An Abundance of Riches in Uncertain Times

by Susan Nemetz, August 2020

Pandemic or not, our industry continues to speed along at an accelerated pace. Of course, the routines have changed — virtual calls instead of conference rooms, homemade coffee instead of a morning meeting at the nearest Starbucks, and much more.

But the work itself continues, unabated.

As part of our mission to support early- to mid-stage companies by helping them create strategies for growth and define commercialization plans, The NemetzGroup team meets regularly to discuss trends and innovative new practices, and support one another in problem-solving. These Zoom calls are an opportunity to share insights and develop solutions for our clients and partners. (We’ve been doing video calls over Zoom for years; yes, we were ahead of our time.)

On one of our recent calls, each of us shared observations regarding what we have seen in early- to mid-stage companies…

  • Smart, passionate, and caring people — Those who join early-stage biopharma are almost universally committed to the patients they serve and to building a culture that matters both to employees and external stakeholders. It is palpable!
  • New roles and responsibilities — Early leaders in these companies are often among the best in their field. Their previous achievements are remarkable. The challenge is that these superbly qualified individuals have never worked on THIS team, in THIS environment, and with THESE expectations. Often, resources — both financial and human — are quite different than they have seen before.
  • Communication is often fragmented — Even in the smallest companies, “baby silos” get built (and that was before everyone was working remotely!). This can be the result of unrealistic expectations regarding who should be included in what, a lack of early discipline in creating systems or processes that scale, and inadequate knowledge management tools in an environment where information is everything, and it takes so much energy to find the information.
  • Conflicting priorities — Many organizations are launching the company while simultaneously developing their first asset. Prioritization between these two essential forces can be exceedingly problematic, often leading to competing focus and efforts.
  • Doing vs. thinking — Action is seductive; strategizing and planning often falls by the wayside as a result. The unending appeal of tactical minutiae may prevent leaders from building strategic capabilities across their teams. Consequently, they never realize the “freedom to lead.”
  • Gaps in functions and resulting coordination — Many functions and, eventually, integrated planning approaches don’t yet exist. Everyone and everything is new and is being built on the fly. Throughout the organization, alignment on the basics of definitions, assumptions, and direction remains to be achieved.

In summary, capabilities are not yet built, resources are constrained, processes are confusing, and the multiple, complex plans that need to be developed to bring products to market are in flux, if not in competition with each other.

Fun? Not always. But if you are a leader in an early- to mid-stage company or are thinking of joining one, here is our collective advice:

  • Be grateful. The experience you will have is career-defining and life-fulfilling.
  • Be courageous. Speak your mind and take the initiative. There is more work to be done than people to do it. Jumping into the mix will be recognized and appreciated.
  • Act like a “mayor.” Get to know everyone, especially the new people that join. Participate in various teams and forums and, always, find ways to ensure the trash is picked up on time (literally and figuratively).
  • Build for scale. Develop systems and tools that will accommodate the road ahead — before you go speeding down it.
  • Take the extra step. Include the link, email address, phone number, data, financial update slide — whatever the topic may be — to the recipient of the communication and always date and source it. The leaders around you will be grateful, and your message will get the attention it deserves.
  • Think like a rookie. The things you are willing to learn may be more important than the knowledge you bring. Open your heart and mind to new wisdom and experience.
  • Delegate and innovate. If you are unable to lead because of all the “production” work you are doing, take time to reassess how the work gets done. Who else can do it? Many people are excellent content organizers — find them. What tools can you employ? Ask yourself, “Does this task need to be done at all?”
  • Manage your ego and don’t be an a-hole. Team members are there to support creating a new therapy/device/technology, one that can change patients’ lives. Each is motivated by different things; no person of value is driven by being dismissed or worse, through bullying behavior and threats.


Stay Tuned

Today’s e-conversation carries an additional, personal connection for me. In addition to my leadership role at The NemetzGroup, supporting early- to mid-stage companies for the past 17 years, I am also the founder of a new technology start-up company in the life sciences space.

Every day, I experience much of the same exhilaration and pain points highlighted above — I am doing my best to take my own advice. One lesson continues to ring true: When you surround yourself with amazing people who are open to innovating and have the right attitude, great things can happen!

More details coming soon on this new venture.


Posted in All Categories, Organizational Development and Culture, Strategy and Planning