Vogel Farina co-president Bob Vogel has joked numerous times over the years about how his company is “too small to fail”—usually when discussing revenue and headcount, both of which keep moving in a positive direction. His self-deprecation is canny and welcome.
But after a stellar 2012, which saw headcount break the 50-staffer barrier and revenues jump 20% (with profit margins growing at a higher rate, thanks to increased efficiency of the agency’s systems and administration), Vogel has abandoned his time-tested crack.
Instead, he soberly (for him, anyway) discusses two new entries on his worry list: sensibly managing the growth and ensuring sure that Vogel Farina’s gains don’t go unnoticed by would-be clients and employees.
“We’ve tried to get out there a little bit more. It’s an ongoing commitment you have to make, no matter how busy you get,” he says. “The creative work, I like to think, has always been outstanding. Now it’s on us to make sure the types of clients and employees we want see it.” The industry plaudits that Vogel Farina has earned for recent projects—in particular, for a patient app created for Novartis and a tight-deadline campaign that distinguished Dendreon’s prostate cancer drug Provenge in an increasingly crowded market—haven’t hurt.
As for managing the growth, Vogel believes the agency’s culture is sufficiently ingrained to remain strong amid the influx of work. He points to new hires like SVP/director, client services Jennifer Bagnall, who arrived from elsewhere in the Grey Healthcare family, and lauds the staff’s ability to keep multiple balls in the air at all times. Similarly, he praises their open-mindedness and facility with old and new techniques.
“The type of people we’ve added are, in a general sense, the ones who understand that the business model has changed,” Vogel says. “There’s so much more information out there and everybody is chasing the same dollar. You need people who can keep all that in perspective.”
Vogel Farina kept its client roster intact over the last year and a half, and picked up additional assignments from longtime clients Celgene and Novartis. It won business from Vertex Pharmaceuticals (for a hepatitis-C drug currently in development) and from ProCure (for an alternative to X-ray radiation therapy). “What’s great is that each of those clients represents a different competitive challenge,” Vogel says.
Looking forward, he says “making sure we don’t take anything for granted” is a top priority, especially as Vogel Farina ascends the agency hierarchy. Headcount will likely increase to around 60 and Vogel predicts revenue will grow another 20% before the year is out.
“The most important business you have is just that: the business you have,” he says. “As we win new business, we make sure we integrate it into the shop in a way that’s appropriateand then we service the hell out of everything. It’s a very unforgiving marketplace these days.”