The stars of the 2013 PROFIT 500, the 25th annual ranking of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, illustrate the many paths to corporate growth—but Zenergy Communications’ route may be one of the most interesting.
The integrated marketing-communications firm traces its roots to 2003, when Linda Farha had a bold idea. A mathematician by training, Farha had been vice president of marketing communications for the small but growing Boomerang Tracking, orchestrating all promotions surrounding its listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange. But after four years of tremendous growth (resulting in a number one ranking by Deloitte & Touche in the 2002 Canadian Technology Fast 50 Awards Program), the company was sold to a US competitor, leaving Farha without a job. She decided then to spread her wings, launching a firm that would serve companies the way she wanted to be served—without regard to prominence and status.
“I had experienced firsthand how a growing company has, at the onset, limited infrastructure and a limited budget but still needs help with marketing communications,” she says. “A lot of agencies serviced small firms, and a lot serviced large firms, but no one seemed to service the companies in between. We wanted to be able to respond to the needs of companies of all sizes.”
Farha immediately gained clients through her contacts at Boomerang Tracking, people who knew her abilities. Her list continued to grow so quickly that she opened a second office in Toronto in 2006. “Montréal is a great place, but having an office in both cities gave us a national footprint without having to be located throughout the country, and it allowed us to service the needs of both English- and French-speaking clients,” Farha says, adding that in 2008 she also opened a satellite office in New York.
FACTS & FIGURES
Zenergy’s ranking on the 2013 PROFIT 500
Annual revenue growth from 2007 to 2012
Employee growth since 2007
$2 million–$5 million
Range of Zenergy’s annual revenue
Exports as a percentage of sales
The geographic reach recently led Zenergy Communications to join an international consortium of companies with offices in 20 different countries. “Through the Public Relations World Alliance, we will have access to a suite of firms around the world, so if we have a need in London or Paris, we can accommodate it,” Farha says.
As an example of how the broad footprint benefits the firm, Farha points to an account she acquired her second year in business. “I was asked to meet with a company from Europe to see how I could help them with media relations in French Canada,” she says. “We had great success, and as time went on, they kept adding more and more service offerings, so now we’re the company’s integrated marketing-communications firm in Canada and the United States, providing creative services across the board—everything from media relations to social media. And with our help, in Canada, the company quadrupled its business in the first four years.”
Such accomplishments have led to outstanding recognition. The firm was ranked 124th on the 2012 PROFIT 200 list, with 371 percent revenue growth from 2006 to 2011. Then it was ranked 166th on the 2013 PROFIT 500 list, with 388 percent annual revenue growth. Also, in 2013, Farha herself was nominated for an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award and as one of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women.
The same drive that propelled Zenergy Communications to its stunning growth exists in Farha’s personal life, as evidenced by her work on the board of the Farha Foundation, Québec’s largest AIDS fund-raiser. It was founded by her brother a year before he died of AIDS in 1993. “To date, we’ve raised more than $9 million for people who live with AIDS in Québec,” Farha says, “and we’ll continue to raise money until there’s a cure.”