The Organizational Man

Scott Cotherman
Jun 17, 2007



Scott Cotherman has a thing for companies. He flat out loves them. Most of all, he loves making them into something bigger and better. He worked his magic on Chicago's Corbett Agency in the late '90s when, as COO, he transformed it from a regional agency into a global medical-communications company serving mega-brands. And in 2004, he was the brains behind the merging of the Corbett and Accel agencies that transformed them into the Corbett Accel Healthcare Group (a member of the Omnicom Group, the world's largest advertising holding company). Under his leadership, as CEO, the combined entity has since doubled in size. It now includes Accel Health, Corbett, Surge, Iris, and Kinect. Cotherman, who combines Midwestern warmth with CEO sophistication, describes himself as being passionate about organizations, transformational change, leadership development, and the future. AGENCY CONFIDENTIAL met with him recently over a lunch of chicken sandwiches, potato chips, and Diet Cokes. An engaging story-teller, he has a way of enlivening the driest of management topics.

Going after what you want

At 23, I knew I wanted to run a company. I was working in human resources doing succession planning, and I had access to the executive files of the people leading the companies. I noticed none of them had human resources as a background. They all had sales backgrounds. So I said, 'Well, I want to run a company and they're all running companies so I'd better get sales experience....'

I worked for an orthodontic company, braces, and one of the things that's kind of expected from the sales people is that you will wear braces. And if you're really good, you find somebody who's a big account. And you say, 'Doctor, I'd like you to treat me. I'd like to have these new-fangled braces which you don't have any experience with. And I'll give you free product in exchange for your service.' And he says, 'Yes.' So he got experience with this great product and I built a relationship with him over a couple of years while I was having my teeth moved, and basically, he becomes my customer, right? I mean, that's the strategy.

So, I was wearing Invisible Braces, which went on the back of the teeth. And the company didn't want to pay to hire models for the brochures. So they said, 'We want real people doing it. Hey, get that Cotherman kid in Chicago to get to the advertising agency.' I went on a photo shoot and I met all these really fun people and they were all talking about the future and they were having a good time. And I'm going, I think I'd like to do what they're doing. And the rest is history.

A primary purpose

Corbett Accel Healthcare Group is really going through a pretty significant point of change. We did a merger three years ago with another health care agency within Omnicom Group Healthcare. And what resulted are five incredible companies. The entire company is based upon some very strong organizational constructs. The first one, 'Life is Too Short,' we call our purpose, some people might call it our 'mission.'

Life's too short

'Life's too short' works on three levels. It connects us in the area of extending and enhancing human life, which is what our clients do. It connects us with the brands that we market because of their all-too-short brand lives. And it connects us with the people in the company because we want to extend their organizational life with us, if you will.

Our value proposition is very simple as well: 'We grow leaders.' We grow leadership talent. We invest disproportionately in learning and development activities versus other healthcare companies in the industry, and we know this primarily because of our relationship with the Omnicom Group.