Life Science Leaders: From Strategy to Execution

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FountainBlue’s June 15 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Life Science Leaders: From Strategy to Execution and featured:
• Facilitator Dick Haiduck, Partner to the CEO, Haiduck Consulting
• Panelist Rich Ferrari, Partner, De Novo Ventures
• Panelist Stevan Jovanovich, PhD., CEO, Microchip Biotech
• Panelist Yvonne Linney, VP, Strategy, Marketing and Business Development, Life Sciences Solutions Unit, Agilent
• Panelist Glen Sato, Partner, Cooley Godward Kronish, LLP
• Panelist Charles Versaggi, CEO, OsteoCorp

Below are notes from the conversation.
The panel agreed that an organization’s strategy must focus on the needs of the customer and be more market driven than technology driven. In other words, from its inception, and throughout a company’s life span, the focus should be on understanding and delivering the clinical value of the solution on the specific target market that they are serving, thereby focusing on delivering the company’s unfair advantage. This necessitates an alignment between the goals of the management team, the organization, and all its staff and partners to plan for, communicate and execute on delivering that value, and remaining fluid on HOW the organization will continue to serve its customers. Therefore, there must be utter clarity on who the target customers are, what value is provided through which project, and how the experienced team will execute to milestones based on this clarity of vision, communicated well.

The current economic conditions amplify the importance of both thinking and acting strategically. With resources so tight, it is even more important to ensure that the strategy is customer focused, targeting a specific unmet need and that execution is measurable and milestone driven, with the necessary adjustments in both strategy and execution along the way. There is an overwhelming emphasis on doing more with less, stretching precious dollars to meet milestones, and focusing on providing the core value to customers, making every decision, every action, count.

During these challenging times, when considering a company’s strategy, think about which elements of strategy you’re considering – from business to financial to clinical to positioning – as well as the timing for the strategy and how it is integrated with other strategies. Successful entrepreneurs ensure an alignment between overall company goals and implementing strategies to achieve those goals, even if it means changing the overall corporate objectives along the way. The most experienced entrepreneurs see strategy as a process, not a destination, and are adept at proactively managing the direction of the company, erring on the side of action/decisiveness, and hiring a management team with a similar mindset.

Based on questions from the audience on how to best focus on select projects when resources on tight, the panel recommended that entrepreneurs periodically evaluate individual projects to ensure that they are delivering anticipated value, both in terms of meeting the needs of customers and in financial returns, using the anticipated amount of financial and staff resources. The panel even went so far as to encourage a culture where everyone is rewarded both for originating projects, AND for disproving projects, so that resources may be allocated to other more promising projects. Making these types of business decisions objectively based on fact, rather than on popularity, emotions and opinions, will help organizations develop a more resilient, practical strategy that meets the needs of its customers.

In conclusion, the panel noted that start-ups are prized for their innovation and their nimbleness, and in these economic conditions, the stakes are higher, and so are the opportunities for those proven entrepreneurs who can survive the storm, executing on milestones for a vibrant, flexible strategy that serves customers well and brings rich financial returns.

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