Category: SP Consulting


Senior Partner Holiday Retreat in Washington, D.C.

Robust collaboration and cross-pollination of professional networks are the results when thought leaders and top industry consultants get together to share ideas around strategic communication and new business opportunities. The leadership team of SP Consulting was lucky enough to experience this highly productive and collaborative environment on Tuesday, December 15th, as they hosted their annual Senior Partner retreat and holiday party at The Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C.

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Katie Brazel: 20+ Years Experience in Healthcare, Weimaraner Owner and Former Radio News Reporter

  1. How did you connect with SP Consulting?

I worked under Karen Kaplan at FleishmanHillard (FH) for many years. As she is both a colleague and a friend, we have stayed in touch. So when I left FH, she reached out to tell me about SP and then put me in touch with Paul Johnson.

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Bill Would Fund Drug Addiction Fight

brm-4*304xx2370-3555-24-0SP Consulting is proud of our influential and active board members and we will feature some of their articles on this blog periodically. The piece below is an OpEd recently published on Congress Blog from Paul Samuels and a very special friend of SP Consulting, U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey (ret.).  The views and opinions reflected in this article are their own and do not reflect the opinions of SP Consulting or our clients.


Despite what the pundits and polls may say about how divided Americans are after the recent elections, one issue can unite us: how to improve access to treatment for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. A bill before Congress could go a long ways towards accomplishing just that.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would invest substantial funds in addiction services at both the community level and within the criminal justice system. It would fund the development of comprehensive treatment initiatives that specifically incorporate one of the most underutilized proven strategies to improve access to treatment: Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).

MAT is the use of medications in the treatment of addictions, which in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies provides a “whole-patient” approach. It utilizes medications to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize body functions. Studies have shown that MAT reduces drug use, disease rates, and criminal activity among those addicted to opiates.

There’s no question about the pervasive nature of the problem. More than 20 million Americans are living with an untreated addiction. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in this country. And deaths due to opioid pain relievers – more than 36,000 annually – now exceed those from all illegal drugs.

Addiction is an equal opportunity illness. In one way or another, every community has been impacted by addiction. And every one of us pays for cost of untreated addictions. In one year alone, the financial costs of addiction were estimated at more than $55 billion due to lost productivity at work, health care fees and expenses associated with the criminal justice system.

MAT is a proven but tragically underutilized tool in helping people enter and sustain recovery. But despite the promise MAT offers in improving lives, there are many obstacles to its greater use.

Public and private insurance often unnecessarily restrict coverage of, and access to, medications. Many health, social services, and criminal justice systems lack the resources and medical knowledge to recommend and administer MAT effectively. While some understand the value of MAT and utilize it, many still do not understand its value or even have harmful stereotypes that do not comport with proven medical evidence.

Within the criminal justice system, an estimated 65 percent of the 2.4 million people currently in prison are clinically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yet only 11 percent receive any professional treatment while incarcerated. They leave the criminal justice system no better off than when they arrived, and few are connected with treatment when they return to their communities.

Until these barriers are removed, our nation will continue to face a public health epidemic of untreated addiction and a growing opioid crisis, with millions of Americans still lacking access to effective treatment options. We can and must do better.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act legislation includes provisions for the training of health and justice providers in the use of MAT and expanding the availability of the lifesaving opioid-reversal medication naloxone for law enforcement, as well as treatment alternatives to incarceration programs. The bill particularly calls for the criminal justice system to expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders by providing evidence-based treatment. If passed, this would be a major step towards breaking the cycle of addiction and incarceration that plagues our nation.

By expanding access to addiction treatment, especially the use of MAT, policymakers can make a difference in the lives and well-being of all Americans. That is something we can all agree on.

McCaffrey is the former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He currently serves as an advisor to the Legal Action Center. Samuels is director and president of the Legal Action Center, a not-for-profit public interest law firm specializing in legal and policy issues involving alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, AIDS and criminal justice.


