When Sound Healthcare Communications managing partner, executive creative director Jeff Hack says his company had a growth year, he means it quite literally. The company burst out of its 7,000-square-foot space, swapping the cramped headquarters for a roomier 35,000 square feet.
“We were packed in like sardines,” Hack says. “It’s like going from a studio apartment where your whole life is to a mansion.”
That was one of the cascading effects of a big jump in head count, from 45 staffers at the end of 2017 to 65 at the end of 2018. The expansion included several executive-level hires, including SVP, creative director Ed Stehlin (previously VP, associate creative director at FCB Health); SVP, account group supervisor Christie Whitehead (VP, account group supervisor at H4B Chelsea); SVP, director of client services Jonathan Pecarsky (VP, account group supervisor at FCBCure); and SVP, account group supervisor Carol Huezo-Ahmad (VP, management director at Area 23).
Sound grew its revenue by an even greater percentage in 2018: just less than 75% to $12.2 million from $7 million in 2017. To hear Hack tell it, that growth was driven by small strategic assignments that evolved into significantly bigger ones.
The first was a project for Boehringer Ingelheim around its idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug Ofev, which blossomed into a full-on global AOR engagement. “We started off with this little project, and all of a sudden we’re a global agency of record,” he says.
Sound also added an AOR assignment from Incyte, for blood cancer drug Jakafi. Taken together, those two brands “quite literally transformed the agency,” Hack says.
In sum, Sound gained five clients in 2018, also netting Pfizer’s Sayana Press contraceptive, Recro Pharma’s IV Meloxicam and Pharmacosmos’ iron-deficiency drug Monofer. Fifty percent of the company’s growth came from new clients.
Hack believes the new roster additions responded to Sound’s ability to handle all phases of execution, from promotional events to sales training. This, Hack says, leads to a fluid consistency in the client/agency relationship — a “mind meld,” as he puts it.
In the wake of the growth, Hack has identified an obvious challenge for the months ahead: maintaining Sound’s culture and staying true to its core values, which he believes will require a conscious effort.
“When you’re small, doing that is easy,” he says. “But as the company grows, it does get more challenging.” Specifically, it’s important to Hack that employees continue to feel as though they’re part of a family, which past employee surveys have indicated they do.
Hack is also intent on making sure that Sound continues to live up to its name. “It’s sort of our motto that everything we do is sound, and we believe that,” he says. “It’s sound thinking, sound ideas, sound strategies.”
In any event, Hack is confident that Sound will continue to deliver results as it grows. “We know we’re doing great work. We know that the growth is gonna come,” he explains. “We just need to maintain the quality and the family feeling that we have here, which our clients and our employees love.”