Ask The Board September 2011
Q: How can a technical person move to sales or business development without previous experience?
In addition to technical knowledge, sales and business development people must also enjoy interacting with others and finding ways to help others meet their needs and objectives. If you have an orientation toward people, you can gain experience outside of work. Examples are Toastmasters for presentation skills, community theater for stage presence, local colleges, community adult education, and personal small business for selling and business management skills, etc. This training will give you experiences you can parlay when opportunities arise.
I speak from personal experience. While focusing on biology and microbiology through grad school, I also played guitar and sang “on the side” in a rock band and as a solo performer. After grad school, I got my first sales job by highlighting, along with my technical knowledge, my “selling” of my musical and performing talents. It was my ability to sell myself and interact with others, along with my technical knowledge, that got me the job.
Martin is senior VP, global scientific affairs for Pall Life Sciences and chairman of the Bio-Process Systems Alliance (BPSA) single-use biomanufacturing trade association. He has over 32 years experience in the biotech and pharma industries.
Q: Why in our industry is our productivity low, and what can be done to improve it?
We all have a different definition of productivity. That being said, most of us did not get into this industry based on the metric of how many drugs we had in the pipeline. It was all about human health and finding new medicines to help patients. In some cases, I think we lost our focus. Productivity should be about the compounds coming out of discovery, asking the right questions early, and spending enough time in Phase 2 to improve our chances of success. We seem to move into Phase 3, I believe, prematurely. In addition, we seem to forget that the people working for us are our biggest asset. We must engage them early by defining our vision, short- and long-term strategies, and provide them the necessary tools and training to get there. I often wonder if we have lost what we used to call the “spirit of biotech.” Organizations need to decrease their corporate bureaucracy, streamline their processes to make quick decisions, and focus on meeting the critical company milestones.
Mitchell Katz, Ph.D.
Dr. Katz has 26 years’ experience in the pharma and biotech industries, including preclinical research, pharmaceutical operations, and regulatory affairs. In his position at Purdue Pharma, L.P., he is the executive director of medical research operations responsible for leading activities across all clinical programs.
Q: What can a scientist/entrepreneurial leader do to ensure success of their organization?
A key component of success is executive development, particularly when leaders use qualified executive coaching to help them navigate the ever-changing environment. I recommend scientist entrepreneurs surround themselves with experts to help guide them in subject areas in which they themselves have limited experience. One way they can do this is through the use of an executive coach who has experience working with other leaders within the industry. Success for biotechnology organizations requires leadership development, aligning executive coaching with business strategy/management. There are many different types of coaching that the successful leader may require, such as direct coaching from a trained expert, or they may require help with understanding a specific area such as finance. Mainly, scientist entrepreneurs should always make a conscious decision and effort to be successful leaders and to continuously become better at their jobs.
Lynn Johnson Langer
Lynn Johnson Langer, Ph.D., MBA, is president emeritus of Women In Bio and the director of enterprise and regulatory affairs programs in the Center for Biotechnology Education at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches graduate courses in biotechnology leadership and management.
If we select your question for publication, we will provide you with a complimentary copy of a business book, such as Susan T. Spencer’s Briefcase Essentials. Before the age of 40, Spencer was a mother, a teacher, a former business owner, a lawyer, and the general manager of an NFL team. Her companies ranged from a low of $20 million to a high of $50 million.