A few years ago, BASF ran a television commercial in the United States which explained what the company did, i.e., “At BASF, we don’t make product X, we make product X better.” That theme kept running through my head as I met with executives from companies attending the show. Conferences like Informex will probably play an even bigger role in the future given the challenges facing the pharmaceutical and biopharma industries (e.g. track and trace, serialization, verification, validation, and how the FDA is holding pharma and bio execs ultimately responsible for knowing each and every one of their suppliers throughout the entire supply chain). Why? Because strategic partnerships are built on trust, and building trust takes time — as well as face-to-face meetings.
Seek To Understand
At the show our team focused on seeking to understand the needs and challenges of the executives we encountered. For instance, we spoke with Austin CEO Samuel Ponticelli about the specific challenges his company is facing right now. We conducted a Q&A with David Lathbury, Ph.D., VP of chemical development at AMRI. What was only supposed to be a 15-minute discussion lasted nearly an hour as David shared his experiences from both the manufacturing side as well as his experience having worked for big pharma powerhouse AstraZeneca. Folks from Aesica explained that they are looking to double in size by 2014. How? By building upon existing relationships. From Ash Stevens to Cambridge Major Laboratories the message was quite clear — strategic partnering is not a passing fad.
Strategic Partnering For The Long Haul
It is apparent that companies are no longer interested in cutting deals just to gain the business. Companies are seeking to strategically partner with companies that not only have synergies, but that are a good fit. For example, Kristine Senft, SVP with DSM explained to me how the company intends to gain market share in the United States. One of the key components, she explained, is building strong relationships by proactively bringing opportunities to their customers. Another component was customer selection. Yes, you did read that correctly. DSM is picking customers to work with that are a good fit and match up with its Quality for Life program (http://goo.gl/LqrQD).
Dr. Steffen Denzinger with Merck Millipore explained to me how customers are truly seeing vendors as solutions providers and how his company is reorganizing to meet this challenge. As we were discussing how companies are seeking to become more innovative, Steffen walked me through how Millipore promotes innovation via an “intrapreneurship” program utilizing a communication platform for bubbling up ideas across functional areas called “Innospire.” I guess you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to meet with SAFC’s president, Gilles Cottier. He explained how SAFC doesn’t want to be everything to everybody. Instead, the company is taking a selective partnering approach with customers. By having true alignment of synergies, values, and cultures, these companies believe they will be better off, not just for today, but for the future as well.