cancer.”
It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
And I remember in that second saying to myself, “I will never f*king be somewhere else when someone rings me and tells me she’s dead.” Like literally, it just woosh came over me. Something changed in me deeply.
The next 15 months with my sister were very precious. My two other sisters came to stay with me (from Ireland and Melbourne) to spend time with our darling sister. It was an intense time.
But I couldn’t shake the thoughts and feelings – it was building up and building up – how can I change this? How can I get more momentum with my business? With my life? What can I do differently?
I was watching my sister fade away, and I remember thinking -
“I am not going to die with my song still in me!”
This year I am the same age as my sister when she knew that she was terminally ill. Not even 60. Her song had only just got into full flight, and it was stopped abruptly. It lit a fire inside me to make something happen!
So, I picked up the phone and did something I’d never done before.
Defining Moment #3:
“I asked for help.”
I rang a mentor I’d worked with years ago who had really stretched my thinking. And I told him I was ready to do this business thing for REAL this time.
We started planning and talking and tweaking my marketing and strategies. In hindsight, again, I probably wouldn’t have believed him if he had told me that was exactly what I would become an expert in – marketing.
The one thing I’d struggled with the most!
But he knew that once I figured out how to do it. I could teach other coaches and consultants, and entrepreneurs just like me. He said if I was struggling – then there’s a market of thousands of others out there struggling too.
Wow. To think the one thing I was resisting the most was going to be the one thing I specialised in for my business: Teaching others how to overcome the “I don’t know how to market myself” hurdle.
It was radical!
I became the leader of a local group of coaches and started running events from that platform. I took what I was learning from my mentor about marketing and decision-brain science, and entrepreneur psychology and re-taught it to them.
I was hesitant and unsure, but once on stage, I was in my element. It felt good! So, I started doing more and more seminars and workshops. And people started showing up! Because I consistently offered something of value that helped solve their problems, people began taking notice and paying to come — something I hadn’t achieved before.
While I was doing these events, this amazing young lady who also worked with the same mentor started asking me if I needed any help. She offered her time, even helped write some copy for marketing, and genuinely showed interest in what I was creating.
We started working closer and closer together as we rolled out more and more marketing-focused events. We realised we had so many complimentary yet very different skills. Where I’m extroverted, she’s introverted, where I’m non-techy, she’s techy - we soon became a dynamic duo!
And that was one of the biggest things that propelled me forward; finding the right people to co-create with, people I could trust.
Because for so long, I thought I had to do it all alone. But I just couldn’t. It wasn’t because I was stupid (which is what I’d been telling myself for years), but because time was of the essence now, and to move as fast as I wanted to, I needed more hands-on deck. Since then, my VA has been another welcomed addition to the team!
Q: Wow – so now The Communication Queen is a fully online business – and you have multiple products, courses, and a weekly membership helping people learn high-conversion video marketing. What makes what you’re doing different from others in the marketing niche?
We know a lot of people have invested thousands into their learning. But have been left wanting more when they realise there still seems to be ‘missing pieces’ to the online marketing puzzle. Others will teach their strategies, the ones that worked for them, but when you go to implement them, it doesn’t seem to work for you, or there’s a step missing, or you don’t know how to adapt it to your unique situation, or you get stuck with the tech side of things.
We found many people were struggling with the “ok, I get the concept of the steps – but HOW do I actually do them?” They’ve gone off and done all courses focused on individual skills – like copywriting, social media, sales, funnels, and video, but have all these loose ends they don’t know how to connect and bring together.
And they’re smart people! But they’re just missing that ongoing support beyond the end of a course, those extra eyes on their project, or fixing that one tech issue that is holding them back from making progress.
So, we developed Exceptional Entrepreneurs as a co-creation space, a skill-sharing space, and a resource hub. It’s kind of like being in a little online chemistry lab, where we can create together, fix tech headaches, give feedback, and encourage action.
And it’s much more than a mastermind! Masterminds are quite often a lot of talking and not much doing. But this is a unique set-up; sometimes it’s talking because that’s what people need, but more often it’s hands-on ‘click this, click that, put that over here, edit that, try writing it like this’ style of support.
They go away with problems solved, answers gleaned, and ready to take the next step! It’s rewarding seeing them progress alongside us.
We've had members use simple video marketing (NO FILMING REQUIRED!) to gain more leads, sales and grow their brand and business. It truly is exciting how much LEVERAGE there is in making moving stories to influence and persuade!
(Interviewed and edited by Sarah Rose)