The Top 40: Goble & Associates

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After making revenue gains in 2004 (up to $15.3 million from $14.5 million in 2003), Goble & Associates ended last year down. President Joe Kuchta says things picked up in the fourth quarter, but the agency suffered “probably the slowest summer I've ever seen,” ending 2005 with $14.2 million in revenues.

The sluggishness of 2005 was not all bad, though.

The agency had significant wins, pulling in work for Schwarz Pharma, Abbott Molecular, four of Dey's COPD respiratory brands, Cephalon, Somét (a new in-home staffing and management services company), and iBIO, an organization sponsored by Abbott, Baxter, Astellas and Takeda that seeks to enhance the Midwest region's position in the biotech industry.

“We did the right things in what some would consider downtime,” Kuchta says. “We did campaign for our own agency and a new business initiative [wherein] we worked with consultants to generate leads, which led to us winning four Dey LP brands.”

“The things you can't control” were the biggest challenges of last year. A particularly frustrating example was a six-month delay in the launch of Upsher-Smith Laboratories' Fortical (nasla spray for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis).

Kuchta counts the launches of Fortical and fellow Upsher-Smith product Vandazole (for bacterial vaginosis) among last year's highlights, as well as the new business from Dey and Abbott. He was also delighted to have begun working again on Abbott's cardiovascular product Simdax, which had been reassigned for global launch in 2004.

This year is shaping up nicely as Goble has added StoneBridge Pharma to its roster and recently picked up Vivitrol for client Cephalon. Looking at the first part of 2006, Kuchta says it is probably the best year he's seen in his decade at the agency.

“I don't ever want to hit a slow period like we did last summer,” he says. “We're at a great point. We won something like 10 different products and assignments over the last 18 months. Our client base is a stable of long-term clients and some exciting new ones. If we have to hire some folks and keep our growth going, we'll do that. We expect the growth and are looking for how to handle the growth.”

Goble's staff has pretty much held steady at around 49 people, despite last year's revenue slide. “We don't do anything rash and start laying off staff. We stick with it, trusting that business will always be there.”

Kuchta reports no problem attracting talent, but he adds that finding the “right” people is a challenge. “We're getting floods of resumes from people who are getting let go,” Kuchta says. “People seek us out. We don't have a revolving door. If I had 300 seats to fill, I'd probably be saying something different.”

Not that Kuchta is looking to swell the agency that much. “We're going to stick with our business model. We don't need to be the biggest.”

Kuchta doesn't worry much about regulatory challenges and the like, preferring to focus on the work the agency does for its clients. He does think misperceptions are the pharma industry's biggest challenge.

“All of a sudden [the industry] is bad,” he says. “People aren't realizing the great things. The high cost of Medicare Part D is raising all those issues again. Until the media and society finds a new cause to jump on, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.”

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