With revenue up 15%, last year was the third consecutive year of “very strong” growth for Goble & Associates. Staff increased from 63 to 75, which president/CEO Joe Kuchta notes was a pretty dramatic rise for the agency. He’s happy to report that he hasn’t had any problems finding talent. “That makes us a bit of an oddity I suppose,” Kuchta says. “I’m not complaining. Others say finding talent is their biggest challenge. We don’t necessarily hire to fill a gap. We continually get referrals and tend to target people we already know about. That’s helped us tremendously. Our risk is minimized a little and we know what we’re getting.”
Kuchta says Goble added “just enough” new assignments last year to its stable roster of long-term clients (Abbott, Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Shire and Ovation Pharmaceuticals are just a few). Advanced BioHealing’s Dermagraft was the only loss, which was more than offset by seven new wins, including corporate work for APP; Hospira’s Precedex, VisIV and Voluven; Monogen’s MonoPrep; ProStrakan’s Sancuso; and Smith & Nephew’s Supartz.
The overall health of the agency pleases Kuchta, and he cites the launch of Divigel, a treatment for menopause, from 12-year client Upsher-Smith Laboratories as a highlight. “It’s fun to continue to keep doing great new launches for them,” he says. Another highlight was getting re-assigned Hospira’s Precedex. “We launched it internationally and domestically in 1999 for Abbott,” Kuchta says. “When Hospira spun off Abbott, they didn’t spend a lot promoting it. Last year, they reinvigorated it, and we got the re-assignment.”
Kuchta says the agency is picking up work on unique products from smaller companies, such as ProStrakan. He notices all clients are buying more and more media in interactive, and he expects the trend to continue. Digital marketing, which accounted for 30% of business last year, was on par with sales materials (30%).
The agency’s biggest challenge was managing growth. “It’s a great challenge to have,” Kuchta says. “We’re making sure we don’t overwork our people and that we don’t lose focus on clients. As you grow and add people, it’s easy to lose focus.”
The media continue to hammer pharma over pricing, safety and transparency issues, and, like many, Kuchta would like to see someone speak up about the industry’s positive contributions. “The industry is still viewed as kind of the scourge,” he says. “Many companies tended to try and hide from negative publicity. The key is somebody needs to point out all the great things the industry has done. So many companies have brought such innovative things to healthcare, and people can turn a blind eye. Positive contributions get overlooked in the favor of the negative things. It’s a tough spot to be in. We don’t have the blue chips that are the real lightning rods for all of that, so it doesn’t affect our business as much, but it will continue to trickle down.” Kuchta is expecting the agency to continue to grow this year. “There’s no reason to believe that our course is going to be any different from the last four years or so,” he says. “Healthcare has always been a little bit more immune. If we do go into a recession, I suppose it will impact us. But we haven’t seen knee-jerk reactions—we haven’t seen any clients change their course.”