Hager Sharp: Agency Business Report 2014

The Information

In September, 20-year agency veteran Garry Curtis resigned as president and CEO of Hager Sharp.

Principals: Barbara Blum, chairman; Lynne Doner Lotenberg, interim CEO (pictured)
Washington, DC

In September, 20-year agency veteran Garry Curtis resigned as president and CEO of Hager Sharp, a role he held since the public affairs firm became employee-owned in 2008.  

"Whenever there is a leadership change it takes some adjustment," says Lynne Doner Lotenberg, who led the firm’s strategic planning and research practice before stepping in as interim CEO.

"But our underlying strategic plan has remained the same," she says. "So it wasn’t as much of an adjustment as perhaps it otherwise would have been, because we have been on a great course."

That is validated in last year’s US revenue, which was up 48% compared to 2012, when business retracted 14% – profit margin was 13%. The strategic plan, formulated in 2010-2011, identified diversification as key to growth.

"We’ve added more bench strength in creative, digital, and strategic planning and research," says Lotenberg.

Recent hires include Mike Gallagher as VP and creative director, following stints at agencies including Porter Novelli and Arnold Worldwide; Aaron Murphy as VP and digital design director, who joined from Social@Ogilvy, where he was a founding member and six-year veteran; and Christina Mazzola Nicols as SVP and director of strategic planning and research from the Washington, DC, office of Ketchum, where she had spent 14 years.

Headcount is up 37%, and the agency boasted low employee turnover of less than 1% in 2013.

"Our people have allowed us both to expand existing client work and attract new business," says Lotenberg, who adds that the agency’s motto is "Doing well by doing good."

Hager Sharp supports a number of campaigns for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including one that promotes strategies to control high blood pressure, targeted at healthcare providers and their patients.

In August, the agency made its first acquisition in 20 years – the Washington, DC, office of Lipman Hearne, which accounted for 20% of Hager Sharp’s revenue growth last year.

The acquisition helped expand the agency’s clientele beyond primarily federal agencies to more nonprofits and foundations, including the AARP Foundation and Carnegie Institution for Science. Eight Lipman employees came over to Hager Sharp's office, including EVP Jim Healy.

"The acquisition went surprisingly well as far as these marriages go," says Lotenberg. "It helped that we were very deliberate in picking an organization with underlying values simpatico to ours."

While Hager Sharp continues to diversify its service offering, no further acquisitions are planned, says Lotenberg, and no decision has yet been made in terms of a more permanent leadership plan.

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