Threats from within and without to the MedTech Industry

10426107_839236952781358_9084007278915346481_nThe best and most innovative medical technologies were on display this month at the Medical Device and Manufacturing Conference in Anaheim, California (MD&M West 2015). Hundreds of companies presented the latest manufacturing techniques and materials, including 3-D printing and novel biomaterials. Medical devices are categorized based on risk profile of intended use and indications for use. The three classifications range from – Class I – relatively simple and safe devices such as elastic bandages, to highly complex, high-risk Class III devices such as drug-coated stents for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Large, established companies such as Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Medtronic, and Siemens competed for market share in this competitive and highly regulated space. But it was the small start-ups with new and disruptive technologies that caught my eye.

The medical device industry is undergoing a seismic shift, thanks largely to innovators located along the fault lines of California. New technologies and materials are enabling great advances in how biometric information is gathered and analyzed. For example, 3-D printing of implants custom designed for the individual will shape the future of the industry. Companies such as Dentca use 3-D printing from high-definition images to customize dental implants. Recently, tech giant Google announced the development of a contact lens device that monitors glucose for diabetes treatment. They have joined forces with Novartis on this effort. Another California company, Proteus Digital Health developed an encapsulated microchip that transmits information to help track medication adherence. Oracle has partnered with Proteus to collect and manage clinical trial data using the new technology. Medical technology companies such as Roche, Illumina, and Thermo that specialize in advanced genomic sequencing and data analysis are also positioned to benefit from the shift in health care.

The collection and analysis of large amounts of information using monitoring devices or sources of medical records will transform how we diagnose and treat diseases. This information will enable a more precise, individualized approach to medicine. In the 2015 State of the Union Speech, President Obama outlined the Precision Medical Initiative. This effort will include the sequencing of 1 million genomes to gather huge amounts of genetic information to better understand a variety of diseases including cancer, heart disease, and mental illness. The value of precision medicine is to better diagnose and deliver therapies that are tailored to the individual. Drug type, dosage and possible side effects could be more precisely defined. The Precision Medical Initiative will be possible because of new innovations in the medical device, diagnostics, and pharmaceutical industries. However, there are threats to the medical device industry and the advancement of health care.

It is more costly and challenging than ever to innovate and develop medical devices. The FDA has moved to treat medical devices more like pharmaceutical products. A novel Class II or Class III device may cost more than $100,000,000 to bring to market. Some estimate that upwards of 75 percent of that cost is for activities related to compliance with government regulations. Recalls, lawsuits, and poor practices have contributed to the pressure on the FDA to more tightly regulate medical devices. Devices now undergo extensive development including biocompatibility studies in animals, material chemical characterization, sterility, and temperature stability. Even follow-on products with arguably minor changes require a full suite of tests. Regulatory hurdles, however, are not the only threat to the industry.

The Affordable Care Act levied a 2.3 percent tax on medical device revenue. This impacted the medical device maker’s bottom line and seemed to slow growth and hiring in the sector over the last couple years. However, it is unclear to what extent the tax will impact the industry long-term.  The new Congress may take up this issue and try to repeal the tax, but most analysts believe any change would face a presidential veto. The increased costs for developing and selling medical devices will likely get passed along to the consumer and be absorbed by the health-care system.

The medical device industry is dynamic and has great opportunities for growth. However, threats from within and without will challenge and shape the industry. Understanding the opportunities and threats is key to success.



Strategic Partnerships 2.0

With 2014 now behind us, it makes sense to take a brief moment to celebrate all that SP Consulting has achieved in such a short period of time. Beginning with our company re-launch as SP Consulting in January 2014, we have made tremendous progress against our strategic plan (yes, we practice what we preach). Great consulting companies are built around three critical elements: great people; great clients; and stellar work. Thankfully, we have been blessed with all three of these integral ingredients. While our website is always evolving, it is a good place to gauge the extraordinary talent we have been able to assemble to serve our clients.

Our Senior Partners are simply the best at what they do and the diversity of their experiences and knowledge allow us to both execute at scale and provide deep subject matter expertise. We have also strived to stay true to our golden rule of attracting talented people who are also incredibly fun to work with. Frankly, this is not an easy task, but critical to the SP culture. It’s challenging to find entrepreneurial, high-energy senior consultants who also work well as a team and can put their egos “in a box” to deliver against complex problems and opportunities, so we’re particularly proud of the team we’ve assembled.

