Revenue increased 5.2% to $20 million
“We’re continuing to make a significant investment in training and internal processes to make sure clients are paying for the right things”
“Although the economy has improved, the client mandate to do more with less hasn’t. That will put more pressure on agencies to demonstrate value”
If 2015 — a year in which DiD grew by 35% — were to be characterized as a sprint, perhaps 2016 might best be described as the year in which everybody caught their breath. Indeed, Rick Sannem, one of DiD’s founding partners, says 2016 was all about acclimating employees, many of whom were hired to service that additional business, to DiD’s culture and way of working.
“We thought we could pass the plate quickly and keep food on it, but we were bumping elbows quite a bit,” he explains. “We’re only 13 years young. It was a good time for us to pause and make sure everyone was equipped with the right tools and could act at a steadier, more reasonable pace. We found out last year how to bring practices together.”
While DiD grew in 2016, it did so at a slower rate: Revenue jumped by 5.2% to $20 million. That growth was fueled in no small part by new business from Salix, Janssen, ConvaTec, Neuronetics, Dr. Reddy, Human Performance Institute, and Optinose. Sannem notes that 70% of the new work came from existing clients. Staff size went from 113 to 120.
Amid everything else, DiD devoted considerable energy to bolstering its capabilities in two new locations, Philadelphia and Healdsburg, California. Two factors lay behind the decision to expand into Philadelphia, Sannem says.
“There is some creative talent that prefers to live and work in the city. Second, we have a lot of clients in the New Jersey and Greater Philly Metro area, so it’s convenient when they come in for meetings.” Opening the California outpost — Sannem describes it as “a small office” — was in part about retaining a key employee. “One of our colleagues moved to California for personal reasons. We valued her capabilities so much that we had to make an investment,” he explains. “Plus there’s so much healthcare on the West Coast.”
As for the bigger-picture changes in and around the industry, Sannem believes the client mandate of “doing more with less” hasn’t changed, even though the economy has improved. “Everyone recognizes that they have to demonstrate value in the marketplace,” he says. “It’s putting more pressure on agencies.”
That new reality is leading clients to start saying the same thing, Sannem continues. “You hear, ‘I love award-winning work.’ Well, I love award-winning work, too, but I prefer resultswinning work. We’re in a position now where they don’t need to be mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are. Sometimes the work that wins awards makes a great ‘ta-da!’ — but what does it do for the business?”
That point is critical for his employees to understand, Sannem continues. “We all have to do the analytics and evaluation of what our work will accomplish. We have to tell all our teams, ‘Imagine this is your business and your own money. What would you be doing?’ We don’t have the room for projects that are not well measured.”
To be sure, that represents a new way of thinking for some employees. “In the past, people would get excited by cool new things,” Sannem adds. “But today we have to know how we’re going to measure it.”