My exit interview – René van Gameren

My exit interview – René van Gameren

Two years ago, at the AMIN EMEA regional conference in Verona, Italy, I informed the Board that it was my plan to resign from my AMIN job end 2020. I figured giving it two years to find a person to replace me should be enough. So here we are, end 2020!

I started in AMIN Europe beginning 2006 as a member with my agency Publi. After merging it with Campagne in 2008 we started to focus on developing international business and growing our people by learning from the other members. I introduced my new business partner André van der Meer to AMIN and (you all know André….) he became President of (at that time) AMIN Europe the year after. André and I teamed up on this new challenge and we focused on collaboration between agencies in the network: we wanted to build business! 

Mid 2010 I left Campagne and started officially working for AMIN Europe as network coordinator. We had a Board of three plus me: André as President, Serge Rentsch from Switzerland as Vice President, Christophe Loubry from Belgium as Treasurer. Mr. P, Mr. VP and Mr. T. And I was Mr. PP, the Paid Person. 

A lot has happened since then. We decided to build the global network with AMIN North America, which is now AMIN Worldwide with 50 agencies across the globe with well over 4.000 professionals! For me now it’s time to say goodbye to AMIN, look back on a wonderful time and focus on a new episode in my life.

Thank you, AMIN and AMIN friends from all over the world for letting me do this job. It has been a great journey! 

ComOn’s Julia SantaLucia, who did an excellent job managing AMIN’s social channels the past two years, invited me to an exit interview by answering to some questions. To be honest, I’m not the type of guy that wants to be in the spotlight. Okay, I will do my best.

What were the best aspects of your job?

Definitely meeting people, having great conversations. Of course at the conferences – I think I helped organize and attended around 25 – but also during my many travels recruiting new members.

How cool is it to be able to visit superb independent agencies in many countries, meet people that are all in the same industry but all give their own signature to the profession. Being independent and never wanting to give that up. Learning from new methods, strategies, media, from other cultures. The whole big change of the communication industry happened after I sold my agency!

I walked in and out so many companies all over Europe, Africa and the US. Not only the ones from (new) members, also the agencies that did not become a member for whatever reason. How many of us have been offered such an opportunity? I was blessed to get this role.

And of course not only the owners were important, also all these great people from all layers in the agencies, each of them professional in their own expertise. I now can treasure my own network of professionals all over the world, all wonderful people who I can still contact or visit when I am around. I will certainly keep on doing that!

 

What were the least favorable aspects of your job?

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Every job has exciting and boring aspects. Exciting for me was to function in the network on the highest levels of leadership: in the EMEA Board, the Global Board, the Global Committees. Work with captains of the communication industry, selfmade men and women. And I have always been a full member of every team I was in, not just an assistant. That’s how it works in AMIN.

However, my role was from an operational angle: making things happen that were figured out in these boards and committees. THAT also brings in the boring stuff. Be the gatekeeper: making sure things go accordingly to the bylaws. Keep an eye on official procedures, internal and external. Chasing everyone who is supposed to do something. Chasing has become my middle name. 

The reason for having to chase can be found in the essence of the network: a network of independents, where the leaders also have to deal with every day’s issues in their own companies. Their clients will always come first. Which makes me second. Or third. Never got used to that.

Who are some individuals that stand out to you as making a real difference? What do they do well?

I’m not going to give names, it’s hard to choose people over others. There is so much talent in AMIN. 

I respect all individuals in the network, from top to bottom, working in large or small agencies, in any expertise. But who I personally admire are agency owners for whom employees always come first. 

Leaders who believe that building on people, creating teams, taking care of their well-being in their jobs and always giving them the space and honour for doing their jobs in the ends benefits the clients, the results and in the very end the agency. To be honest, when I had my agency I was not like that. But it opened my eyes and I wish I could change some of how I managed my shop in the past.

I am very happy to see that this way of doing business is winning territory, a way where personal growth of employees is a key objective. Personal growth by education, by career opportunities, but also room for quality time in personal life. Because in the end everyone gets better from that, also clients and bosses.

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Who are individuals you find difficult to work with? Why?

This is a simple one: for me it is very hard with people who do not keep their promises. People who bend the truth. People who don’t answer to messages. People who only want to take and not bring are energy drains. These can be a real dealbreaker for any company, any network, any individual. It’s a pity, but my conclusion is that workloads are often so heavy nowadays, that unfortunately this is also a day-to-day reality. People get hundreds of emails every day. Their workload comes from the screen they are staring at. And they find the answers in the same screen. The truth is in the computer screen. 

How poor is that. Look out of the window and see the real world!

 

What do you think were the main lessons learned from working with a global team?

We are a global network and one of the things we tell is that we understand different cultures, different ways of thinking and doing things.

That is true, but sometimes we forget this also goes for our own daily conversations. What can be a joke in The Netherlands might be an insult in Africa or South America. 

I am from The Netherlands, and we are known for being very direct and acting fast. Which definitely also means: too direct and too fast. Believe me, go 100 kilometres south and it’s already completely different. This goes for the Dutch, but I am sure there are this kind of aspects for every country. 

Show empathy, listen well and think before do. Take a breath before acting. Be aware that the other person might have a better point than you. We claim that we understand different worlds, but we can do better showing that.

