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So it is December and where has the year gone?

Well 2020 has been a year like no other which has brought heartache to millions as they have suffered loss of loved ones, freedoms whilst in isolation/lockdowns and impact on the wellbeing of many of us.

So there has been little good news to report unless you are in those businesses and industries that have grown exponentially as we all spend hours on Zoom or are transfixed to our screens to buy from Amazon, Tesco or binge on Netflix and Disney+.

Infection has therefore blighted our year and by socially distancing we are being sure not to be infectious to others.

But on looking at the definition of ‘infectious’ I see that is is defined as – ‘likely to spread or influence others in a rapid manner’ which does have some really positive connotations that we have seen at play during the pandemic.

Our behaviours help define us and nothing defines us more than how we behave and treat others in difficult times. I am pleased to say that since we all went into lockdown in March we have seen some exceptional acts of kindness and this has been particularly true within the community of independent agencies.

Collaboration, support, community and selflessness are a few keywords that have described how people in independent agencies have come together during these times with others who in different times they would describe as competitors.

Egos are often on display in our industry and maybe no more so than in owner/managed independent agencies, yet abnormal times brings out different character traits and I’m pleased to see that we have seen few, if any, egos, and simply a desire to do the best by their agencies, by their people and colleagues across the industry.

The Alliance of Independent Agencies was not the name the organisation went by at the start of the pandemic however it is a name by which we emerged into and brought to the fore the values that we had always held but particularly resonated as a result of Covid and the challenges it brought.

MAAG, as we were in March, went virtual overnight and opened its zoom doors to everyone in the independent agency community. As a membership organisation we should have perhaps put our members first but it quickly became apparent that we should be there for everyone and in doing so our members were only too happy to support us. So seeking new members, offering paid for training, the financial lifeblood of the organisation was put on hold and practically everyday in every way we offered a platform/safe space for agency CEOs, people in finance, talent – in fact everyone in the agency world – to come and share their issues, speak to experts and guide each other’s through from survival mode to rebuilding to thriving.

Whilst we sought nothing in return from those who shared in the activities and services we offered – not least a training course over 10 weeks for those that had been furloughed – nor did the experts and trainers to whom we sought their engagement. They were the ones that made the real sacrifices for the benefit of others.

So as we entered a period that we termed the ‘new normal’ it felt right that we rebrand to a name that reflected the community we served and the fact that over the period this community had aligned its interests – hence the Alliance of Independent Agencies was born.

….and what impact has Covid had on our membership organisation where for the majority of the time we have not looked for new members nor sold training? Well our membership has grown by over 60% (42% since the rebrand) and when we launched our first major piece of paid for training (The Diploma of Integrated Marketing) the course was sold out in 10 days.

Added to this the Alliance secured the support and investment of Pimento and Agencynomics, two others groups that share our values are were ready to align their interests to ours in support of giving a voice to the independent agency community.

One might say that it is now business as usual, but I hope that we don’t go back to business as usual pre covid but we build on the lessons learnt over the last 9 months. This would be to ensure that we further build on our core values to collaborate more, put people and their wellbeing first and be kind and supportive to each other. The Alliance is now built around the 3 pillars of People, Purpose and Performance and believe that this is likely to be the priority by which the agency community can thrive whereby a Happy Agency is a Successful Agency (and vice versa) – who would have thought we would be ending this year on such a positive note.

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