Peninsula Luxury Retreats Founder Peter Noble has carved his path in the entrepreneurial space by running Citrus, his marketing automation business, for almost 20 years. Along the way, the landscape has changed, and the trail has transformed. His heart was no longer beating for the same thing. Feeling quite tired of the grind, he meditated and reflected on what he truly wanted to do with his life, which led him to close his business and embark on a new journey in the hospitality space. The quick turn was scary for Peter, but he kept on because he knew exciting things are about to come.
It was in 2015 when he attended an EO Melbourne forum retreat in Byron Bay. Despite feeling ill, Peter pressed on as he didn’t want to miss the retreat. Incidentally, the organisers invited a meditation teacher to show the attendees some Ayurvedic techniques. His wife, Kristina, had already been doing it for three months, and he has noticed the positive changes in her. Feeling much better and lighter after the retreat, Peter continued with his meditation exercises, even when he moved his family to Sydney that same year.
“I came out of a big meditation session by the beach in Sydney, and it just hit me. It was like a lightning bolt. I realised that I had to get out of this. I was not enjoying the business part of my life. I didn't feel that I could be true to my staff by coming in and talking about the vision for the business anymore. I no longer wanted to be inauthentic. I wanted to be true to myself,” he acknowledged.
By 2016, he closed the business, which was a tough stage in his life. With what he was going through physically, mentally and spiritually, he knew he needed a change quickly. Things went by like a whirlwind. It took him mere four weeks from the moment he decided to close the business to the actual date of closure. He flew back to Melbourne and broke the news to his staff members. “It was very emotional, but they also understood. They were proud of me, and they were happy that I've been truthful. I made a promise to each one of them that they would have a new job within those four weeks. We delivered on every single person,” he recalled.
Right after that defining moment, he took an extended break from work and brought his family to Europe for eight months to unwind and re-calibrate his life. He knew it was not a typical exit for an entrepreneur, whose goals are generally either to build a business that lasts a lifetime or to sell and exit the business and move on to do different things. He chose the latter. Other business owners expressed their envy to his newfound life, but Peter admitted that it was not easy for him. It was as intimidating as the beginning of his journey when he made the bold move to jump out of employment and venture on his own. That time, his gut was also telling him to leave his job and take the reins of his destiny.
At that time, he was working for a multinational company for about nine years, and a burning desire within him was egging him to hit the road of starting his own business. As he was no longer enjoying his work, he decided to get out of the corporate world and take the entrepreneurial route. His father-in-law was a successful entrepreneur, a strong guiding force in their journey, and his wife had some inkling about running a business. But Peter himself had no prior experience in managing an enterprise. Still, the restlessness within him drove him to take the path he has never gone before.
“I felt like I had more to offer and could impact on more people by going out on my own. I felt I needed to get out and do something and show myself, more than anyone, that I could not just survive but also thrive in the entrepreneurial world. The desire builds up in you over time. Eventually, you have to make a decision to either jump and see if you fly or stay where you are. I decided to jump. I never had any previous experience, but I knew it was the right thing to do at that time,” he stated.
That became his motivation to start Citrus with his wife and sister-in-law. A business partnership with a spouse may be deemed daunting for other entrepreneurs, but theirs was a significant ingredient in their winning entrepreneurial recipe. According to Peter, “For us, it was a very major part of our success as a couple, and we're still married 20 years later. So, it worked obviously, which was good. But it was a little scary.”
However, he pointed out that the initial part of their business road was a bit patchy. “We had a difficult start because there was the dot-com boom back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was a bizarre time to be in the space where we were at that point. There was this incredible excitement globally about what the internet could do for business and humanity. We were on the cusp of that. Our business was within the digital marketing space. It was very new. We had businesses telling us that the internet wouldn't survive, it wouldn't last,” he narrated.
Due to the rapid rise of the web, large corporations were hiring many young people coming straight out of university. Citrus also tapped on these fresh talents only to be poached for enormous salaries by the bigger players. Since Peter and his partners couldn’t afford to match those salary grades, they lost some of their staff members. They were fortunate enough to have good relations with the remainder of their people and their clients. Those relationships and their small cost base helped them survive when the financial crash eventually came.
