Each year we choose a word, or a few, to be our theme and to help guide us and act as a filter for making decisions. We find ways to work the ideas into everything we do, bring our conversations back around to that idea, and then make decisions to take action, make changes, or implement based on how it fits with our theme for the year.

The theme we choose is always in alignment with our core values and business model, but what it does is add an extra bit of immediacy to the business. The model and the values are more or less a constant, but we know that changes, growth, and new things happening around us influence what is happening today with our clients and ourselves. We want to always have a current and immediate reflection on today, as well as our core.

Three words felt right given the multiple dimensions of what we're launching this year, as we'll explain.

Collaboration | Working as a team to share ideas, motivation, and confidence helps propel tangible results.

With our members we'll be putting this idea into a regular program (Peer Accountability & Coaching – PAC) to help move agencies ahead faster and farther while drawing on one another to get started, keep going, and reach higher. We feel it is our responsibility to help facilitate the collaboration between our members. It's a challenging time in our industry; the more we allow ourselves to work with others, the easier the course is to manage.

Which brings to another type of collaboration that may surprise you. Last year we organized a group of our "competitors" for the purpose of collaboration. We believe that if we are all working to help the same people, we are all in a better position to do so for sharing ideas with others who have the same goal. It may seem scary at first, sharing ideas with your competitors, but it is very powerful in execution.

Integration | New ideas must be fully integrated into the current system in order to be effective. This may mean elevating or eliminating current processes, but just layering a new idea on an old foundation without thought to integration doesn't result in any real change.

We'll be helping agencies thoroughly evaluate and integrate new systems into their businesses through our new PAC program. This will also mean thoroughly evaluating and modifying or eliminating current systems to make way for the new.

And it doesn't stop with new ideas. Despite their size, too many agencies operate in a fractured manner, creating inefficiencies and leading to missed opportunities. Our commitment is to bring overall organizational integration. The sales team must integrate its efforts with those of the service team. The efforts of marketing must be integrated into the overall sales process. Benefits must integrate with Commercial. Anywhere we see siloed processes and efforts, we will be looking to break down those silos and create a singular, agency-wide effort.

Accountability | Sharing progress with a safe group of peers can help drive results never seen before.

Part of our PAC program will include regular reporting on achievements from sales to development activities. Accountability may be a little intimidating at first, but none of us will ever come close to meeting our potential without first making ourselves accountable.

As with each of our words that we've chosen, we want to lead by example, which is one of the reasons you are reading this post. By sharing our words publicly, we grant permission, and set the expectation, to be challenged if we fall short.

We hope you will follow us in determining your own words for 2014. Yes, the words are important, but the real benefit comes from the conversations, reflection, and focus that result from choosing the words and returning to them over and over again throughout the year.

Some themes of ours from the past few years as we work with members:

  • Take action – Time to stop thinking, wishing, and dreaming and just do it. This is a great one for a little extra motivation when you're getting something new started.
  • Execution and results – Focus on taking the right action and following it through to see the results. This is good if it's time to get serious rather than just being busy.
  • Teach, tailor, control – Adapting your efforts throughout the agency, and with clients, to take control of your processes in an effective way. This is good for taking a more advanced and customized approach.
  • Confidence – Rightfully having and instilling in everyone that you've got the confidence to take control of your own situation. This is a very necessary one for moving forward and not allowing yourselves to slip backward into the comfort of what worked in the past.