The Top 40: HealthStar Strategic Communications

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HealthStar Communications president and chief operating officer Myron Holubiak doesn't mince words. “The mission of our company is to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare communications—but that's not easy to do when you're constantly being asked to shave prices,” he says. “I'm confident that we're not the only network asking how we stay ahead and continue to deliver high quality at a lower price.”

Holubiak's style—and HealthStar's—is to attack the problem, rather than expend precious energy complaining. Along those lines, the network thrived in 2005, jumping both its revenues and its overall reach.

HealthStar devoted an inordinate amount of attention in 2005 to better integrating its business units. “We were able to take 16 separate companies that were managed in different ways and consolidate them into an organization that makes more sense. We're finally recognizing the synergies,” Holubiak says.

The network is now organized into five groups: HealthStar Strategic Communications Group (which includes the advertising agencies Centron, LehmanMillet and Leverte Associates); HealthStar Promotional Systems (physician meetings and advisory boards); HealthStar Education Systems; HealthStar Global Services; Automation & Special Services (tech support).

Holubiak stresses the importance of each of the company's tentacles knowing what the others are up to, and HealthStar conducts management get-togethers every 100 or so days. “We've gotten to know each other, know the cultures, know the best ways to work together,” he explains. “Everybody knows what they can import and use from our different companies.”

Much of the activity within the Strategic Communications Group centered around fledgling firm Centron, which formally opened its doors for business last year. To run it, the company poached highly respected healthcare-communications veterans Marcia McLaughlin and Michael Metelenis from KPR, where they had been serving as co-presidents. Recent new clients include Duramed Pharmaceuticals (for its Mircette low-dose oral contraceptive), Genta (for its cancer-related hypercalcemia drug Ganite) and Stiefel Laboratories (as agency of record for its podiatry arm, an assignment that includes corporate and product-specific branding).

Leverte Associates added assignments, too, from Bayer HealthCare (Kogenate FS for hemophilia), plus managed care accounts for Prometheus Laboratories and Stiefel Laboratories, more than offsetting its loss of work from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, devices and diagnostics firm LehmanMillet won work from Inamed, Medicis and Abbott, also adding a Newport Beach, CA outpost to better service the diagnostics market.
The months ahead should prove pivotal for HealthStar, as it aggressively seeks to expand the company from 19 offices to 25 or 30. Holubiak and his team are eyeing a range of potential purchases—Europe in the short term and the Pacific Rim in the longer term—but don't rule out the possibility of starting from scratch.

“Buying is better, because the issue becomes integration rather than building from the ground up,” he says. “But there might be some countries that we can't buy our way into, so we're keeping all our options open.”

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