What do you do if you want to work in the UK Pharma industry but the prospect of working for one of the global giants that dominate the market no longer appeals to you? According to Peter Hunt you start your own and, if possible, secure the help and encouragement of a Swiss parent.
Who is TRB Chemedica?
TRB Chemedica SA is a medium-sized pharmaceutical company, based in Geneva, which researches, develops, produces and markets a range of pharmaceutical products and medical devices around the world, but specialises in the application of non-animal hyaluronan for medical purposes. In 2000 the company approached Peter Hunt about setting up a subsidiary in the UK.
The Start of the Adventure
Pf spoke to Peter, now Managing Director of TRB Chemedica (UK) Ltd, about how he reacted to this commission: “I was given £80,000 by TRB Chemedica and left to my own devices. I spent all of 2001 researching TRB Chemedica’s products and their potential in the UK, working from home with just a ‘phone and a laptop. On several occasions I was told by potential customers that I would be wise to pack up and get a proper job, but this just spurred me on and I ended up selling about £20,000 worth of business. I returned to TRB Chemedica at the end of the year with my findings and a business plan, which they accepted. We now have a flourishing company with a significant toe-hold in the market, employing 6 people, growing exponentially year-on-year and all for an overall investment of less than £1m.”
The Story So Far
The company’s portfolio of products has had notable success, and TRB Chemedica (UK) Ltd has more than doubled its annual turnover each year. The main products, which are aimed at rheumatology and orthopaedics are, Ostenil® (developed specifically for the treatment of osteoarthritis) and Viscoseal® (post-arthroscopy synovial fluid replacement). Viscoseal®, in particular, has huge growth potential as it is designed to be used in any arthroscopic procedure.
The company is currently in the process of licensing the first interleukin1 inhibitor for osteoarthritis into the UK, which will require an increase of 25 – 30 more people in the field force. There are still more than twenty products in the development pipeline.
Peter emphasised the combined enthusiasm that drives the company forward: “We have great faith in our products and we all really enjoy what we do. We have an approach and an ethic to work that some will find appealing and others will be horrified by as it sounds far too risky and too much like hard work!”
Since 2002, the sales team at TRB Chemedica has grown to four Regional Business managers and they are looking to take on another two over the coming 12 months. The promotional team are supported by an Office Manager and a logistics clerk based in Newcastle-under-Lyme. As a result of the small size of the operation, each member of the team reports directly to the Managing Director and has the opportunity to be involved in, or responsible for, different areas of the business that interest them.
Alex Flanagan, Senior Business Manager picks up the story: “As well as being entirely responsible for the business on my region I also manage the acquisition of clinical data. When we started there was very little clinical evidence for the products and so I set about working with clinicians who were interested in conducting trial work. The evidence base is now quite impressive, much of it being presented around the world. More importantly it has cost us very little.”
What does Peter attribute this early success to? “Three things; Firstly, at some stage of our careers most of us have run our own business, secondly, none of us knows anything about marketing, and thirdly, we know that we are the company. We don’t carry any passengers.”
Peter made it quite clear that not everyone would feel comfortable in a company like this, and that he would be looking for some very creative, open-minded and unique individuals: “I suppose the word ‘entrepreneurial’ best sums it up. As a salesman I didn’t respond too well to having to refer back to my boss all the time. My approach now is that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. An operation like ours needs people who are longing for the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do on their own, use their initiative and who won’t be afraid to take risks or suggest ways that we can do things better. It is important to bear in mind the responsibility that goes with autonomy, however, depending on the circumstances forgiveness may not always be granted!
“I have learned that people often perform better when left to demonstrate their own skills and abilities rather than having too much imposed on them from above. We will give as much support and training as possible, but in a company as small as this it is essential that we each use our initiative and enjoy having autonomy over our regions and business areas. This role is certainly not for the fainthearted.”
Have you ever wanted to run your own business but were afraid of the vulnerability? How about having all the benefits of running your own business within the security of a company that has more than doubled its sales each year since its conception three years ago? If you are a risk-taker with a creative, open mind who would relish the opportunity to demonstrate your skills, you could be the right person to join the team at TRB Chemedica.
The company can offer all the advantages of a good product portfolio and strong pipeline, as well as an extremely competitive salary and benefits package. With the support of the Managing Director, colleagues, head office and regular meetings, each Regional Business Manager is given a generous monthly budget to run their Region virtually independently, even to the point of being able to set targets and negotiate deals with customers. Accountability and close communication, both benefits of working for a smaller company, are essential elements of the culture at TRB Chemedica. There are up to date records of all sales kept at head office, so managers can easily monitor their sales results and assess progress, and even access the intranet site to find out when a new customer has put in an order.
TRB Chemedica (UK) is seeking two Regional Business Managers, or Medical Representatives with aspirations to management, living in Central or South West England. If this article has inspired you and you feel you could contribute to the successful future of TRB Chemedica (UK), please send a CV and covering letter to Janet Lea at firstname.lastname@example.org
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