“The CEO walked in. The first thing he said was, ‘Glad you’re here. We need new business cards.’”
As a commercial leader in a clinical stage biopharma company, you face multiple challenges. What choices will you make to help your product move through clinical trials? How will you structure outreach to critical audiences? How can you prepare your market for launch—and beyond? How do I accomplish all this with limited resources?
However, your first challenge may be present in the offices, halls, and conference rooms of your organization itself: how well understood is your role, and how prepared is your company to make the transition from a research-driven organization to a successful commercial enterprise?
The “Marketing People” Are Here
Clinical stage organizations typically center around a culture focused on research and development and are led by a visionary scientific leader who has remained unbowed despite the multiple challenges throughout the company’s course. Every organization has its own “way of doing things”, typically centered around scientific and regulatory milestones, that often do not necessarily include an understanding of commercial strategy and decision-making.,
As a commercial leader, you may find yourself on the outside of a culture that does not truly understand your role. You may be called “the business person” or the “marketing department,” and face misguided expectations (make my business cards) or or diminished expectations about your ability to contribute and the criticality of what you are trying to build.
But it’s important to understand that It’s not you. It’s what you represent. And what you represent is change.
The truth is, your presence represents a fundamental transformation of your company—and that can be disruptive, intimidating, and disturbing for those who have been there for years. But change can be much more than that. It can also represent an opportunity for growth, learning, and expansion of your organization’s reach and prospects for the future.
Your role is truly challenging. Education and mentorship are crucial. While in previous companies your role may have been understood, it’s likely that in your new role, you’ll need to educate your colleagues about commercialization—its challenges, its promises, and most importantly, how you can all work together for success. Coupled with the fact that your organization may not have deep resources to support your commercialization efforts, you may also need to help develop staff with less experience in a kinetic, entrepreneurial environment.
In your role, relationship building across target audiences, patients, COEs, and KOLs is critical. But playing a leading role in a clinical stage organization requires you to apply the principles personally—within your organization. As a person who strives to create order and grow professional relationships, you may find your role as internal disruptor as an unfamiliar experience. And because you represent change, you may also consider evolving your approach to match the needs of your organization.
What Challenges Can You Expect?
As a commercial leader in a clinical stage company, you may experience a number of personal and professional challenges as you establish yourself in the organization. These may include:
- Misunderstanding of your commercial role, and the role commercialization plays in your organization
- Resistance to cultural change from “science and research” to “commercial” company
- Expectations of “executional” or “tactical” production before appropriate research and strategic development
- “Silo’d” organizational structure (even at smaller organizations) that limit access to critical information and other departmental leadership insights
- Internal engrained assumptions about the market and future product benefits based on limited customer insight or real market data
- Outsized focus on product development, without investment in corporate identity and disease framing—resulting in missed opportunities
While these challenges are substantial, remember that your opportunities to achieve success—for your organization, as well as patients, physicians, and the world—are even greater. You can address and solve them. And we can help.
How We Can Work Together
We’ve supported many commercial leaders in the transition of their organizations from research-focused to launch-ready, using methodologies including:
- Cross-functional workshops, including education around the role and responsibilities of commercial leaders
- Heuristic methods to break down barriers in communication between departments and infuse a commercial mindset across the organization
- Ongoing internal communication strategies and research to help track sentiment and identify additional opportunities for communication
- Unique customer insights driving Customized strategies and solutions for your organization’s unique challenges
Contact us to learn more about our approach and how we can collaborate together.