Shift restructures top roles, starts stock program

BOSTON: Shift Communications has restructured its leadership and launched an employee stock ownership plan.

BOSTON: Shift Communications has restructured its leadership and launched an employee stock ownership plan that will give staffers a stake in the firm.

Principal and co-founder Todd Defren has become CEO of the agency, while president Amy Lyons has joined its board of directors. Shift also promoted VP of operations Paula Finestone to COO and board member. Principal James Joyal will remain a partner and board member at the agency.

Through the stock ownership plan, all Shift employees will receive equity in the independent firm. The agency declined to disclose the percentages of stock that staffers will receive.

The firm's leadership decided to create a stock program after turning down several multimillion-dollar acquisition offers, said Defren, who added that he remains open to selling the firm in the future.

“At the end of the day, as my business partner and I were about to sign papers to sell the agency, we realized we didn't have it in us to take a big payday and leave our employees in the lurch,” he said. “If and when we do get acquired, our employees will benefit.”

Defren added that offers have come from both holding companies and other agencies, but declined to name the specific entities.

Shift reported a 17.2% year-over-year revenue increase in 2011 to $12.1 million. Earlier this year, tax-service company H&R Block hired Shift as its content-strategy agency partner. The firm won accounts from the McDonald's Advertising Cooperative, Salesforce.com, and StumbleUpon last year.   

Shift is also enacting the stock-ownership plan to preserve the agency's culture, Defren added.

“We have enough scale to be a significant partner for brands, but we're still small enough to have a fun and creative boutique culture,” he said. “We're not a corporate bunch.”

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