Company leadership successions are inherently tricky. Company leadership successions at multigenerational family businesses are exponentially trickier.

Yet there was Pittsford, New York-based Flynn, effecting a 34% jump in revenue — from $9.2 million in 2020 to $12.3 million in 2021 — during a year in which it transitioned Katie Flynn, daughter of CEO Chris Flynn and granddaughter of agency founder Jerry Flynn, into the president role that opened up when her uncle, Kevin Flynn, retired.

It was less complicated than it reads. A few years ago, Kevin and Chris started to shift Katie away from her account services role and tasked her with more operational responsibilities. By the time Kevin formally stepped away, Katie had, for all intents and purposes, been leading the organization for a full year.

Throughout the process, the Flynns met with a coach who specializes in family succession. “It was mostly about boundaries,” Chris recalls. “At the office, she calls me Chris. Sometimes it’s tough, because we’re family, but we keep it separate.”

Katie agrees, adding, “Every father and daughter have some communication stuff now and again you don’t want in a place of business, so what helps is that we value the same things. Also, the legacy is important to both of us.”

The agency continues to earn rave reviews from non-health clients (such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, with which Flynn has worked since it was a seven-store outfit three decades ago) and health clients alike. In the latter category, 2021 saw the firm add Aspen Surgical, the Hudson Headwaters Healthcare Network and Rochester Clinical Research to a roster that already included Pfizer, Dentsply Sirona, Baxter, Bausch + Lomb and Quest Diagnostics. Head count nudged upward from 43 at the end of 2020 to 44 a year later.

Flynn appreciates the confidence — it reports an average client tenure of around eight years — but is just as warmed by the feedback it wasn’t supposed to hear. “We were speaking with a licensing company that was just starting to get to know us,” Katie recalls. “They clearly didn’t hang up the phone, because when they thought we were off they said, ‘Flynn — they don’t suck!’”

Katie and Chris cackle at the memory, but it’s illustrative of the type of relationships Flynn seeks to forge with its clients. “We try to be the best part of their day,” Katie says. Chris agrees, adding, “What we tell them is, ‘Your problem is now our problem.’ If we take that attitude, things usually work out well.”

Flynn anticipates continued growth in the second half of 2022 and beyond. The firm’s successful engagement with Quest in the diagnostics realm has it bullish on further assignments in the sector. It’s eager to try its hand at more wellness work as well.

But don’t look for the agency to start tooting its own horn anytime soon. Asked about industry perception of her company, Katie responds, “Well, we’re not necessarily a household name.” And she has no issues with that.

“We’re always OK with flying under the radar,” she continues. “Once we get into the room and have a conversation about what we can do, everyone always comes around.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Kids typically ignore public service messages. So we love how Dumb Ways to Die out of Australia found a keen insight, then had the guts to take a whimsical approach to the subject of the danger from speeding trains. It reduced accidents by 21%, ultimately saving many lives — and became the third most viral campaign of all time. A decade later, it lives on through educational video games played by millions worldwide. — Katie Flynn, president