Bigger vs. Better: Do you have to choose which way to grow? 10 secrets to managing growth from Havas Life Toronto

It’s been a busy couple of years at Havas Life. In addition to a new name, Havas Life has welcomed new clients, new staff and new products to meet the changing needs of the Canadian healthcare marketplace. In business, growth is as exhilarating as it is vital, but it can be challenging to manage: how to keep things flowing smoothly during rapid growth? Pam Park, Canadian President, shares 10 secrets from her three years at the helm of the agency which has nearly tripled in size during her time as president.


A growing agency means many initiations: new accounts, new assignments and new staff to support it all. Getting new clients and staff up and running is an expensive and time-consuming process, so efficiency is key. As Havas Life’s business has almost tripled over the past three years, we have streamlined the onboarding process with a standard series of meetings and training procedures. This helps ensure that we work well together starting with our first project. It’s an upfront investment, but it lets us get focused on business as quickly as possible and ultimately saves time and money over the long run, while building client confidence from the outset.

“Divide and conquer” is a common refrain in business, but if your star players aren’t working together, you’re not benefiting from the efficiency of true integration – what we call Unification. Havas’ core strategic process, the Creative Business Idea or CBI, depends on the best collaborative thinking from our senior team, representing all agency departments. This means that the strategic ideas we propose to our clients work regardless of the channel they’re delivered in: marketing, digital or education. And clients see the alignment, energy and collaboration of all parts of the agency coming together to present ideas and creative that make sense and stand out from the crowd.

Sometimes, marketers are inclined to keep their agencies at a distance from their strategic challenges, choosing instead to confine the agency’s role to executing projects. This may seem like a cost-effective approach, but in fact, being more involved in our clients’ business actually lets us build efficiencies by providing our complementary expertise where it can make a real difference; creating more impactful, synergistic programs; and streamlining marketing efforts, eliminating waste.

Many businesses find that their culture changes as they grow, sometimes losing that special something that made them successful in the first place. Of course, change isn’t an option – it’s a matter of being mindful of your culture, so change can be directed to strengthen it. In two years, Havas Life has made significant changes as an organization, adding 18 new employees. Each new hire has the potential to change the internal dynamics of the agency for the better (or the worse!), so I keep a close eye on our internal dynamics and team momentum. Internal chemistry is vital to staying focused, delivering excellence and driving results for our clients – and clients can sense this.

You’ve heard it before: the future (and present) of communication is digital. In pharma, this has become a reality as more and more pharma marketers have embraced the potential of the iPad as a sales tool. In fact, Havas Life has built more than 50 iPad apps since the introduction of the device only a couple of years ago. To function efficiently, we can’t silo a “digital” team – instead, everyone needs to be thinking digital, all the time.

An agency lives and dies by its ability to attract new clients, new brands and inject new challenges to keep the work and talent competitive, sharp and fresh. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s constant in the life cycle of an agency. Organic growth, however, is really the quiet measure of the agency’s health, growth and sustainability. At Havas Life, we continue to invest in the relationships we have worked carefully and thoughtfully to earn and nurture. We never take any of our clients for granted. There are five words that reside in my office which carry inherent meaning in the way we conduct business: Commitment. Transparency. Focus. Results. Trust. Our teams care. Our teams are proactive. Our teams want to do a great job for our clients. And our clients know it.

The healthcare industry is constantly changing: market dynamics, clinical practices and regulatory guidance are constantly evolving. While we need to follow these changes, we must also look beyond them to provide solutions for our clients who don’t even know they need them yet. As part of our commitment to innovation, we’ve developed an Innovation Lab dedicated to developing and testing innovative solutions to bring to our clients. Havas noticed that the CME industry was fundamentally changing, for example, there are fewer industry-sponsored events and more online ad boards. We looked ahead to where the industry was going and created two new proprietary products to meet the industry’s changing needs: iPOV and PI-CME (see From Our Innovation Lab section below).

We often say we live and work in a small world. But if we only look inside our small world for new talent, how can we offer new perspectives and refreshing ideas? We look beyond the usual suspects to find talent that can add value to our objectives and client needs. Identifying “emerging gaps” or expanding client needs is also a dynamic impetus for making changes and adding new talent. For example, we recently created a new role of Medical Strategist – a title not often heard of in Canadian marketing agencies. The educational requirement for this new role is a PhD. It was created to further strengthen our medical and scientific knowledge base and agency training and add value across all of our brands, helping our clients make sure they’re taking the best advantage of their (and their competitors’) clinical data, as well as key trends in their therapeutic areas. This new resource further differentiates our competitive offering as a Future First agency.

Growth takes a lot of hard work from everyone. When we’re really busy, it’s easy to feel the need to keep going, never slowing down or pausing. But everyone wants to be part of a winning team – it’s the motivation that keeps us striving for excellence. No matter how busy we get, we take the time to celebrate with the team, acknowledging contributions and reminding everyone that we are, in fact, winning thanks to the efforts of the entire team!

To quote a respected colleague, “An agency is always under construction.”  It’s an idea I personally embrace. As the agency leader, embracing change and not being afraid of conflict are both fundamental core competencies needed to drive business performance. We’re never done building. Every project, every pitch, every day adds new learning. Every change brings new opportunities to strengthen your business model and become more competitive – be open to it. Creating sustainable momentum is a challenge for any business: it requires a clear plan and a whole lot of hard work, and it can be fickle. 

With the right business model and the right people to deliver on it, the momentum can’t help but follow.

If you work in CME, you know that practices have changed dramatically in recent years. We set out to serve the market’s reshaping needs and, in so doing, have helped to redefine the landscape of Canadian CME.

iPOV is a proprietary platform that makes the creation of online ad boards entirely turnkey. Now,
you can share information and get the input you need from stakeholders – be they specialists, GPs, pharmacists, nurses or patients – quickly and easily.

PI-CME (or Performance-Improvement CME) is like a practice assessment program that delivers more. The program doesn’t end when the charts have been pulled and analyzed. Instead, it continues on to ensure that behaviour change is realized, resulting in improved performance.

Pam Park is President of Havas Life Toronto. She can be reached at pamela.park@Havasww.com
or +1 416-993-4778.