Can you retain the culture and service level that underpins your success as your business grows?
Trevor Stokes & Dominic Dalli
As medical communications agencies grow – increasingly through acquisition – a common question we hear is, ‘how can we retain our small agency culture - one of the reasons our customers choose us - whilst putting in place the ‘big company’ policies and procedures required to manage a larger business?’
The relationship between a medical communications agency and its customer is symbiotic, relying on trust and communication to manage resource against an expected pipeline of work. For this reason, the sector is characterised by agencies that have been built on a foundation of strong long-lasting and often personal relationships that span many years. In a post-lockdown environment, and in a sector where remote working was already prevalent, it is more important than ever that businesses are able to attract and retain the talent that underpins this model.
So what steps can companies take to retain their culture as they grow?
- Nurture your talent Engagement with staff, matching roles to individual talent and providing continued opportunity to learn and develop, are key elements of good culture. The opportunity to work across multiple service lines, therapeutic areas, geographies and customer relationships, is becoming increasingly important. Customers are often protective over the agency team they work with and it’s important to respect that, so making these changes is not without its challenges. However, over the long-term, this approach reduces the reliance on key individuals and is respected by customers who value an agency that demonstrates it offers consistent service levels throughout its organisation, and will be able to scale with them.
- Don’t dilute your USP It is common for agencies to present themselves as a ‘one-stop-shop’. However, this is rarely the case and also does not reflect the manner in which pharma companies procure services. Agencies will be selected for a specific reason, whether it be e.g. a therapeutic area, service type, or its track record of service quality – often team specific. When growing, especially by acquisition, it is important that team structures or a brand do not dilute these qualities.
- Win together Smaller agencies are typically entrepreneurial and a culture of sharing in the success is often easier to manage and more visible; however this can become more difficult to achieve as the business grows. It is critical, therefore, to continue to incentivise and motivate individuals who deliver value within a larger organisation. Bonus structures, either through equity schemes or otherwise, are becoming more important, especially as businesses grow through acquisition.
With such components around culture and talent embedded, the agency would be well positioned to accelerate growth whether through service and/or geographical expansion.
Since Sovereign backed the Bioscript group in March 2021, the agency has nearly doubled in size and developed a new market access capability, supported by two UK based acquisitions (Fortis and Valid Insight). Within 5 months of Sovereign’s backing we continue to look for businesses to join the Group. As part of this acquisition process, each business was carefully assessed for mutual cultural fit. James Wright, Senior Director, Valid Insight: ‘The culture, client focus and values at Bioscript are wholly aligned with Valid Insight, so I am confident this will bring growth and new opportunities for our employees and our clients.’