“Business is about relationships and how you build them, whether they're done online or face-to-face. They are very critical parts of a successful business, whether they be with staff or customers or partners,” Peter imparted.
Growing a team was one of the challenges they encountered in the early years of their enterprise. Peter explained, “The challenge was how to build a team that has the skills you need, the culture you're trying to build, and the understanding of the vision you're trying to create. When you're busy being busy, it's sometimes difficult to sit back and look at the bigger picture of things and ensure that the team you have are the right people. The people that start with you are not necessarily the people that can also grow with you over time. We certainly faced challenges in that space as more and more people became competent and skilled in web development. Trying to keep our team up to speed with the skills that they need was certainly very difficult.”
There was also a point when they positioned the business for sale. Two buyers expressed their interest, but they pulled out on the same day. “They both gave me the same feedback. They said, ‘while it's a great business, we felt that you are such an integral part of it that it's too reliant on you as an individual.' They felt that was a concern for them moving forward,” he shared.
Looking back, Peter realised that there was a lot of egos associated with holding on to the business. He became so attached to his venture that he was afraid to let it go. He wondered what people would think of him and questioned the skills he had. “I thought I was very important to a whole lot of people. Very quickly you realise how unimportant you are when you step away,” he expressed.
The pressures of running a business also took a toll on him. Nonetheless, EO Melbourne was there to help him in his journey. “I found that no matter how stressed I was, but when I turn up to my monthly forum I leave in a very different state of mind. I realised that this was an organisation where the people within it understood the issues and the challenges. They were able to provide the right guiding experiences, ideas and friendship. I have made some of my best friends in my life through EO,” he declared.
He first joined EO Melbourne in 2004. But when most of his forum members moved on to different paths, he likewise took a break from the organisation before he went back two years later. Peter revealed, “I was looking at re-imagining the Citrus business. I thought to myself, I've stopped thinking big. I've stopped thinking as a visionary. I’ve stopped looking at the possibilities of the business. I remembered then what EO had done for me, and how much I'd enjoyed being part of that group. I don't think we were successful at the time I wasn't in EO. So, I rejoined, and I haven't looked back since then.”
It was his learnings, experiences and friendships in EO Melbourne that guided him and inspired him to make the important decision in his life of shifting gears and taking a different turn in his entrepreneurial track. When he and his family were touring Europe, they put up a few of their properties in the short-stay accommodation market like Airbnb and HomeAway. “Interestingly, we made more money while we were travelling around Europe doing nothing than we had in the previous six to twelve months of running the agency. When I got home, I thought, 'Hang on. There's got to be something in this.' So, I decided to take on building a portfolio of properties that we could own, manage and run. That's been building successfully over the last couple of years,” he happily shared.
Now, with his new baby, the Peninsula Luxury Retreats, he has never been happier. At present, he has a fantastic contract team working for him. But he’s thinking of growing the team by taking in full-time employees and expanding the business. “We're looking into buying more land and building some properties. I'm doing that with a partner, and we're going to build that into a brand in these luxury retreats. We think that it’s a really exciting opportunity based on the market that's here in Australia and overseas,” he disclosed.
Most of all, he is happy that he can now devote more time to his daughter, who is soon turning seven years old. “She was born in 2011, and for the first two or three years, I missed so much of her development. Even when she went to daycare, I would leave before she's woken up and get home after she'd gone to bed. As a dad, I missed so many things in my child's early development that I can't get back. I felt the impact of that. What I've been able to do now is I have complete flexibility and freedom. I think my relationship with my daughter has changed. I get to see her, I take her to school, I get to pick her up a few days a week, and we get to spend a lot more time together.”
Peter found the courage to make the big leap because he trusted in his inner self. “The biggest lesson that's come from it, I would gravitate towards listening to your heart. Listen to what is important for you as an individual because you did that to start your business, and it won't stay the same. Keep on tapping into listening to what feels right. If you're not happy, if this is a grind, if it's a slog, if you're unable to listen to what's going on inside, then it will stay difficult. So, listen to your instincts, listen to your heart. That would be the key takeaway, and it served me well,” he counselled.
Read more about Peter Noble on his LinkedIn profile.