ELITE Transformational Leader Melissa Johnston of Benchworks

Melissa Johnston




Driving Agency Innovation

As CEO Thad Bench tells the story, Benchworks was a vastly different agency before he hired Melissa Johnston. “We were a mom-and-pop job shop with eight employees—including one graphic designer—working out of the barn on my farm,” he explains.

Today the agency has 48 full-time employees, headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, and 15 pharmaceutical companies as clients—serving as agency of record for four of them. According to Bench, much of this success is attributable to Melissa’s visionary leadership, relentless drive and outstanding business skills.

Melissa helped foster a work environment that empowers people, using a flat organizational structure enabling people to think and act as entrepreneurs. This methodology has not only created a dynamic work environment that supports risk taking, continuous learning and career growth opportunities, but has also resulted in greater efficiencies, faster turnaround time and cost savings for clients. This combination of people, organization and quality is exactly what helped the company grow at a time when many other agencies were going out of business.

Benchworks prides itself on its ability to deliver most projects at a 20% to 30% value compared to traditional agencies. But the company is equally proud of its ability to think creatively and strategically to craft unique, high-quality communication plans. They also like to serve as a business partner to small companies and emerging brands in the rare and orphan disease space; these companies often are forced to work with limited resources.

“Our relationship with Benchworks was prompted by a need for us to find a way to market more efficiently,” says J.D. Kohutka, Director, Team Leader at Pfizer, Rare Disease North America – Global Innovative Pharma. “Through that opportunity we not only realized the financial value that they brought, but also their creative approach and tireless dedication to our business. In our business, the agency/client relationship is very important. Benchworks understands that and it pays off.”