Shift Communications: Agency Business Report 2010

"We invested in a new business development director because we want better quality leads," Defren explains, referring to reviews that target the larger firms.

Principals: Todd Defren and Jim Joyal
Ownership: Independent
Offices: Boston, New York, San Francisco

Staff
Headcount fell about 15% last year, mostly because of layoffs in early 2009. Staffing is still below 2008 levels, but Shift is hiring again for new positions and replacements.

Senior departures included Bob Collins, VP of account services, and Julie Crabill, VP of the consumer lifestyle practice in San Francisco. The agency hired Melanie Collins as director of new business development and promoted Erin Santy to run consumer lifestyle in San Francisco.  

Practice areas
Shift opened a New York office to service its consumer practice, which the firm says is its fastest growing, now accounting for 40% of its business, up from 35% in 2008. B-to-b was the most sluggish practice.  

Accounts
Wins included Club Med, Quiznos, Wells Fargo, and Bing. Shift lost H&R Block, in part, because of leadership change, says principal Todd Defren. Watercooler and RealNetworks also brought their communications in-house. "There was a lot of churn at startups, but we're used to that," he adds.

Financial performance
The agency's revenues were $10,642,292, down 13% from 2008.

Analysis
"We invested in a new business development director because we want better quality leads," Defren explains, referring to reviews that target the larger firms. 

Shift wants to return to 15% to 20% year-over-year growth, with similar profit margins. Within the next decade, Defren would like it to be a $35 million agency.

Given its distinctive culture and aggressive foray into new practices, Shift is well poised for growth. Whether this growth comes as the agency continues to be independent – or is ultimately bought – remains to be seen.

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