The Princeton Public Library’s community room was chock full of people and exhibit tables for the spring small business expo. There were lots of familiar faces in the crowd, but when Jeremy Williams came in, he had a bit of a different look about him. He threaded his way purposefully among the booths, obviously on the hunt for useful information and determinedly selective, staying a long time at some tables, bypassing others. He seemed like someone who knew what he wanted and knew where to look for it.
That pretty much describes the British CEO of ScopeMedical, a 55-person pharmaceutical services firm headquartered in the United Kingdom. Williams, 40, a bachelor, has moved his personal center of operations to Princeton. He has 50 employees in London, and he aims to equal that number here within three years.
Williams has the track record that makes you believe he can do it. In 2003 he organized a management buyout and proceeded to transform ScopeMedical from a small boutique firm to what is billed as “one of Europe’s fastest growing communications agencies, a leading provider of medical education and marketing services to the pharmaceutical industry.”
Among his customers in Europe are Sanofi Aventis, Janssen-Cilag, GFK, Roche, and Novartis — all about an hour’s airplane ride away from his U.K. headquarters, near London. But he was also working with clients here, including Johnson & Johnson and Novo Nordisk in New Jersey and Amgen in California. So this year he was eager to move to Princeton. “We had done work for U.S. clients remotely,” says Williams, “but our own U.S. base can allow us to go to those customers, expand what we do, and build larger relationships with them, their colleagues down the hall, and with other contacts and friends who have moved to new positions in the U.S.”
ScopeMedical does strategic communication planning (writing, marketing, publishing, and design) plus promotional medical education services including publications planning, event management, thought leader development, product training, creative design, and E-healthcare management.
Williams prefers staffers, rather than freelancers as medical writers. They have acquired scientific expertise in everything from cardiology, nephrology, and oncology to psychiatry, diabetes, and pain management. “Clients value us because of our ability to offer the perfect combination of scientific understanding, first class project management, and exceptional creative flair,” Williams says. “It is this combination of skills that we believe the U.S. pharmaceutical and biotechnology marketplaces will appreciate and be able to benefit from.”
In Europe, direct to consumer advertising — touting pills on TV and in magazines — is illegal. Pharmas can communicate only with doctors. But Williams found the biggest change was one of scale. “The customers are literally a long way away, a five-hour flight. In Europe you can fly between major capitals in an hour and a half.”
European markets may be geographically closer, but they require different regulations, guidelines, and licenses for each project because European Union agreements don’t apply to drug development. “You have to do a lot more legal work and planning to get it right for as large a market as possible. For online web programs, for instance, you have to translate the website and the labels for each market.” A drug might be licensed for a particular use in one country but not in another.
ScopeMedical has a tailor-made system, called Paragon, which identifies key physicians, known as thought leaders. “It’s a matching system, an expert directory of individuals’ publications, editorial board memberships, and participation in scientific meetings. We write the software, on behalf of our customers, and they run it on their intranets. At the international level, each company affiliate can use this global database to identify the experts in a therapy area. We also have a United States-specific expert directory.” Other companies offer products that identify thought leaders, and most larger companies have developed their own systems. “But we think ours is exceptionally easy to use and provides good return on investment.”
ScopeMedical started in 1995 and rebirthed in 2003. “We reset the clock,” says Williams. “We kept the name but changed the branding, location, service offering, outlook, and vision — a wholesale reinvention.”
“I was able to take that gamble at that time,” says Williams, noting that he used “everything that I had (mostly funds accrued from the housing market) and some that I didn’t have.” The firm had an annual gross of $1.5 million then. “My business partner, William Allingham, who is 20 years older, was an accountant/finance person in the publishing sector, and I was an account director. We have a 50/50 relationship. I do the external side, and he looks after all the things I don’t want to do — HR, IT, office management, and financial.” He and Allingham are sole owners.
Williams graduated in 1995 from Kingston University, outside of London. His parents — a construction supplies sales manager and a nurse — love traveling in the United States and might even join their son here. Williams’ older brother is an army sergeant and his younger brother is an account manager at ScopeMedical in London. He has some risky hobbies — deep sea diving in Africa and the Florida Keys and snowboarding in the Alps, and closer to home he plays football (the British soccer).
Williams started out with AstraZeneca, working in sales and marketing. His first visit to Princeton, in 1998, was when he worked for the now-defunct Oxford Clinical Communications.
“I had traveled all around the United States, but I just really like Princeton as a place. It is in the pharma corridor, and it has the right kind of character — a collegial atmosphere, good for association with a scientific business.”
Initially he lived at the Westin and looked on the Internet to find a real estate broker, Jan Weinberg, who located a Hillier-designed condo in the downtown area. “We Brits, we like to walk places,” he says. “It is nice to be in the town and walk around. And Jan gave me a great introduction to Princeton, into the culture and the buzz. I did the walking tour with the historical society, but I got one from Jan that covered the different concert venues.”
In March he opened an HQ on the second floor of Princeton Overlook with five people. “It has flexibility but we are keen to have our own place with our own name on the door,” he says.
He went to Samia Khoury at PNC Bank for financial basics, and she introduced him to Kevin Kardos, of Paychex, a payroll services firm. Kardos then introduced him to the Princeton Chamber, where he tapped a chamber member for his health plan. “When you come in and don’t know anyone, a chamber membership is a great way to get introductions quickly.” He also consulted with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Business Executives), which co-sponsored the April workshop with the chamber.
With the goal of growing to 50 employees in Princeton within three years, he is hiring editorial staff, studio staff, and account directors. He is looking for PhD-level medical writers who can develop content across all media. Some London-based employees are moving here, and all of them are excited about the opportunity to spend a month or three months working here.
Why 50 people? “You need a certain scale to be effective,” he says. “With an in-house creative studio, you are fully self-supporting. With 20 people, you know you can get your own finance department. In the agency business, as long as you keep your company ethos the same, and communicate, you get economies of scale. With 50 people, we have more slack in the model. People are available to get a new piece of business, and they can share projects.”
ScopeMedical Inc., 100 Overlook Center, Second Floor, Princeton, 08540. 609-375-2135; fax, 609-375-2001.