Business success of agencies is defined by sustainable growth

Taking a top-line look at this year's Agency Business Report reveals solid growth, particularly when comparing this year's results to last year.

Taking a top-line look at this year's Agency Business Report reveals solid growth, particularly when comparing this year's results to last year. The ranking chart (p. 74) shows only eight agencies out of the top 50 reporting a negative percent change in revenue in 2010 over 2009. That's a sharp contrast to last year's report, when 32 firms in the top 50 reported declines in revenues. Overall, revenues climbed 14% for the top 25 organizations and 15% for the top 50.

To accomplish these numbers was no small feat. Agencies across the board had to make hard choices in managing costs and personnel, and sometimes even rethink business models. And while we call this the 2011 Agency Business Report, successful business strategies are long term, developed over a fluid time frame. Similarly, the bottom-line numbers used as success measures must also reach beyond a specific year, particularly key at a time that reflects enormous peaks and valleys on financial and business fronts.

Comparing revenue growth of the top firms from 2008 to 2010 shows 9% growth for the top 25 and a 7% increase over 2008 for the top 50. And while that big-picture look at the last two years might not have the dramatic revenue increases of 2009 versus 2010, they are to be celebrated more because they will hopefully represent long-term sustainable growth.

The 48 agencies profiled in these pages represent 48 unique stories. WCG, which has reported 46%, 36%, and 38% growth over the last three years, achieved that success through acquisition and organic growth, and by reaching beyond its healthcare roots to tap into the consumer and tech business. Coyne PR had seismic shifts in revenue growth with a 34% increase in 2008, a 5% in-crease in 2009, and a 32% increase in 2010. Growth was organic, with a 50% increase in the food and beverage sector and 150% growth in the pet practice.

One recurring thread, however, throughout the industry was the renewed commitment to developing personnel. Overall, agencies are devoting more training to staff, especially in digital and social media, seeking to create experts within practice areas.

Looking ahead, agencies are well positioned to keep the business moving forward having weathered the pains of the economy and personnel adjustments. The 2010 results demonstrate that firms are past their re-learning curves and in the future will build on more diversified portfolios that can weather a downturn in a specific segment. Most importantly, they are focused on measured growth that doesn't outstep their ability to execute effectively. l

Bernadette Casey is the senior editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at bernadette.casey@prweek.com.

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