ANALYSIS - Profile - John Brodeur: a nice guy far from finished - First it was Brodeur, then Brodeur/Martin, then Brodeur & Partners, then Brodeur Porter Novelli, and now it’s Brodeur once again - but worldwide The name has changed, but the

They say nice guys finish last, but John Brodeur is one of those nice guys who gets ahead. Ask him why his agency is so successful, and he rattles off the names of his senior management team. Talk about the strategy that has taken his agency from zero employees and no revenue in 1985 to close to 700 employees and dollars 75 million in worldwide revenue today, and he says he is merely responding to client needs.

They say nice guys finish last, but John Brodeur is one of those nice guys who gets ahead. Ask him why his agency is so successful, and he rattles off the names of his senior management team. Talk about the strategy that has taken his agency from zero employees and no revenue in 1985 to close to 700 employees and dollars 75 million in worldwide revenue today, and he says he is merely responding to client needs.

They say nice guys finish last, but John Brodeur is one of those

nice guys who gets ahead. Ask him why his agency is so successful, and

he rattles off the names of his senior management team. Talk about the

strategy that has taken his agency from zero employees and no revenue in

1985 to close to 700 employees and dollars 75 million in worldwide

revenue today, and he says he is merely responding to client needs.



Coming from most PR pros, this may smack of false modesty. But past and

present colleagues insist that this man is for real.



’His modesty is legendary, and it’s one of the reasons I and everyone

else respect him,’ says Rollie Wussow, chairman and CEO of Wussow

Consulting Group and a friend of Brodeur’s since the early 1970s. ’He

contributes with style and substance without yelling and screaming and

calling attention to himself.’



’He’s one of the best and the smartest public relations professionals I

know,’ adds John Graham, chairman and CEO of sister firm

Fleishman-Hillard.



Brodeur, 49, admits that he is, at times, uncomfortable with having his

name on the door, but it is a name that carries a lot of weight. The

agency currently has 40 offices in 30 countries and works with big-name

clients like Philips Electronics, 3M and IBM.



But Brodeur has not been content to let his agency become just another

PR firm, and this is evident in its structure. The agency has 11 profit

& loss centers run by managers who operate them and view them as their

own. These are organized by geography, disciplines such as consumer tech

and interactive, and by client. The agency also has strategic resource

groups that act as service organizations for account teams, including

editorial, speaker’s bureau, research and special events.



’What works best in an organization that scales from 40 people to 750

very quickly is that layers of management and bureaucracy cannot be

tolerated,’ says Brodeur.



The breakup



The most surprising news from Brodeur last year was when it split off

from Porter Novelli. At the mention of this, Brodeur rolls his eyes and

subtly attempts to change the subject. When pressed, however, his

statements echo those made by PN CEO Bob Druckenmiller several weeks

ago.



’With the market changing, it was very difficult to determine what was a

consumer versus a technology account,’ Brodeur says. ’It worked great

for five years, and then what we predicted came true - that these two

major disciplines were going to come together. They did, and the

blurriness caused a line of demarcation between the two

organizations.’



Despite this, Brodeur insists that there is no bad blood between the two

agencies. And while there are some risks associated with this move, he

claims that he is not worried: ’I don’t at all worry at night whether

Brodeur’s going to succeed.’



But there certainly were sleepless nights in the beginning. A journalist

and press secretary during the 1970s, he founded his agency in 1981,

which focused on PR and public affairs. Two years later, he teamed with

Bill Martin, and the agency quickly became one of the largest firms on

the west coast, handling numerous political campaigns as well as PR for

Harrah’s Hotel & Casino.



Looking for a ’larger sandbox’ and a better place to raise his sons,

Brodeur sold the agency and moved to Boston in 1984. But he wasn’t happy

working for someone else, so he, along with Andy Carney and Peter

Connell, bought out his associates and formed Brodeur & Partners.

’There’s a big difference between renting and owning, and I like to

own,’ says Brodeur.



Wanting to fill a niche, and being regional at best, Brodeur decided to

focus on hi-tech clients. However, he says it took five years before

they had enough momentum and confidence to know that they were going to

be long-term, substantial players. The pivotal moment came in 1990, when

the 25-person agency won a small project from IBM. From there, the

agency added larger accounts like Computer Associates and

WordPerfect.



Then, in 1993, Brodeur & Partners sold to Omnicom and became the lead

technology firm for Porter Novelli. The move to expand beyond Boston

came that year, when the agency won the IBM PC and Software Group

contracts, tripling the company’s size almost overnight. Offices sprang

up wherever tech firms needed PR help, from Santa Clara to Boca

Raton.



The agency also made a number of minority investments through Omnicom in

key European technology corridors, including London, Spain, Germany, the

Netherlands and Italy. ’The technology revolution opened up more

opportunities than we ever imagined, and if there’s one thing that we

did right, it’s that, when there were opportunities, we drove our truck

in and grabbed them.’



What’s next



So what opportunities will the agency be grabbing next?



Brodeur says that there will be a substantial e-business push for the

agency in the very near future, based on the idea that there are other

services necessary in this realm beyond product PR, such as corporate

communications and IR. This influx of e-commerce work is one of the

reasons why Brodeur projects worldwide revenues of dollars 100 million

by the end of this year, which could very well place Brodeur atop the

hi-tech PR pyramid.



The agency also hopes to expand into France early this year, and is

eyeing Asia-Pacific and Latin America as well.Yet, despite the jetlag,

Brodeur manages to escape to Cape Cod nearly every weekend with his

wife. He also has two sons, and compares watching his company grow to

watching his children grow.



’When an organization that you have invested in and put in a lot of your

time turns out like this, it’s remarkable,’ says Brodeur. ’But I don’t

have too much time to think about the past because guess what - there’s

something out there called the technology revolution, there’s something

out there called the client and there’s something out there called tough

competitors. If we spend too much time patting ourselves on the back,

we’re going to lose.’



Based on how little Brodeur pats himself on the back, it doesn’t look

like he has much to worry about.



John Brodeur

Chairman and CEO

Brodeur Worldwide

197 - Press secretary to Sen. Howard Cannon

1981 - Founds Brodeur

1983 - Forms the Brodeur/Martin Company

1985 - Forms Brodeur & Partners

1999 - Formally establishes Brodeur Worldwide



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