The Top 50: Lehman Millet

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Trying to locate a healthcare-marketing firm not concerned with hiring and retaining the best people is like trying to locate a penguin that can fly: There’s no such animal. “If you have any ideas about this topic, shoot me a note and let me know,” cracks LehmanMillet co-founder and CEO Bruce Lehman. “Certainly there are other challenges that we’re dealing with, but everything else pales by comparison.”

Given its self-appointment as the “leading diagnostic and device agency,” LehmanMillet could have faced a more difficult hiring climate than most, given the degree of specialized expertise it demands of its employees. But through a mix of everything from the tried and true (referral incentives for staffers, use of recruitment firms) and the slightly unconventional (online ads), the agency was more or less able to meet its personnel needs as both its Boston and Irvine, CA, offices grew revenue at a 20% clip over the last year.

At the start of 2006, LehmanMillet employed 34 professionals in Boston and 12 in Irvine; today, those numbers have jumped to 52 and 25, respectively. Many of the additions came from the client side, though agency people contributed to the growth of the firm’s account-planning and medical-communications units. Lehman singles out Michael Ouimette, a 20-year industry veteran, as a particularly important catch. He’ll run the account-planning group as a SVP.

The firm has done quite a bit to keep the new additions busy. The last 12 months saw LehmanMillet add business from existing clients, including Abbott Diagnostics, Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Systems and LifeCell Corp. It also brought in a range of new assignments, starting with Baxter International’s dialysis line.

LehmanMillet triumphed in a multi-agency derby for a big chunk of business from Obagi Medical Products, which Lehman touts as the leading manufacturer of non-prescription skin care products recommended by dermatologists. Fresh off a merger, Carl Zeiss Vision tapped the agency for projects involving the introduction of a next-generation lens and a new system for optometrists and opticians. McKesson Corp.’s Provider Technologies arm hired LehmanMillet for a repositioning assignment following two major acquisitions.

As much as Lehman enthuses about the new additions to the agency’s client roster, he speaks warmly about its longer-term partners. “Especially in this climate, every new win is an achievement,” he says. “I’m still most proud of the fact that we’ve demonstrated an ability to sustain relationships with key clients beyond the industry average.”

LehmanMillet suffered what Lehman calls “a single loss of some consequence” when Allergan decided to consolidate its breast implant business. The agency had held the professional side of the account, but Allergan chose to shift it over to the firm which held the consumer side. “The consumer agency has a professional arm and we don’t have a consumer one. Quite frankly, it was probably the right decision,” Lehman shrugs.

Beyond its personnel focus, LehmanMillet doesn’t have particularly ambitious plans for the months ahead. “It’s about making sure we deliver on our commitments and obligations. I’d love to say ‘we’re opening office three, four and five,’ but that’s not a project for the near-term,” Lehman explains.
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