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What are your overall impressions of AMlN?

There is always room for improvements, and this is certainly the case for AMIN. I am leaving the network at a moment of a lively conversation between the AMIN regions on how the network can do better globally. In which direction we should go.

There are several other independent communication agencies networks: TAAN, WPI, Comvort, Magnet, ICOM, The Network One. All not bad, no doubt.  We even collaborate with a number of them in the Summit group. AMIN might not have the highest brand awareness, but personally I think it has the best concept, with 3 three separate regions with their own executive boards. This shows that AMIN really treasures the different cultures. AMIN has to stick to that and take it from there.I know in the next years the network will capitalize on that! And yes, of course I think AMIN is the best. What else can I say?

 

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How would you describe AMIN?

AMIN is a network of friends. The agency owners do not perceive each other as competitors. Name any question an agency can have in terms of HR, industry knowledge or experience, resources, succession, whatever: every AMIN member can just pick up the phone and reach out to a fellow member to get an opinion for free. As a colleague and a friend. And he or she will get the help needed.

This is how we stand out!

What are your suggestions for improvement?

As we all know 2020 has been quite a year. What we have seen is that many agencies went through tough times, maybe even had to let people go, but luckily until now everyone survived.

What we most miss as a network are the conferences, where we meet in person. Where we get inspired by great speakers and brilliant ideas, but also and especially by each other. THAT is what a network makes a network. We are a network of independent agencies, but above all a network of people with independent minds and friends. 

We had the AMIN Dialogues, lots of webinars and our first Online Global Conference. And of course we have our peer groups. The Global Board is now at a stage to determine what was good and less good and how to move on. Hopefully there will be a Global Conference in Washington DC in 2021, fingers crossed.

What we see is that members really appreciated the contacts at the Dialogues. My recommendation is work even harder on having more (monthly?) short Online Gatherings. Nothing fancy, just quick and dirty meetings to touch base with each other. To stay connected and keep on inspiring each other!

To hear each other’s challenges and see how we can offer help. BTW: this can only be done with the help of and by members. Spread the work, it will pay off!

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Why did you decide to leave?

I had a couple of reasons for that. Professionally: I have been doing this for ten years. The past few weeks I received many kind words and praised me that I did so well. That I will be missed. Many thanks for that, but to be honest I really do think that the time has come that younger people have to take over because they can and will do better. They will have better ideas. More skills. Are faster and more ambitious. Don’t wait with leaving until they ask you to, was also a reason.

More on a private level we faced a few real challenges in 2020. Family has to come first, always. Reaching the age of 66 made me realize that it is time to focus on my spouse Monica and have fun together, now that we are still healthy and young in our head.In December we celebrated 47 years together. She is the love of my life, no way I am going to spoil anything of that!

 

All about the conferences: the best one, the funniest fails, overall thought about conferences

Personally I best liked what I call the first Global Conference: Montreux Switzerland 2013. In fact it was a USA CEO/CFO Conference in Switzerland, and AMIN Europe of course decided to attend to that with all members. So we called it a Global Conference. I worked closely together with my friends in B+G organizing it (and of course with the US planning team). We stayed in the beautiful Suisse Majestic Hotel looking over the Lake of Geneva. We had great speakers, a lot of interaction on social (2013!), had a super Swiss dinner up in the mountains and record breaking gin-tonic orders in the bar of the hotel. It was outrageous!

Funniest fail: when we were organizing an AMIN Europe Conference in Italy in 2010 wanting to go to Sicily we lost our Italian member. Oops, we had to do it ourselves and we had little time. Then we decided to go to Rome. I had to organise it remotely from The Netherlands. To make it easy for myself I decided to have the first dinner on the day of arrival at the hotel. THAT was a mistake: the food was terrible and the members started throwing with it. 

Happily I was saved two days later having dinner at a wine boutique, recommended by an Italian friend from Rotterdam. Here we had the best food and wine ever….  

 

Biggest personal learnings at AMIN

There have been so many learnings for me and I named a few already, but if I have to choose I will say: always be transparent and trust in people. We are friends.

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A note for the members 

I always say: in this profession people write very well, but they read badly. Also most of you are good speakers, but you are bad listeners. And maybe try one time to not develop the next brilliant idea, but concentrate on how to execute the previous brilliant idea from last week.

Above all, to all the brilliant individuals that were in the Boards over the past ten years and to all the AMIN members that were there: thank you so much that you let me do this! I love you all!

Yes, I will do some names. Don’t feel offended if yours is not there. For EMEA thank you to all board members I worked with: André, Serge, Christophe, Gellan, Greg, Beau, Hans, Ismo, Søren and Ricardo! I love you and I will miss you.

From my US friends I want to thank Janna and Kristi, Susie, Doug, Owen and Kevin. And last but not least my big friend Jim. And of course all great new friends from Asia, but especially my friend from back in 1980 Marc Laban, Phil, Nadia and Arnaud! And all of you who I forgot to mention personally. 

Most important: now forget about me, I give you Yousra el Garah as my successor, who will take over from me as of now. Believe me: she is younger, smarter and definitely more pretty. You will love her!

All the best to all of you! René