Spirit’s founder and Managing Director discusses his vision and passion for a new kind of medical communications agency.
Q: Hi Asif, could you tell us a little about your background prior to founding Spirit Medical Communications in 2006?
A: After qualifying as a Biochemist in the early 90s, I was quickly drawn to customer facing roles where I could talk through issues with clients and help provide tailored solutions. This is what gave me “the buzz”. I initially worked in advertising at an agency supporting ethical and OTC brand campaigns. I then became increasingly curious about who developed the global strategies and communication platforms to support successful worldwide launches, and it was at this point I entered the medical education industry. This is where I have spent most of my career helping clients meet their objectives through all stages of the product lifecycle. I have worked in some of the largest agency groups and complemented this experience working in small agencies and helping them grow globally. I utilised the positive learnings from previous agencies to form the blueprint of Spirit.
Q: Why did you decide to establish your own medical communications agency?
A: I wanted to work in an agency that truly placed clients’ needs first, delivering consistently high levels of service regardless of account size or the account team. I aspired to create an agency with world class client facing teams, and where all staff could share in the rewards of successful growth, an agency with true ‘Spirit’.
Q: What were the driving principles for Spirit? What sets Spirit apart from other medical communications agencies?
A: The principles set at launch in 2006 are the same as those that we value today. We strive to ‘go beyond’ for all clients, adding value through mutually beneficial partnerships to achieve successful outcomes. All our senior staff engage clients on a day-to-day basis to guarantee clients direct access to high levels of experience and expertise.
Q: What types of client do you work with and what has been the key to maintaining such successful client relationships?
A: We work with a range of clients from large multinational companies through to start-up biotechs, developing a mix of global and regional programmes (including for both developed and emerging markets). Our clients span various functions including Medical Affairs, Scientific Communications, Publication Departments, Clinical Development, Marketing and Regulatory Affairs.
The hallmarks of these successful partnerships are high levels of trust and transparency; consistent delivery of great quality work; excellent communication and teamwork; a culture of continuous improvement and delivering value to clients.
Q: You are obviously passionate about people; building the right team and supporting client needs. Who is your role model, and why?
A: There are many people that have inspired me, and continue to do so to this day. Many past and current colleagues who have imparted nuggets of advice during my career. Famous names that have inspired me include: Steve Jobs, for his imagination and relentless entrepreneurial spirit; Richard Branson, for ignoring those naysayers who said the market was too crowded, his go-getting attitude and passion for working with great staff; Carolyn McCall, CEO of EasyJet for putting customer service at the core of a successful business strategy that transformed company performance and customer experience in recent years. There are many more…..
Q: Outside of the business environment, what are your hobbies and what do you like to do at the weekend?
A: I like to relax in many different ways….. fell walking in the Lake District, theatre, the odd gig here and there, going to Anfield when I can, extreme thrill rides, via ferrata (a new interest), skiing and reading Scandinavian crime fiction. Juggling all of the above with the hobbies of my kids!
Q: Spirit has delivered a wide range of successful projects and initiatives since its inception, working with many different clients. Of all Spirit’s achievements, which have been the most satisfying?
A: There are many, but top of mind there are two: being awarded a coveted place on a top five pharma company preferred vendor list following a rigorous selection process and against very stiff competition (I’m extremely proud of the team who got us there), and the development and implementation of a publication plan spanning a five year period, which has been instrumental in supporting the recent FDA approval of a pioneering product in oncology.
Q: What are the typical characteristics of team members within Spirit?
A: Every member of our team, as well as being experienced and skilled, has the ‘go beyond’ spirit. Quality and results focused. Proactivity and enthusiasm. Tenacity. Desire to exceed expectations. Open and vocal. Personable and flexible.
Q: What does the future hold for Spirit?
A: The future is looking extremely bright. We’re forecasting further expansion and sustainable growth driven by our great team of talented communication professionals, strengthening our reputation as a global leader in medical communications. Continuing to invest to advance our team’s development and performance, nurturing our culture of innovation to build a competitive edge, and following our core ethos to ‘go beyond’ will ensure we keep exceeding our clients’ expectations, and achieve our growth objectives.