For boutique health agency DiD, 2014 was a year of intense growth management. And while it’s a nice problem to have—the agency saw its revenue rise to $14 million, up from $12 million the prior year—managing the growing pains of 20 new employees is not something the agency takes lightly.
“Finding people who embrace this kind of culture is a real challenge,” says partner Rick Sannem. “This is a very collaborative, roll-up-your-sleeves kind of place, and we’re not much in the way of department silos. And we’ve learned that we have to recognize that with these young millennials, we’re bringing in a generation of people. We want to be able to help them develop and grow, where they can fail fast, learn and adapt.”
And that’s meant more than offering DiD’s 83 employees a hip office in Ambler, a suburb of Philadelphia, an office dog or fun events like cookie-decorating classes. With an average age of 29, what DiD employees really want is freedom, including a flexible work program piloted in 2014 last year, giving them the option of working from home one day a week, as well as the option of a 30-hour week, says Patty Henhoeffer, managing director. “We’re tailoring HR offerings so people can get more family time if they want. It’s a heated-up hiring market, and when we find the right fit, we need to be able to offer them balance.”
And it has paid off, with the agency, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, winning awards as one of the best places to work in Philadelphia.
But it’s made senior level hires, too, including John DeMaio, MD, as VP of medical and scientific programming, and Jennifer Threlfall, its new director of strategic client services.
New clients’ work splits among the medical surgical and device business and consumer packaged goods, OTC and nutrition, “and we continue to have a strong base of clients in both prescription and specialty prescription,” Sannem says.
The agency is concentrating on more ways to effectively deploy digital as it helps clients deal with an increasingly challenging world. “Our clients are in a really tough position,” he says. “They have to be in multiple channels, reaching multiple audiences, measuring their ROI, measuring their media mix, and they are doing it all with the same—if not fewer—head counts. We talk about balance at the agency, but on some levels I think our clients are being asked to do so much more.”
So far this year, “we’re seeing solid growth, picking up and expanding our client base. As an independent agency, we have to continually demonstrate the value of an independent agency in the face of more holding companies and consolidation.”
But while that independence can be an uphill sell to some clients, “especially when they’re looking at a simpler consolidation approach,” he says it’s also given the shop the freedom to define its mission very broadly. “We want to help people discover great health and wellness brands, and our space isn’t confined to one part of healthcare. Our wheelhouse is health and wellness, so that can mean anything from nutrition to wearables. And we understand that people are looking for more. They are not seeing an ad for something and saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll use this.’ They are looking for more depth and more of a story.”