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We can have the best people in the world but that resource is wasted if we can’t match them against terrific clients. While at times our clients are demanding and always set a high bar for our performance, we believe that approach pushes us to deliver impressive and measurable results. I want to personally thank all of the “early adapters” who took some degree of risk going with both the new philosophy and model embraced by our company. Since we take our commitment to confidentially seriously, we are not going to splash our past and existing work and campaigns across our website. That said, I am confident that our strategic and goal-focused approach to our clients’ success is setting a new standard for excellence in our industry.

Looking ahead to this year, we have a lot of work to do. We have grown our team to more than 40 Senior Partners – but we remain on the lookout to add talent to our vertical practice areas. We have now added Managing Senior Partners to our internal structure to help us chart the future course of the company and to ensure that we continue to embrace excellence as we scale. We have Senior Partners in 24 major cities and media markets across the United States. We will continue to be opportunistic about adding geographies because one of our greatest strengths is our ability “to think globally but act locally.” And, while being big just to keep score is not one of our goals, we certainly aspire to again double our stable of clients in short order.

On a final note, I want to thank Ken Smith, our Founder and Chairman, for working to build a solid and impressive business foundation over the last 36 years. Without this impressive “launch pad” we simply could not have achieved the level of success we enjoyed over the last 14 months.

In closing, I rarely reference instances when we compete and come in second best, but I’m making an exception for this one instance which really threw me for a loop. When a prospective client called us with the bad news, I had to ask what kept us from being first over the finish line. The answer was – to put it mildly – surprising: “We loved your team. The chemistry was terrific and you really understand our challenge. That said, we honestly think you are too smart and too big for us at this point in our evolution.” Wow, that’s a new one! If we have to lose that’s probably the best way to come up short. However, let me be clear, our customized approach is always adaptable to your needs and, at least in the near term, we are certainly not too big to meet and exceed your expectations.

Here’s to a great 2015. Again, thanks to everyone who has made this journey so amazing to this point – but we have only just begun. All the best, PJ


While Rome Burns . . .

A recent report from the Southern Education Foundation (Study) reveals a startling statistic – for the first time in recent history, low income students are now a majority in the nation’s public schools. At the same time, the nation faces a health care crisis. Growing numbers of Americans have inadequate access to health care. This crisis is intensified by policy changes granting an increasingly diverse population access to a health-care system that historically and currently has limited diversity.

Today, one in three Americans is a member of a racial or ethnic minority group, with African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians making up more than 30 percent of the nation’s population. If one looks at this statistic just for those under the age of 20, the percentage rises to 43 percent. Yet, these groups account for only 12.3 percent of physicians, 7 percent of dentists, 10 percent of pharmacists, and 11 percent of registered nurses.  The picture is similar for other needed health-care professions. This misalignment contributes to disparities in both health and health care, particularly among minority and low-income populations. As the numbers show, the current health-care workforce does not generally source from distressed communities and minority cultural groups.

As a consequence of the health workforce crisis, families in rural and urban areas struggle to recruit any health professionals to their immediate neighborhoods, let alone culturally competent health professionals.

Broadening the participation of students from diverse backgrounds, enhancing their academic preparation, and recruiting more economically, racially, and culturally diverse students into health careers could dramatically improve the quality of health care, reduce health disparities, and improve community and national health outcomes – while offering jobs and increased economic stability in communities in desperate need of both.

Where do we start? President Obama in his recent SOTU speech challenged Congress to fund community college educations as we do high school educations. Many of these children from low-income families won’t make it that far unless a more holistic approach is taken that mentors and empowers them – and their families and communities as a result.

One pilot program that is already seeing results is based at Northeast Ohio School of Medicine (NEOMED). Their community model includes Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) programs, a partnership among schools and community organizations that offer a host of academic and community-based experiences with the aim of empowering ninth to twelfth grade students to take charge of their academic and career development and make a difference in the health of their communities. To date, these programs have involved more than 500 students representing 107 high schools and 12 higher education institutions in Ohio. Importantly, 83 percent of HPAC students intend to pursue a career in the health-care field.

