Shift Communications: Agency Business Report 2014

Shift Communications continued to deliver on its core mission of innovation in 2013.

Principals: Todd Defren, CEO (pictured); Jim Joyal, partner; Amy Lyons, president
Ownership: Independent
Offices: San Francisco; Newton, MA; and New York
Revenue: $18,652,825
Headcount: 120

Shift Communications continued to deliver on its core mission of innovation in 2013, growing the business further beyond the realm of traditional PR.

The tech agency launched two new divisions last year, which are seeing "rapid" client adoption. Its new marketing technology group, which focuses on research to deliver clients insights and analytics to measure ROI, grew to five people over the year after its January launch and has "far exceeded expectations" in terms of performance, says Todd Defren, CEO, Shift.

The firm’s new creative services group, launched with the hiring of Pete Buhler from Cone as creative director, is looking to double the revenue made in 2013.

The new divisions helped win clients including McKesson Healthcare, EB Sport, and Lionel Trains. These endeavors also saw increased demand from existing clients, including Salesforce, Honeywell, and RealNetworks, that drove organic growth. Revenue for the year increased 30.8%, up from $14.2 million in 2012.

Shift identified growth opportunities in its b-to-b, consumer technology, and healthcare practices, hiring three new VPs for each. It expanded its office in Boston and moved to a larger space in New York, hiring Alan Marcus as SVP to lead the unit. SVP Catherine Allen was promoted to EVP, to oversee all east coast accounts.

Staff turnover was 30%, up from 17% last year as some staffers in New York and Boston left to explore other options. Molly Mandell, MD of the New York office, was the only senior departure, Defren says.

Shift added Toyota and Whole Foods to its roster, as well as emerging brands such as Bitly. Losses in 2013 include Axway Eloqua, Mimecast, and SolidWorks.

Emphasis on training
Training has been a major focus of this year and last with the hire of a training manager to build a cross-departmental program. In March 2014, Shift shut down every team for two half days of training with the marketing technology team.

With talent being an industry-wide challenge, Defren says Shift’s reputation for being "nimble and innovative" helps the recruiting process, as well as its staff ownership plan. Account executives/managers tend to be "the toughest to find," he adds: "We’re trying to build the most welcoming, smart, and creative culture we can."

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