Tom Dudnyk started Vivo Agency in 2007 after more than a decade working in the medical device industry as an account executive. This experience helped Dudnyk build an understanding of the business of healthcare that gave him a foundation on which to start an agency specializing in health tech and medical device marketing.

Why did you get into this industry? 

I am a true oddball. I started Vivo with no marketing or agency experience. After 12 years as a device rep (Stryker, Cerner, Siemens), I was fed up with being given a spec sheet and told to “go hunt.” Marketing began to pay attention to me after I won a bunch of President Clubs. They saw I was developing my own strategies, creating my own materials and distributing them to my region. I knew it was time for a career change when marketing asked to use my materials and train up their agency. 

Who helped you out along the way?

I sold my father, Ed Dudnyk — former owner of Dudnyk Agency — on the idea for a strategic medical device agency. He said to go for it and has helped me ever since.

Any interesting events/stories that changed your career? 

Early on, a competitor met me in my office to try to convince me to close shop and do something else. He was an arrogant, gasbag, know-it-all type. Looking back, I am grateful he did it. Every day for the next 10 years, I got up in the morning committed to proving him wrong. I was going to build the premier device agency. If it weren’t for him, I genuinely don’t know if I would be writing this.

Do you wish you could have done something differently?
Early success is the worst thing that can happen to you. When we started, we won our first three pitches against top-10 Madison Avenue agencies. We were very good, very strategic and completely out of the box with our approach. Our egos inflated and we thought we were better than we really were. We should have been evolving our game rather than stubbornly doubling down on our approach. It set us back many years. 

When did you know you were in the right place?

Right away. The device space has little in common with pharma. You have to have a deep understanding — not so much of disease states and science, but rather how healthcare is delivered and how it is changing. I spent six years selling $50 million EMRs for Cerner throughout every corner of the health system. I knew the business of healthcare from the C-suite to the cafeteria and all points in between. I looked around and saw that no other agencies had that expertise and spoke this language. It was our differentiator. 

Did you consider other professions?

Nope. I think it was Sun Tzu who motivated his armies by backing them up against mountains so they couldn’t retreat. Once you are committed to running your own agency, there is no retreat. You commit to your objective and your people and your customers. There is no Plan B. 

What other goals do you have for your career/the industry?

COVID has our customers over a barrel. They lost access to hospitals, practices and trade shows, all of which I don’t think will bounce back anytime soon. They are now getting religion about strategy, digital, marketing automation, content marketing and non-personal channels, but to be successful, they’ll have to take the organizational leadership reins from sales and R&D. We want to help them do it — because until they do, they will never realize their full potential.