As the nation is increasingly divided into the haves and the have nots, much of what is needed to improve the health of our communities requires a complex response to community, education, and health needs. As the new Congress considers how to best improve the nation’s future economic and social well being, they would be wise to consider the ramifications of doing little or nothing for this increasing number of low-income children in our nation’s public schools.

As the Southern Education Foundation Report concludes:

“No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness… Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support – the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

While it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes healthy and successful children to advance a village. This country – all of us in government or private roles – need to commit to doing whatever it takes to ensure these children are part of a productive, bright economic future that keeps this country an international leader. We don’t have any more time.


Digital Marketing Trends of 2015

With 2015 well under way, many digital and social marketing agencies have pulled together hypotheses of what digital media trends will continue in the coming year and which ones will fall by the wayside. Some estimations are realistic, while with others only time will tell. The SP digital team took a hard look at an assortment of blogs, articles, and agency statistics, and here are a handful of compelling trends we suggest keeping a close eye on in the year ahead.

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

For the first time in history, mobile devices have surpassed the desktop in terms of accessing online media. This is big: 55% of Internet access occurred from a mobile device while only 45% took place from a desktop. These metrics are noteworthy as this shift indicates just how individuals – or audiences – are accessing and using the Web. Digital marketers need to heighten their efforts related to the mobile marketing movement to increase engagement with this growing pool of mobile users and potential customers. Going forward, mobile will be the platform of choice.


Online marketing will continue to require relevant, original, and fresh content that can entice audiences, most commonly in the form of blogs. Consumers want to digest and share engaging and unique content. Creating and housing this content on one’s site will be critical, as SEO matters more than ever and cross promotion of content on multiple social platforms is a powerful technique to maximize SEO. Video is another medium to share content and we expect this to continue on the upward trajectory going forward. In the year ahead, video will live in more places than just YouTube: cross promoting and sharing content on multiple social media platforms as well as using video for capitalizing on company pitches, mission statements, and performance reports can be expected to be among the many, growing venues video will be found.

Personalized Marketing

We’ve all heard customer service stories of airlines, chain restaurants, banks, etc. responding via social media (sometimes very well, sometimes not so well) in real time to customer complaints or questions. As we’ve seen, this can quickly go viral and become either a success story or a threat to an organization’s brand. Going above and beyond to address an urgent issue is more critical now than ever. While putting in place this “always on” 24/7 social response team may not be realistic for every company, this overall experience of faster responses and honest, transparent engagement will be a rising social trend this year. Along with deeper engagement with the customer, we can also expect to see brands gather more information about their customers and followers thus creating richer and deeper dialogs and, in turn, enhanced brand loyalty.

By capitalizing on rising trends, digital marketing will take a turn towards more powerful strategies that focus on mobile usage, content generation, and personalized marketing. These are tools we at SP Consulting are well prepared to help our clients leverage to their advantage in the social marketing space.

What are your digital marketing hypotheses for the coming year? We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Other Digital Marketing Predictions

6 Predictions About The State of Digital Marketing in 2015:

7 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2015:

Three Digital Marketing Mega Trends for 2015:



SP Spotlight: Erik Foehr


SP Consulting is excited to welcome to the team one of our more recent additions to our extensive roster of Senior Partners, Dr. Erik Foehr.  Dr. Foehr is a biotechnology expert with over 15 years of research and development experience, resulting in numerous publications, patents, and innovations that propel the advancement of science, medical treatment, and patient care.

Dr. Foehr’s strong scientific background and business acumen drive effective operations and project management. His work includes contributions in the areas of regulated bioanalysis and medical device characterization. He publishes and presents his work on pharmacokinetics, immunogenicity, and the application of new technologies to product development. Dr. Foehr has served in leadership positions at small start-ups and large biotechnology companies. In his current role as Vice President of Analytical Sciences, he collaborates with hundreds of biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies to enable successful product development. He is often called upon to provide expertise and resources needed to solve complex technical problems that threaten product development.

Dr. Foehr’s recent article published on LinkedIn, “Rare Diseases Inspire Innovation”, focuses on modern technologies, social networks, and innovation in clinical trial designs that are shaping treatments for rare genetic diseases.

