It all started with a breakfast at Mul’s Diner in South Boston.
There, Caitlin Dodge spelled out her grand vision for ad agency Argus Communications to the owner and her boss, Argus chief executive Lucas Guerra. Agency principal Zamawa Arenas had just left, to start her own marketing agency, Flowetik. Dodge was stepping up to take over the day-to-day management as chief operating officer.
Those plans, presented back in 2017, led to a widening of the agency’s focus, to encapsulate strategy as well as marketing — an expansion that prompted Guerra to adopt ThinkArgus as the firm’s name. It meant bringing on more senior executives and getting more ambitious in seeking clients. Guerra let Dodge run with her ideas.
Now, he’s letting her run the company, as its new chief executive.
“I feel like we’ve been on the precipice of this big change, of people knowing who we are,” Dodge said. “Clients used to say to us, ‘ThinkArgus is the best kept secret.’ But we don’t want to be that [anymore].”
Dodge took over as chief executive on Jan. 1, following a year of rapid growth. The agency has become a go-to marketing partner for the Baker administration, working on everything from public health campaigns and a “buy local” effort last year, to a tourism blitz coming this summer aimed at out-of-state visitors. (Guerra, who remains the firm’s owner, recently contributed to Governor Charlie Baker’s campaign, and also donated to Deval Patrick during his tenure as governor.)
Other recent additions to the client roster include Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Fallon Health. The firm focuses on nonprofits, government agencies, and mission-driven companies.
Back in 2017, the Boston firm employed 10 people. Now that number is 22; Dodge hopes to bring it to 30 by year’s end.
With help from Gretchen Driscoll, who just joined in the newly created role of “head of people,” Dodge wants employees to feel empowered — much in the same way she felt when she presented her folder of concepts over that Mul’s breakfast.
“I want people who are excited, hungry, passionate,” Dodge said. “If you show every individual what their path for growth is, that’s how you get people excited.”
From one of America’s biggest companies to lots of small ones
John Sculley might still be best known for the decade he spent as chief executive of Apple. But since stepping down from that job in 1993, Sculley has guided a wide variety of smaller founder-led companies, many of them in health care. One prime example: Southborough pharmacy benefits manager RxAdvance, where Sculley has chaired the board for several years and helped the company expand to serve health plans and rename itself nirvanaHealth.
Next up is eternalHealth, led by Pooja Ika. The Boston insurance startup, a facilitator of Medicare Advantage plans, raised $10 million in seed funding last year and launched on Jan. 1. Ika just raised another $10 million for the 20-plus person company. And this time Sculley is among the investors.
Ika and Sculley first met at St. Mark’s School in 2015, where Ika was a student. (Sculley is an alum of the Southborough prep school.) Sculley was talking about investing heavily in health care at the time, and Ika went up and introduced herself to him. Since then, Sculley has served as a mentor and a role model.
While she’s only 24, Sculley said Ika’s leadership skills and her vision will resonate with potential investors.
“They look for a company that has a very clear vision, and some demonstration that the founder is able to . . . create a culture where other people are going to want to join and be a part of it,” Sculley said.
Bank of America bankrolls big health care ideas fest
A “Sundance on the Charles,” but for the life sciences sector?
That’s the hope of Chris Coburn, chief innovation officer at Mass General Brigham: to create a signature event for health care, akin to the famous festival for the film industry.
Coburn gets closer to that goal now that Bank of America has signed on to underwrite Mass General Brigham’s annual World Medical Innovation Forum. The bank will spend an unspecified amount of money as the event’s presenting sponsor, and also put forward bankers and analysts who will be among the speakers there. Mass General Brigham launched the annual forum in 2015, back when the giant hospital network was known as Partners HealthCare. This deal with Bank of America represents the largest corporate contribution yet.
Bank chief executive Brian Moynihan said in a statement the bank sees the conference as a “crossroad of science, technology, and investment capital” that can lead to important medical breakthroughs.
The event is slated for May 2 through 4 at the Westin Copley Place hotel; Coburn would like to attract at least 2,000 people there, but is also preparing to shift the event into virtual mode if the local coronavirus counts don’t look promising.
The speaker list includes a roster of all-stars, such as Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla, Amgen chief executive Robert Bradway, and Thermo Fisher Scientific chief executive Marc Casper.
“This partnership ideally will give us something that’s enduringly unique,” Coburn said.
More seats at the table
There’s a new woman at the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership’s boardroom table.
Jean Hynes, chief executive of Boston fund manager Wellington, joins the MACP board this month. The partnership, a gathering of 18 chief executives from many of Greater Boston’s biggest employers, has been trying to broaden its board membership. Six years ago, the only woman present was Fidelity Investments chief Abby Johnson. Now, there are four, including Marianne Harrison at John Hancock and Anne Klibanski at Mass General Brigham.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals chief Jeff Leiden, the partnership’s board chair, said in an e-mail that he has known Hynes for many years. He said she brings global financial expertise, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and deep Massachusetts roots.
Hynes, for her part, is excited to help with the Partnership’s mission of improving the state’s economic competitiveness.
“While Wellington Management is a global company, the firm has maintained its headquarters and the vast majority of its employees in Boston for over 50 years,” Hynes said in an email. “MACP’s focus on inclusive job creation, growth of an innovation economy and efforts to strengthen education is aligned with our local strategic priorities [at Wellington].”
Building trust, one virtual seminar at a time
Can executives be taught how to improve their trust skills?
PwC is about to find out. The giant accounting and consulting firm has launched a virtual education program, dubbed the PwC Trust Leadership Institute. It’s a national program but it’s being co-led by J.C. Lapierre, PwC’s Boston-based chief strategy and communications officer.
The participants — 200 to 400 business executives at a time, from a wide range of industries — are tackling everything from cybersecurity to corporate culture in their sessions, with a live get-together planned for March in Oklahoma City. Eventually, PwC wants to bring 10,000 executives through the institute. There’s no charge to participants, as the program is part of PwC’s broader $300 million effort to embed trust-based principles in corporate America and, Lapierre said, because “hopefully it will allow our brand to be seen in a certain light by clients and potential clients.”
PwC provides experts and curricula to facilitate the discussions. But Lapierre said some of the best information is coming from the participants.
“It’s really cool watching these business executives come together and seeing the power of what they can do when they work together,” Lapierre said. “When we talk about trust [in corporate America], sometimes people think it’s all doom and gloom, . . . but I see so much upside and so much energy.”