In May 2008, I received a ‘sliding doors’ call that would alter the course of my life profoundly. It would shape the business I had co-founded, generate far-flung friendships, take me all over the world for amazing experiences and end up saving my life.
Huddled over my mobile phone in the car park of MSD in Hoddesdon, Claire Eldridge and I got the news that from a short list of 16 independent UK agencies, we had been selected to join Global Health Marketing & Communications (GHMC), then known as GHPR. We were so excited. Our agency was relatively new, but following all the calls, face-to-face meetings and assessment of our team, Aurora now had a global footprint. We knew this was an important opportunity and a real coup for us, but we didn’t realise it was a Gwyneth Paltrow-like ‘sliding doors’ moment.
Our first Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2008 was in Tokyo where we met a set of communication agency owners and leaders who blew us away. They were doing the same jobs as us, building an independent business, and they were willing to talk about the ups and downs. This was done in a way we couldn’t do even with our friends back home doing similar jobs. Here we weren’t competitors, we were genuine collaborators. We hung out, we learnt from each other, we had a Ninja-themed dinner in a restaurant set up as a night-time forest. The highlight was singing Karaoke into the early hours with the Japanese partner agency owners, both in their late 70s with aspirational joie de vivre.
We were immediately part of the family, and the camaraderie was unlike anything I had experienced in networks that follow the holding company model.
Roll through 14 years, with AGMs in Venice, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney, Lisbon, Mumbai and London, to name but a few, and we are together again at the Birch Community in North London. It’s a super venue and we all got into its chilled vibe – fire pits, delicious food and a screen-printing class – who could want for more?
As always, I am inspired and energised by our entrepreneurial partners who are united to break down borders to radically improve health outcomes for all. I got to see my friends who look out for each other personally and professionally. Each one of them willing to put effort into helping the other partner businesses to grow and flourish, enabled through knowledge sharing, as well as creating leads and delivering integrated client business together. I received the best present of a pencil drawing of me with my whippet from Eugenia and Laura – the Argentinian partners. So thoughtful and generous (as always).
On a personal note, Claire and I got to talk about the acquisition of Aurora by Spectrum, the US partner and Chair of GHMC. I had the opportunity to explain how thrilled I am to shift from UK agency owner to become the Chief Growth Officer for the network I am so passionate about.
GHMC is the largest and most robust global network of independent healthcare agencies where health, science, expertise and insights connect to deliver integrated solutions. It works so well by design. We are enabled to harness our country-to-country similarities, and make a world of difference for our clients through our global presence and local resonance in what we deliver.
This network is based on genuine partnership – all the good stuff, with friendship and camaraderie at its core. These are people I want to hang out with and want to help be successful. Our time together was precious and, like every year that we meet, made the world of difference to me.
The life-saving moment I mentioned was on a holiday in Mexico. I met up with our partner Paola and her daughter to go sightseeing. I had been ill on the flight over (it turned out to be a massive bout of glandular fever) and my glands in my neck were getting bigger and bigger, each reaching the size of a large orange! I was feeling worse and worse and Paola insisted that we go to the hospital, so I went reluctantly. On examination in A&E, they discovered that my airway was about to close over!
So, thank you my Saint Paola, thank you GHMC and thank you all my GHMC partners around the world. Your impact on me has been profound, and as your new Chief Growth Officer, I hope to generate more opportunity to collaborate and do great work for our clients.
I’ll be seeing you all lots on calls and in person, but I’m already excited to know that we’ll all be united again in a years-time.