Principal: Jim Weiss, CEO
Subsidiary agencies: Invigorate Communications
Offices: 6 wholly owned globally; 5 in the US
Revenue: $26,939,000; $25,811,000 in the US
Headcount: 165 globally; 134 in the US
In the eight years since its launch, WCG (WeissComm Group) has grown furiously, targeting both acquisitions and organic growth. This year, for the first time, it takes a spot among the top 10 independent PR agencies.
In 2009, the healthcare shop added creative and digital services as part of an overall strategy to diversify its offerings and address client demands.
Jim Weiss, CEO of WCG, says he realized the need to diversify after the firm suffered a rough fourth quarter in 2008 that resulted in layoffs.
"We wanted to have the diversity and ability to communicate programs through a number of different media," he says.
Creative gamble pays off
In the first half of 2009, WCG acquired creative shop ODA and Bob Pearson's social media firm Common Sense Media Group. The gamble paid off – WCG's 2009 revenues in the US increased 36% over 2008.
CFO Tony Esposito attributes 16% of the firm's total growth to those two key acquisitions. The firm is now aiming for revenue of around $35 million in 2010.
The agency doubled staff to nearly 170 people, bringing in key leaders such as Pearson as chief technology and media officer and Burson-Marsteller's Gail Cohen as global MD. The firm brought in 20 employees from ODA and two from Common Sense through the acquisitions.
"We're basically looking at, from here on out, pretty slow, steady growth," says Weiss, who says he still works with clients. "My goal is to build something that's sustained, and [to get] people to stay for a long time and really grow with the company."
WCG picked up significant wins, such as Medtronic. It also experienced organic growth with companies including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb. While Weiss says the firm is steadily invited to major pitches, he notes that it will still take small projects with potential clients to get its foot in the door.
"Unlike my old model, which was a lot of little accounts, we're getting what I would say are somewhat fewer, [but] bigger assignments," he says. "The healthcare world is changing so fast and we have to stay flexible and nimble."