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Ffyona Dawber, Synergy Vision

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2012, Click to Enter The 2014 American Business Awards

Company: Synergy Vision Ltd, London, United Kingdom
Company Description: Synergy Vision was founded in 2007 by Ffyona Dawber to provide marketing solutions for pharmaceutical clients. Over the last 7 years, the company has grown and is now one of the UK's leading full-service medical communications agency.
Nomination Category: Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services –11 to 2,500 Employees

Nomination Title: Achieving Balance – Ffyona Dawber, Synergy Vision

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated entrepreneur since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

Background

In 2007, Ffyona Dawber quit her secure position as Operations Director at GlaxoSmithKline and made a bold decision to create her own medical communications agency, Synergy Vision (SV).

In the years that followed, Ffyona built the business into an industry heavyweight. By 2013, SV was a £multi-million enterprise, employing 24 people and servicing 8 global and big-brand pharmaceutical clients. The business has attracted a predominately female workforce, with 4 out of 5 senior leadership positions occupied by women.

The challenge

Success wasn’t achieved without total dedication however, and, as the driving force behind the business, Ffyona regularly worked 12-hour days and most weekends.

In 2013, Ffyona took on a new, very personal challenge. She adopted three siblings under age 5, from abusive, neglected backgrounds. Pre-schoolers are a handful under any circumstances, but with life previously dedicated to the business, finding time to raise and care for children with such a challenging personal history and keep the business going strong seemed virtually impossible.

To meet this challenge Ffyona decided to do one of the hardest things for any business owner; she made herself dispensable, transferring responsibility for achieving the following business objectives to the senior leadership team:

• Maintain the company’s £3million+ turnover in 2013/14.

• Make concrete steps toward achieving the ambitious objective to become a global agency.

This needed to be achieved while she was away on full-time adoption leave for four months, and then throughout her return to work, which was planned to be part-time.

Strategy

To ensure the senior team were capable of taking over in her absence, Ffyona:

• Invested in training on an unprecedented scale:
- Spending £15,000 on training senior leaders, matched by UK government programme, Growth Accelerator, which contributed a further £15,000.
- Investing a further £17,500 in training junior staff, so they could better support the senior team and create a strong talent pipeline. (In addition to Ffyona, two senior leaders have taken maternity leave).

• Planned ahead: A full year before going on adoption leave, Ffyona introduced sessions with her senior team to impart the necessary knowledge and skills to drive the business forward in her absence. This covered the process of landing and nurturing large contracts, whilst also ensuring the company strategy remained aligned to business objectives.

Results

Thanks to the above strategy, Ffyona was able to reduce her contact time with SV to just a couple of hours per week while absent. At the same time, the business:

• Maintained turnover, delivering over 3m in 2013.

•Took steps towards becoming a true global agency:
- The Irish agency (established 2012) has achieved rapid growth in the last 12-months, 17% over target and representing 220% year-on-year growth.
- Identified a suitable location for an office to be set up in Asia Pacific, allowing SV to service existing and potential clients within the region. It is currently on track to begin trading in May 2015.

In addition, clients are happier than ever with SV’s performance, with 92% rating the agency better than competitors and, of those, 73% rate SV significantly better.

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Provide a brief biography of the nominated entrepreneur (up to 125 words):

Ffyona Dawber began her career as a nurse and then moved on to be a clinical researcher for GlaxoSmithKline. During this time (some ten years) she identified a gap in the marketplace for a medical communications agency that truly understands the pharmaceutical industry’s needs. In 2007, she decided to create that agency, quitting her job to found Synergy Vision. Since then Ffyona has built up a 28-strong workforce, the majority of whom have previously worked in pharmaceuticals, helping Ffyona maintain the agency’s unique edge.

The agency has grown under Ffyona’s leadership, achieving both commercial success (on track to turn over £4m in FYE 2014/15 – all achieved through organic growth) and strong customer loyalty (in seven years of trading, Synergy Vision has never lost a customer).