After more than a year of Zoom meetings, virtual pitches and remote office parties, it’s no surprise agency leaders are itching to return to the office. But for the team at Butler/Till Health, there’s even more reason to be eager: Come fall, freshly constructed headquarters in downtown Rochester, New York, await them. 

After expanding its former office space on three different occasions, Butler/Till was ready for a fresh start and a permanent home, according to Kimberly Jones, who has served as agency president since 2015 and added the CEO role in January. “Because we’re building the building, instead of moving into existing office space, it allowed us to create the most conducive environment for our employee owners,” she notes. 

The agency broke ground on the multi-story HQ in April 2020, with construction forging ahead during the pandemic. It features a host of meeting spaces, an outdoor deck and collaboration rooms outfitted with the latest technology, eliminating the clunkiness that often comes with partially virtual meetings. While the timing may have initially seemed unfortunate, Jones says it was, in fact, serendipitous: Butler/Till was able to tweak design plans to accommodate a post-pandemic reenvisioning of the workplace. 

The agency broke new ground on the client front as well during 2020, adding two significant assignments: from Global Blood Therapeutics, for its sickle cell treatment Oxbryta, and Endo Pharmaceuticals, for its cellulite treatment QWO. It added a third, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharmaceuticals’ ALS therapy, in early 2021. The three assignments join work from A-listers such as Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Ferring and Takeda on Butler/Till’s slate.

The client successes contributed to a nearly 27% increase in North American revenue in 2020, to $28.5 million from $22.5 million in 2019. Some 75% of growth came from existing clients. 

When Butler/Till staffers eventually return to the office, they might need to wear name tags: The firm has virtually onboarded 60 new staff members since remote work began. Head count at the end of 2020 was 186, up from 157 a year prior. 

The boost in staff size coincided with increased investment in infrastructure, designed to spur further digital transformation. The agency built out an expanded software development department, added several new roles within its channel specialist team and created a dedicated planning team. It also expanded its analytics and SEO capabilities. 

Jones credits Butler/Till’s recent successes in part to its employee ownership model. “Because our employees are so engaged, they go the extra mile for our clients — and, in turn, our client satisfaction is much higher than industry average,” she explains. “We were able to tell our employees early on [in the pandemic] that, in an employee-owned company, your job is safe.”

With that fear off the table, employees were able to focus on their clients, ensuring they felt supported through a time of upheaval and uncertainty. “We built a lot of trust with our clients last year,” notes VP, client management Keith Betz. “That puts us in a really good position with them long-term.”

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The idea I wish I had…

Lysol created a TikTok hashtag, #HealthyHabits6Step, to promote healthy habits and help people deal with their anxiety around the pandemic. It allowed users to apply a branded Lysol filter and dance along with a custom song from rapper Twista. We love this work because it is a creative use of an emerging platform that drove interactive brand engagement and promoted an important message during the pandemic. — Kimberly Jones