Alison March is the Founder and Managing Director of the The Group Hug, the UK’s fast growing forum and community for those going through separation and divorce. They connect their audience with those experts who can help such as family solicitors, divorce coaches, financial advisors, house move specialists, will writers, life coaches, counsellors and therapists.
Tell us more about your role in The Group Hug?
I am the Founder and Managing Director of The Group Hug. The Group Hug started as a Facebook page called The Ascot and Sunninghill First Wives Club. When I was done with my own divorce I decided that I wanted to reach out to people UK wide and The Group Hug was born. I basically do a bit of everything right now as a role. As soon as I sit down it’s go go go. I start with a set of goals, but by mid-morning everything has gone to pot as I am dealing with people and no two days are the same. One minute I can be dealing with a live chat coming in from a community member who wants an idea of what to do next because they are separating or getting divorced and the next I can be ensuring that the Instagram feed is looking good. I am constantly speaking to members of our community on both arms of the “hug”. On one side we have those who need support and on the other, we have experts who can help and advise. I am constantly connecting the two. I deal with Sales, Marketing and Admin and I love it!
What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?
It’s really challenging when a person contacts me to say that they are in a relationship and they want to leave, but feel they can’t because of domestic abuse or economic abuse. I always say that contacting The Group Hug is the first step to moving forward. Fortunately The Hug Directory is a whole bank of professional people who can help and advise so I can signpost the person to an expert. Many of the professionals also offer some free advice and we have a list of charities who can help too. I think for many people, visiting The Group Hug website is the first step to making a conscious decision to change something in their life. When they have made contact with us, they feel confident to take another step forward and speak to an expert. It’s really rewarding that a person who is going through so much feels confident that we can help them. Every day is rewarding for me. A friend told me the other day “Ali, I don’t think you realise what you have built for people and what a great help The Group Hug really is!”
Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?
If I had my time again maybe I would go to University, but then maybe the University of Life has led me to do what I am doing today. Because what I do is so varied, there are aspects of every job I have had in the past, in what I do today. I find people fascinating so maybe I would like to be a Psychologist if I had the chance to turn back the clock.
What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?
We have to carry on creating high quality content and connecting with our community through social media. If we don’t do that, The Group Hug will be no more. We are a chicken and egg scenario really; If we don’t have great content, our community will not continue to grow and if our audience doesn’t continue to grow, then we won’t have experts connecting with us, advertising on the site and we will not be a viable business. Our main strategy is to start recruiting a team of people. At the moment the team is myself, a Marketing Director and a young person who is training with us and looking after our social media. We are at the point where we are stepping away from being a “start-up”. We also need to consider whether or not we need to go down the “investor” route to take the business to the next stage.
What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?
If the figures since lockdown began on March 23rd are anything to go by, we will continue to grow. People visiting the website has surged massively since lockdown, in fact, by a whopping 1900%. With people stuck at home, going onto social media and websites, we have been really able to get our name out there and we will now continue to grow. The lockdown was like watering the seedling we had, it has given it a huge boost. Unfortunately relationships will always break down and people will always need support and advice through this and bereavement. The only change may be that divorcing couples will be looking at more affordable ways of getting their Decree Absolute. We could see a further surge in people coming to us for support as they search for ways to have a more amicable and less expensive uncoupling using methods such as mediation and arbitration.
What books do you have on your nightstand?
I have “Confessions of a Sociopath” by M E Thomas because the word narcissist is thrown around a lot when people speak about divorce and separation; “M E Thomas is a high-functioning, non-criminal sociopath”. It’s a great read, getting into the head of a sociopath and finding out why they behave how they do. I hope to be able to identify a Sociopath should I come across one in the future!