By Chip Bacciocco, CEO, TrustedChoice.com / Agency Nation
I first met Ryan Hanley in a coffee shop in upstate New York in 2010.
I was in the area, presenting to a group of agents in Rochester and then headed to New England. I knew Ryan lived in Albany (I had been following his 100 insurance questions video campaign on Facebook), so I sent him a note, made a little detour, and met him for coffee in a strip mall on a gray, weekday morning.
We hit it off immediately.
He was even younger looking back then, if you can believe it.
And he had lots of ideas and endless energy. As I drove away from the coffee shop, I remember thinking that we would work together some day.
Fast forward to 2014. I was two years into my tenure as CEO at TrustedChoice.com (some very challenging years) and I was looking for someone to build an online community, focused on delivering advice and training on digital marketing for independent agents.
Agency Nation is born
At the time, we already had the concept and a great name (CTO Derek Hyde came up with the name Agency Nation in 2013), but we didn’t have a dedicated person to lead the effort.
It was during a discussion with Tom Minkler, then chair of the Big I and board member of TrustedChoice.com, who asked me if I knew Ryan Hanley. I said of course and recounted our coffee shop introduction of a few years earlier.
An email and a phone call later, and Ryan was buying a plane ticket to come see us in Minnesota. After just a few hours of talking in Minneapolis, I knew we had our front man for Agency Nation.
Now, normally, when you bring someone on board and give them an assignment and some direction to take and run with it, you hope to see some progress within a month or so.
But Ryan took it to a whole new level.
During one of the first of many trips to our Minneapolis headquarters, Derek Hyde, Marty Agather and I were having a drink, introducing Ryan to the Agency Nation concept.
Before we knew it, Ryan headed back to his hotel room to write the first Agency Nation blog post.
He published it that night and the rocket just took off…and it hasn’t landed or slowed down one bit since.
What mushroomed over the next four years is nothing short of amazing.
Agency Nation has grown well beyond Ryan’s first blog. We invited guest authors and experts to contribute and welcomed Sydney Roe to the team in December 2015 and Joey Giangola in July 2017—both unique, creative and important voices for the industry.
From the start, every piece of content produced by Agency Nation contributors is created with the sole purpose of helping insurance agents grow their business. And what great stuff.
Agency Nation today is an arsenal of digital resources for independent agents to tap into. I’m sure you have your favorites of the hundreds of blogs, podcasts, videos, webinars, and workshops available, not to mention the most active and generous Facebook community of like-minded agents learning and collaborating on all things related to digital marketing and running a modern insurance agency.
Whether you’re a longtime newsletter subscriber or new to the ‘Nation’, I think what we have built is pretty extraordinary and I have to admit that I love it when people stop me at a conference to congratulate me or share their excitement about what we are doing.
The impact is widely felt and it has been amazing to watch.
Which explains this stroll down memory lane—it’s bittersweet for me to share the news that Ryan is leaving us to pursue new opportunities.
He is ready for new challenges and I know he is excited to have an opportunity to focus more on his public speaking and leadership consulting, both important passions for Ryan.
I am simultaneously sad he’s moving on yet personally happy for him as a friend.
Ryan and I have always held that Agency Nation was never about any one person or even a handful of people. Its magic is the collective will of a vibrant community of innovative insurance professionals that stretches across the country and beyond. Agency Nation is just the platform that brings them together.
As I said from the Elevate stage in Cleveland this past June, Agency Nation is all of you…
…all of you that attend our annual unconference, read the articles, watch the videos, download episodes of Agency Nation Radio, chat on Agency Nation’s Facebook, and that get up every day determined to make the IA channel a better place to work and pursue our dreams.
Focused on the future
While Ryan’s departure marks the end of an era, it also signals a new beginning.
The next chapters of the Agency Nation story are yet to be written, but our mission to make independent agents more digitally competitive continues. And the Nation marches on.
Today is the day we mark the passing of the torch to a new generation of digital marketing leaders and voices—Sydney Roe, Joey Giangola, Stacy Stevens, Jenn Haack and the rest of the Agency Nation team, which I assure you will continue to grow in the months and years ahead.
Even as I write this sentence, I know the whole team is busy at work, mapping out the next steps in this amazing journey that we are all taking together.
So stay tuned. You definitely don’t want to miss what’s coming next.
Remember, this community is your community, and we couldn’t be more excited about continuing to build it.