First came news last month
that Wexler & Walker
president Tim Hannegan
and senior vice president Daniella Landau
were leaving the firm to hang their own shingle. Then today, the Alley broke the news today that Tom Blank
has bolted the firm for the Gephardt Government Affairs.
There's an old saying in journalism that three is a trend so the Alley called the Wexler COO Jack Howard to ask about the exodus.
"They all just arrived at the conclusion on their own separate merits. Tim and Daniella decided they wanted to set up their own firm and take an entrepreneurial chance. And Tom decided that his skill set is more suited to the Gephardt Group. It's a good group of people over there," Howard said.
Blank, who is a former TSA official, joined the firm in 2005 with a focus on bringing in homeland security business. And indeed, between 2006 and 2009 homeland security was one of the firm's top five issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But since 2010, the amount of homeland security business has slipped rather dramatically.
"Looking at future growth areas, we decided that we're going to move away from homeland security issues and look toward other areas of potential future growth," Howard said.
Another possible factor fueling the spate of departures is Wexler's bonus system. Unlike some other firms that hand out annual bonuses at the end of the year, Wexler's go out in March. So it stands to reason that folks eyeing the door would likely wait until they had their cash in hand before walking through it. And, as the firm just came off two of its two best revenue years in its three decade history, it was probably worth the wait.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity to refresh the brand and bring in some new ideas, new energy and aggressively go after new business," Howard said.
Losing key staff is never good for a firm, but it happens. It's not until shops start losing money and clients that the alarm bells should start going off.