Article | May 16, 2017

How Zoetis Built Its Own Corporate Culture

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By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
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Juan Ramón Alaix_zOETIS

In 2012, Pfizer announced a big decision — It was spinning off its $4 billion animal health business. Life Science Leader will explore the difficult task of such an undertaking in our June 2017 issue. And while the article, How Pfizer And Zoetis Launched One Of The Most Successful Spinoffs — Ever, discusses a lot of the important business decisions that were made, one thing not covered in great detail was the opportunity for Zoetis to build a corporate culture of its own.

According to a recent study, a positive corporate culture (i.e., one that engages and motivates employees) helps a company’s bottom line. Some very well-known companies (e.g., Uber) have found out the hard way what happens when building a desirable corporate culture is not proactively managed from the very beginning of their founding. This was not a mistake Zoetis’ CEO, Juan Ramón Alaix, was interested in duplicating. As such, the company began tackling how it intended to build its corporate culture long before its February 1, 2013 IPO. Life Science Leader thought it appropriate to share how Zoetis approached this opportunity in our special online section — Beyond The Printed page. While we hope you enjoy reading some of this free bonus material, please consider becoming a subscriber, as we don’t want you to miss any of the best business practice and actionable information Life Science Leader provides on a monthly basis.

More Than Just A List Of Core Beliefs

 “As part of the IPO preparation, we wanted to define what would be the mission and vision, making sure these were not just extensions of what we had been within Pfizer.” Alaix reflects

“Our vision and mission not only reflect what we are currently doing today in our industry, but our future aspirations as a company.”

The Zoetis Vision

  • Our products, services and people will be the most valued by animal health customers around the world.

The Zoetis Mission

  • We build on a six-decade history and singular focus on animal health to bring customers quality products, services, and a commitment to their businesses.

Equally as important as the vision and mission was creating the new culture of the company. “We wanted some of the principles that were part of our previous culture at Pfizer,” he attests. “But being a rather small company in comparison to Pfizer, with a singular focus on animal health, we saw the opportunity to create a higher sense of cultural ownership and work more closely together.” Defining these was done not just by the leadership team, but involved a working group of colleagues focused on refining these principles down to what exists today.

Shortly after the February 2013 IPO, the company formed a Values Team composed of colleagues from across the business, representing different geographies and business functions (communications, HR, finance, legal, R&D, and global manufacturing and supply). This diverse team led an iterative process of identifying the values that would define a distinct culture at Zoetis. “This process touched almost 2,000 people, so it was significant,” said Alaix. “When so many people feel part of the process, the adoption of the new culture is so much easier.”

The Values Team took a “building from the ground-up approach,” and started by asking Zoetis colleagues to describe the attributes of Zoetis culture. The team installed “Values Walls” at Zoetis offices worldwide and invited colleagues to post short descriptions of what they believed were the most significant elements of the new company’s culture. A groundswell of thousands of contributions resulted.

As members of the Values Team sifted through these contributions, common themes emerged:  integrity, teamwork, entrepreneurial spirit, customer obsession, colleague accountability, and sense of ownership. The team deliberated at length on the choice of words used for each theme and then tested them with colleagues through focus groups. This second wave of comments resulted in small changes in wording that made a significant impact on meaning. For example, “Our Colleagues Make a Difference” became “Our Colleagues Make the Difference,” conveying the intended sense of passion and energy that colleagues bring to Zoetis and its customers. The focus group discussions also led Values Team members to realize that these so-called “values” were actually and more accurately “Core Beliefs” which colleagues held about the company and themselves; they were part of the promise that the company makes to its customers, investors, and partners, and to each other as members of One Zoetis team.

In the final phase of development, members of the Zoetis executive team led telephone conference calls for senior leaders. They shared their own personal views on the Core Beliefs and sought feedback from senior leaders to help refine and finalize them. The four-month-long process came to a conclusion when the Zoetis Core Beliefs gained approval by the executive team and the board of directors. Alaix introduced the Core Beliefs at a global town hall meeting in early August 2013, followed by a message sent to all colleagues and a series of leader conversations with their respective teams.  

Commenting on the Core Beliefs, Alaix said, “We wanted to make sure our people understood that it’s not just that we deliver results that would matter, but how we deliver results, with high levels of integrity and ethics. This is something that, in my opinion, has been helping us to develop the culture — a culture that is focused on animal health and our Core Beliefs, and one that is driving the results of the company.”

The Core Beliefs Of Zoetis

The Zoetis Core Beliefs are part of the promise that the company makes to its customers, investors, and partners, and to each other as members of One Zoetis team.

  • Our Colleagues Make The Difference

Our colleagues distinguish Zoetis from our competition. We grow our company when we create an environment where colleagues excel.

  • Always Do The Right Thing

Integrity is the guiding principle for all our decisions and relationships. We are honest and trustworthy in our words and actions.

  • Customer Obsessed

We are passionate about our customers and the animals in their care. Our customers come first, and when they succeed, we succeed.

  • Run It Like You Own It

We take ownership to deliver results that matter. We constantly pursue faster, simpler and better ways of doing business.

  • We Are One Zoetis

Zoetis is much more than the sum of its parts. We work together with a common purpose, sharing knowledge and resources for the best interest of our company as a whole.