Adhering to the old adage “the customer is always right,” may seem like a good client-retention strategy, but Nucleus Global CEO Dan Bridges says his company isn’t afraid to defy it. In fact, the agency’s willingness to do so is, in his mind, the main reason the agency has successfully grown client relationships during the last few years. 

“Our partnerships go two ways. We work very hard to think for our clients and help them do their jobs, and we try not to fall into the do-what-we’re-told-to-do trap,” he says. “We actually challenge our clients.”

The approach extends to its internal management as well — which was more important last year than ever before, given that 2021 represented the first full year that Nucleus Global existed under the corporate umbrella of global communications giant Huntsworth. According to president, U.S. operations Nancy Sladicka, the marriage has worked owing in no small part to the parent organization’s hands-off approach. 

“We have these individual business units that are given a degree of autonomy. We set goals and targets, but we let them do what they do,” Sladicka explains. “That’s part of our success as well: We have trust in our global leadership, but also in our regional leadership and our business unit leadership, to make the right decisions.” 

Bridges puts it even more bluntly. “A lot of companies are structured to compete internally, but we structure the company the opposite way, which means we collaborate internally and put the greater good client first,” he says. “Our philosophy is that we’ll build the best team to get the best outcomes for the client and we don’t get constrained by how the revenues are recognized internally.”

Such issues, he adds, “become big barriers to everyone performing their best.”

That mindset helped Nucleus Global hit its marks last year. The company grew revenue by just over 9% to $69.6 million from $63.6 million in 2020. Most of its growth, 91%, came from existing clients.

Head count increased as well, from 282 people at the start of 2021 to 324 at the end of the year. Notable additions included former Ogilvy Health tech lead Nick Bellomo, who filled the new role of associate director of technology and engagement; former Symbiotix SVP, client services Jodi Dennis, who joined as VP business lead, clinical thinking; and former Ogilvy Health director, user experience William Miranda, who joined as a digital strategist. 

Nucleus Global focused on entry-level people via two ongoing initiatives: A worldwide graduate recruitment program, which brings in 30 individuals for classroom, experiential and in-team learning, and a three-season U.S.-based internship program. The company also encouraged its current people to stick around by upgrading its bonus structures and aggressively adjusting salaries upward. 

“I’m not saying we weren’t doing a good job before, but we’ve gotten better at sharing our success with our staff,” Bridges says. “Where we overachieved, it wasn’t just to the benefit of the company. More of that revenue flowed through as profit-sharing to the staff and into additional benefits.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

I loved Nike’s Go FlyEase shoe line. It’s a great example of taking a well-established product and re-examining it from a different viewpoint. In this case, by making the shoes entirely hands-free to put on and take off, Nike created a more inclusive product that provides greater independence to a range of individuals who were previously unheard. — Bridges