Before I came into technology sales 5 years ago I worked for some big pharma companies in sales. My move into I.T. was facilitated by knowledge of the NHS and so my first role was working with Public Sector customers. Fair to say I have been around healthcare for quite a while. So then fast forward to present day and I find myself working with the big pharma companies again. Two of my Vodafone clients are pharmaceutical companies, and while a lot has changed in the last 5 years, one thing definitely hasn’t: people focus.
I fought many a battle as a pharmaceutical rep when people would question the moral compass of pharmaceutical production. Both in terms of ethics and the amount of turnover. Having been through the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) qualification and the company’s own code of conduct and ethics training I was able to rebuff the arguments. I knew that we were operating to the letter of the code and I also knew how much it cost to bring a medication to market (currently £1.2bn – a rise of 70% in seven years. Deloitte).
Beyond all of that, the thing that I loved about working in pharmaceuticals was the idea that we could change and improve people’s lives. If you have never worked in pharma, what you may not understand is that people across the organisation from scientists to sales reps live, breath and sleep the patient picture.
I was very fortunate during my time in these roles to work across respiratory, cardiovascular and diabetes products. Blockbuster medications that not just changed and improved, but saved lives every day. I was very lucky to be working with one such medication at the time it was celebrating a ten year anniversary since launch. As part of this we had been asked to share with clinicians some postcards so they could ask their patients if they would like to share their stories of the difference the medication has made to them. Come the day of our annual conference we arrived at Excel London and as we walked into the huge hall, there were boards as far as the eye could see, filled with amazing patients stories.
I was not alone that day in shedding a few tears and to this day it still gives me goosebumps to tell that story. It was one of those career defining moments.
In my experience, pharmaceutical companies also look after their employees well. Other than the inevitable redundancies that all large companies make, when you are working there you are part of the family. Well-being and work-life balance are sharply in focus. I felt like I was part of something great.
So when I came to be selling to rather than for these companies, I started thinking about their purpose as well as my own. From a technology and connectivity perspective, what can I do to help these companies achieve their mission. I took it back to basics. I looked at the purpose/mission statement/visions of the top ten pharma companies globally by revenue.
I hope by this point you are not surprised to read that not a single one of them does not mention “people” or “patient”. The truth is that without the patients, pharmaceutical companies have no use at all. They are there to serve the person first, to make things better. Whether that is efficiencies in back office, tracking medications through the supply chain or innovating in the laboratory it all points to the same thing. making (or saving) money, to make medicines to make people better.
My mission statement in my role at Vodafone is clear: people first, customer-centric solutions to help companies save or make money to create better outcomes.