It’s hard to say what the exact motivating factor was for Mary Jane Garvey and Joanne Andre’s decision to start their own healthcare communications company in early 2003, and equally difficult to figure out where the guts to do it came from.
What is crystal clear, however, is their enduring respect for each other and commitment to achieving success for their employees and clients.
Digital advertising was exploding back then. Major publishers and investment groups were gobbling up smaller companies to create powerful providers and eliminate competitors. In fact, the very company where Mary Jane and Joanne had worked was sold to a private equity group just a few years after its acquisition by a top publishing firm.
“We both had gone through some of the volatility that many in the industry were going through, and wanted to build something of our own, and determine our own direction,” shares Mary Jane.
The pair had accumulated about 25 years of combined industry experience when they ventured out on their own. Mary Jane had been in leadership roles on both the continuing education and promotional sides of healthcare communications, and she and Joanne had been working together since their days at trade publication Pharmacy Times in the early ‘90s. Joanne’s path was forged by a strong work ethic handed down by her late parents—both immigrants from Portugal who exemplified the virtues of hard work. She herself had worked her way up from an administrative assistant role to a top sales producer at Pharmacy Times, Jobson Publishing, and Alert Marketing.
Both women had children at home, mortgages, and looming college expenses. Turning away from successful corporate jobs to start an unknown entity in a crowded marketplace generated plenty of “You’re going to do what?!?” responses, but Mary Jane and Joanne encouraged and believed in each other. They also had great support from their families.
“I just knew that Mary Jane was a person of great character who had always given me the opportunity to succeed and treated me with respect,” explains Joanne. “I had always wanted those virtues to be a part of what we were trying to do at PDQ.”
Whatever the special sauce was that led to the company’s founding, it continues to generate a level of employee loyalty and retention otherwise virtually extinct in an industry characterized by high turnover.
PDQ’s very first hire John Shattuck, now a 40-year industry veteran, remains a top executive at the company, and the majority of its team have been there for more than a decade.
“For the most part, we have brought in team members that we knew well and had worked with before,” explains Joanne. “We wanted people who not only offered proven talents, but were also the kind of people we liked to be around.”
“We had been around long enough to have had some unpleasant job experiences—sometimes bad enough where Sunday nights became pretty gloomy,” adds Mary Jane. “We tried to find quality people with shared goals and treat them with a sense of fairness and respect.”
Twenty years later, the company has survived several global economic crises and repositioned itself more than once as the industry and world shifted to mostly digital services.
PDQ’s magnetism is also exemplified by its connections with clients. The firm has had a unique ability to transform business from their pharma marketing partners into decades-long relationships—with many bringing PDQ along with them throughout their careers to new companies and marketing roles.
Sean Spears, Senior Director of Trade and Pharmacy Relations at human health care company Eisai, describes PDQ’s team as “collaborative and very responsive,” praising their attention to detail and extraordinary dedication.
“We work together to develop the best solution,” he explains. “They have always been flexible in any situation. They are incredible to work with.”
PDQ is also a family affair, now counting Joanne’s son Danny and Mary Jane’s son Tom among its ranks. The longtime friends and business partners are also blessed with nine grandchildren between them.
“Always hard to know what the future holds,” says Mary Jane. “We just want to keep doing the best we can for our clients, our families, and our PDQ team.”