AMI's turnaround after turbulent times

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 17 February 2016

After a rocky couple of years and getting into more than $300k of debt, the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) has unveiled a new team of execs after many bowed out late last year – including its first elected chairman Darren Woolley.

The AMI, which aims to advance the marketing profession and contribute to the progress of its 6000 members’ careers, has today welcomed five new members to its board and a new chairman, Andrew Thornton, who is director and principal of Bridge Street Consulting.

The chairman spot had been held by founder and CEO of TrinityP3 marketing management consultants, Darren Woolley, who was elected as chairman in January 2015. Woolley left the following October, as did elected board members Graham White and Mahesh Enjeti.

Chris Mooney and Damian Anderson also left - leaving only one of the five elected board members from September 2014, Kathy Hatzis, still at the AMI – suggesting the election process did not hold favour.

While it's unclear why elected board members left, AdNews understands it may have been because of the intense and somewhat extreme working pressures that it took to dig the AMI out of the trouble it was in.

Service Enhancement Levy

CEO Lee Tonitto who joined as the AMI head in September 2014, and was a board member prior to that, would not be drawn on why or how the AMI got into such strife.

Last year the AMI said at the time that the election of Woolley was the final piece in the governance changes which brought in member elected board members. Soon after the new board and chair arrived, a Service Enhancement Levy of $99 was introduced to continue AMI's “investment in reviewing and updating the full breadth of our member services”.

The cash injection was also used to help the AMI out of major financial strife after it sunk into more than $300k of debt after two successive years of losses, as reported in its annual report. After the levy and determination of its new business-savvy board members, it was able to climb out of the red and make more than $150,000 profit by the end of 2015.

Speaking to AdNews, Tonitto admitted the AMI is “a massive turnaround story” following “everyone pulling together and a great team culture” plus a spate of new initiatives and tools.

She says the new chairman and board members, Lynda Cavalera, Patricia Duffy, Marco Cicchine and Nicholas Ridis, who AdNews understands were not elected, would serve to strengthen the AMI's position as the leading marketing body in Australia.

“All five directors bring years of experience and industry knowledge to the board and will provide invaluable guidance on advancing the profession,” she says.

“I look forward to working with the new board and would to thank retiring directors Darren Woolley, Graham Wright, Sally Webster and Mahesh Enjeti for their significant contributions to AMI over their tenure.”

All new board members have been appointed until October 2017.

Growth will protect

On the question of why weren't the new board members elected, Tonitto says when directors resign the constitution does not require the board to hold a member election or to undertake a countback of the previous member election (October 2014).

“Directors can be replaced by casual vacancies for the remaining term of the departed director,” she says.

“This option is available so as to support the board to strategically fill the vacancies, taking into account skills required, geographical diversity and gender balance. These appointments were made under casual vacancy terms with the new directors taking office from the 2015 AGM (October 2015). This also enables mentoring and support of new directors by current directors.”

In asking what new strategy was in place to avoid the AMI again slipping into debt, Tonitto says the AMI is in a "growth phase" with double the national and state events and new innovative training offerings in 2016. This includes the SA Summit in Adelaide, the Innovation Summit in Queensland, WA Technology Summit in July, the ACT Public Sector Conference in August and the NSW Marketing Technology Summit in October.

“Last year the AMI reached out to its members to dig deep and support the organisation paying an additional levy,” Tonitto adds.

“We were overwhelmed at the response and the preparedness in which members were willing to support their professional organisation. This has meant a world of difference to us as it has enabled us to have strength for our strategic directions.”

“We sincerely thank our members for their commitment to the AMI and in turn for their support offered two complimentary Australian Marketing Institute webinars in 2015 and 2016 for our members’ professional development.”

New award categories

In addition to the news of the new board, Tonitto says during 2016 AMI, along with Vision Critical, will undertake four quarterly pieces of research within the online AMI Intelligence Connected Member Community Panel. 

The first project will investigate customer experience among its members. There will also be a publication on this shared with members and a white paper will be developed from the findings.

The AMI also runs the The Australian Marketing Institute Awards For Marketing Excellence which launches on 7 March. Within this it has expanded to 28 awards, which includes 10 new categories.

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