Surrogate biomarkers for rare diseases hold great promise to enable successful drug development, long term management of disease and patient empowerment. Rare disease drug development is often challenged by a lack of scientific knowledge about the disease, small patient populations, expensive trials, regulatory hurdles, and high cost of commercial failure. However, great opportunities exist for the treatment of rare diseases. Large and small biopharmaceutical companies have proven that developing and marketing treatments for rare genetic diseases is viable. Bioanalytical tests have been developed for many disorders; new technologies for hand-held, self-administered tests are within reach. Monitoring devices and healthcare networking applications are ideal for enabling successful treatments for people suffering from rare genetic diseases.

To learn more about the use of biomarkers for the treatment of rare genetic diseases, follow the link below to the full article in the Journal of Investigative Genomics.

For more information or to get in touch with Erik, you can connect with him on LinkedIn!


Reception and Book signing by Dr. Louis Sullivan, for his latest book “Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine.”

Last month, SP Consulting and Share Our Strength co-hosted a reception and book signing for Dr. Louis Sullivan recognizing his extensive work in medicine and, in particular, the release of his latest book, “Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine.”  Dr. Sullivan spoke about his decades of public service and then narrowed in on what drove him to write this book and highlights from his career in medicine and education.

Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. is a medical researcher, educator, and policy advisor. Dr. Sullivan is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, as well as Chairman of the Board of the National Health Museum (NHM) in Atlanta, Georgia. He was founding Dean and the first President of the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he served for more than twenty years and is now President Emeritus. In 1989, Dr. Sullivan took leave from MSM to accept a Presidential cabinet appointment as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services which he held until 1993. Earlier in his career, Dr. Sullivan founded the Boston University Hematology Service at Boston City Hospital and was also project director of the Boston Sickle Cell Center.

The October 2nd event saw a large turnout of attendees ranging from lawmakers, consultants, nonprofit leaders and colleagues from different points in Dr. Sullivan’s career.  Guests had the opportunity to mingle with fellow attendees and Dr. Sullivan before hearing from Paul Johnson, President of SP Consulting and Tom Nelson, President of Share Our Strength.  After their introductions, Dr. Sullivan shared high points from his remarkable career as well as his personal story before signing books and speaking with individual attendees.

To view pictures from the event, please go to our Facebook page to view our photo album.



Welcome to SP Consulting

Dear friends,

I am happy to introduce SP Consulting’s latest digital offering: Strategic Partnerships; Strategic Insights. Building on our rich 36 year history of providing extraordinary consulting services to some of the world’s most impressive companies, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions, we have undergone an evolutionary process over the past year to provide a more integrated set of service offerings to our clients to maximize value and success.

We have established a unique and integrated model that represents the state of the art in our profession. At SP Consulting, we embrace a truly “client-centric” business model.  Before we begin any engagement, we ask the same central question:  how do our prospective clients define success and how do we work together to assure that outcome?   With a firm comprised of seasoned and recognized subject matter experts, the team we assemble is always the same at the beginning, middle and end of our engagement.

Our team of Senior Partners are the best and brightest in their respective fields. Whether it’s patient engagement and advocacy, healthcare provider management, higher education, strategic communications, the telecom industry, or even international political development, our Senior Partners have worked on high profile engagements with impactful and immediate results.

But SP Consulting provides more than just strategic counsel and a series of recommendations. Our Senior Partners work in concert with our clients to execute on our recommended strategies. And with our award winning digital team, as well as partners in video production, grassroots engagement, and global site selection, just to name a few, we ensure that our tactics are creative and impactful.

With Strategic Partnerships; Strategic Insights, we will now share some of the collective expertise of our talented Senior Partner team directly with you. Each week, our senior partners will provide their unique insight into the world of business and management consulting and the changes that they see in their respective industries. We invite you to learn more about SP and join in these conversations through our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

We’re excited for our continued growth at SP Consulting and look forward to sharing our strategic insight with you. And please share your thoughts with us: learning from you will only make us better at what we do.

Paul Johnson
CEO and President
SP Consulting