Pulse:Perspective – Roland Pfleger, Becton Dickinson
Perspectives from Leaders in Medical Technology
Becton Dickinson (www.bd.com) is a global medical technology company that is advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care. Becton Dickinson leads in patient and health care worker safety and the technologies that enable medical research and clinical laboratories. The company provides innovative solutions that help advance medical research and genomics, enhance the diagnosis of infectious disease and cancer, improve medication management, promote infection prevention, equip surgical and interventional procedures, optimize respiratory care and support the management of diabetes. The company partners with organizations around the world to address some of the most challenging global health issues. Becton Dickinson has more than 45,000 associates across 50 countries who work in close collaboration with customers and partners to help enhance outcomes, lower health care delivery costs, increase efficiencies, improve health care safety and expand access to health.
This month Coulter:Pulse chatted to Roland Pfleger, Vice President/General Manager CE, BDX Corporate/Shared Services to gather some of his insights into the Medical Technology sector:
Coulter:Pulse – Please can you tell us about the main challenges and opportunities that Becton Dickinson faces in the Med Tech arena?
Roland – The challenges that we have are really linked to the German market. The industry and our customers are struggling for survival and always aiming for higher quality. We need to provide solutions that basically fulfil their overriding objectives – to make them more efficient, but also help them achieve higher quality and realise better results. Over the past decade the German healthcare system has been starved of investment and hospitals have not benefitted from many revolutionary developments and improvements. The German government recognises this and is now trying to remedy the situation.
When it comes to industry participation I am a strong advocate of value partnerships. The industry has to do its part to ensure advances and improvements are made in healthcare. This is why we have taken the route of exploring what combined value we can generate together with our partners. And pretty quickly we have realised that to do this we need to have a high level of access in hospitals. Bureaucratic and departmental organisations like the government run German hospitals require a very strategic approach in order to navigate the budgetary issues and time frames that constrain them. This necessitates a high level of access at C-suite level in order to explore new propositions more holistically.
Coulter:Pulse – So this is the challenge and what sort of progress do you think you are making here?
Roland – We are really making good progress. We have had in-depth discussions with the bigger hospitals and this has shown us that we have to build different competencies, skill sets and capabilities. We need people ready and able to talk to the C-suite. With strong competition in the sector in Germany, we have to attract our own outstanding people and develop excellent solutions in order to make gains in this market. Some of our competitors have a very long history and long established partnerships with German hospitals. These relationships have been built on trust and extensive collaboration over the years. To make a real impact we need to compete at every level.
Coulter:Pulse – It would be interesting for us to know how important the “human element” is – i.e. attracting the right talent and leadership – in driving your business towards its goals.
Roland – The human element is absolutely essential. The success of any business is built on its people. I don’t think you can develop the concept of trust between two organisations if you don’t have trust between the people in these organisations. Trust in a business relationship with hospitals is founded on reliability, credibility, transparency, openness, accessibility – basic good business fundamentals. Only if you have quality people can you deliver both the emotional component of trust and also the skill set and the knowledge that trust is founded on.
Another critical aspect is the ability to bring different players to the same table. Even with good access to the C-suite it’s difficult to implement goals unless you also have a broader connection at various levels in the organisation. The ability to create this atmosphere of transparency, openness and trust more broadly enables you to bring people to the same table. I think that is the key to success.
Coulter:Pulse – Is such talent tough to find and the competition for it fierce?
Roland – Yes, and that’s why we are delighted to be working with Coulter Partners to help identify this sort of talent. I think the industry is moving away from a concept of simply promoting the best sales people to Key Account Managers or Strategic Account managers, without considering that the skill set required may be so totally different. In order to talk to C-suites about projects in the 2 to 5 million dollar range, you need a much longer-term perspective, a completely different management approach and the patience to pick the right moment! This is not a typical operational sales cycle but much more complex and diverse. Diverse especially in terms of the broad spectrum of knowledge you need to bring along; we suddenly need to talk about things way beyond the sorts of feature benefits we are used to, such as how does this fit into the reimbursement scheme, or how does it fit into the priorities of social healthcare?
We look for people who are profoundly grounded in these healthcare systems – who really know their way around them. People who have experience of high level negotiations. There is a lot that can be learned, but if you are not willing to spend time understanding the healthcare system fully and upgrade your capabilities to achieve this operating level you won’t be successful.
It has been a great pleasure to work closely with the team at Coulter Partners, who have really listened and taken the time to understand what we are looking for, in order to find people who fit the requirements of the business and the culture. Our Strategic Account Manager is not a standard job description and we appreciate how the team has gone the extra mile in convincing candidates of the true value of this proposition. Far from being an exotic kind of profile, we believe this is the future for Med Tech!
Coulter:Pulse – What do you think are the key trends for 2016? Is Med Tech all based around solution selling?
Roland – Providing effective solutions requires us to look very closely at our customers’ problems. So we have spent time talking to our customers at C-suite and one or 2 levels down and such surveys uncover so many different viewpoints. This is why I think it’s so important to bring together people of different levels in the organisations you work with. You need to clearly understand what their objectives are. For German hospitals it’s not necessarily just about cost savings. Yes, of course they need to reduce costs because many of them are not breaking even. But it’s really much more about how can you help them reduce lengths of stays in hospital, better manage the risk to patients when admitted and streamline processes to achieve better results and make them generally more efficient.
Our goals then are based around being ready to partner with our customers. German hospitals started professionalising their procurement a long time ago and of course cost pressures will continue to exist. But success will remain elusive if they don’t start addressing the much bigger problems, such as how to discharge patients more quickly and liberate beds, for instance. The safety and security of patients, healthcare workers and processes are paramount. And all of this has to be achieved in a cost contained fashion. In the end too, it’s all about outpacing our competitors!
Coulter:Pulse – Please can you tell us something about the highlights of your own career to this point?
Roland – After ten years in Pharmaceuticals I have since worked for nearly twenty years in Med Tech. A very broad career has spanned finance, country and regional management, general management and running business units in some 7 or 8 countries. I have been involved in acquisitions, integrations, reorganisations and turn arounds. Key has been an openness to new opportunities, flexibility, curiosity and hard work – plus a little bit of luck! I once had a ten year plan but it went out of the window after the first 6 months. I think it’s important to collect experience, skills and new competencies – always adding something to your CV and broadening your horizons. You can’t stay focused on just one specific field and make a successful career these days.
Comparing Pharma and Med Tech is like comparing a super tanker with a speed boat. Taking some of the super tanker learning to the speed boat has been good fun! My personal preference is for the speed boat but I have enjoyed bringing the rigour, thorough processes and endeavour from Pharmaceuticals to add to the entrepreneurship I have found in the Med Tech sector.