Read the Conversation
EF: What was your given mission when appointed in the initial stages of the pandemic?
FB: I took over the leadership of Medtronic Brazil in August 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. I was living in the US at the time, I still am, and have spent half my time in Brazil and half in the US waiting for the right moment to move back to Brazil, which will be in June after my kids finish the school year. My mission and challenge were to ensure success, grow our business’s footprint in Brazil, and make sure we took care of our employees and society, given everything that is going on with the pandemic. Investments and several programs were implemented and needed to be pushed forward. Medtronic contributed to diminishing the effects of the pandemic in the areas where we have solutions, such as ventilation. Medtronic is famous for its vents and has an extensive vents portfolio. I had to make sure those vents were being used in the right places in Brazil, where the pandemic was hitting hardest, and cover our customers most in need.
EF: If you had to design a future MPA (Master in Pandemic Administration), what courses would you consider key?
FB: It is about trial and error in unprecedented times. Leaders were expected to have answers to questions never posed and solve complex situations that neither we nor previous generations had ever had to face before. The pandemic pushed us all outside the box in many areas. Leading when there are such challenging situations is all about flexibility and adapting. Many of our employees had family members who were sick or passed away, they had to adjust to a new working environment and continue to be productive with kids constantly at home, dealing with lockdowns, etc. In order to have an organization that is looking for and prioritizing the right things, making the right decisions are a consequence of consideration and respect for our employees. I took care of our people because I believe this makes a genuine difference. Understanding the need for flexibility was essential, and we adapted by taking this approach from day one. I led a complex organization of 800 employees remotely, using Zoom calls and Team calls, putting the human aspect into all I did, which was the key to success. Employee centricity was my answer in driving management, decision making, and strategy in a more connected way. If I replace patient-centricity with people-centricity, I can still tackle patient issues while working with the doctors that use our technologies and the administrators of the hospitals, and tackle the needs, concerns, and anxieties of our people and their families. I feel very privileged to work in healthcare and for Medtronic because we put people at the centre and involve all stakeholders.
EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics and prevention, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will bring?
FB: 2022 will be a recovery year. The world is still going through a very complex moment, although hopefully, Covid is transitioning to an endemic mode, other difficulties have kicked in. There are concerns about the Russia-Ukraine situation and the affected global supply chains for all sectors, not just healthcare. With the supply chain unbalanced due to the pandemic and the war, 2022 will be a recovery year. We lived through small recoveries and relapses during the pandemic waves, but we will be on a sustained recovery path this year. People who can see beyond the current barriers will double down on investments, resources, and gains for a real recovery. I am an optimist by nature, but I see opportunities for growth, expansion, access, and investments over the next four or five years.
EF: How was the portfolio's performance back then, and how do you see it evolving into the future? Are you particularly excited about any new technologies?
FB: In Brazil, we have taken the recovery approach since a year ago. It will be volatile for a while until people get their confidence back, and then there will be a marked growth trajectory. Despite volatility, we have been involved in bringing in and launching the right technologies. We are not blind to what is happening around us, but we are looking at the long-term and how Medtronic can support health in Brazil through an aggressive and premature investment strategy. We are investing in completely new areas where we can help healthcare in the country and accelerate the launch of new technologies. For example, we have recently launched the world's smallest pacemaker, it’s the size of a vitamin pill. Medtronic came into existence in the mid-fifties with a pacemaker, and now we have launched the world's smallest pacemaker in Brazil in the middle of the pandemic. There is costly technology embedded in the tiny device, but we are betting on long-term recovery. Also, in the middle of a pandemic, we launched a system that automates every five minutes the management of type 1 diabetes. We will soon be launching robotic-assisted surgery; we have already done most of the registration process and have only a few more bureaucratic steps left that should be done in a few months. Medtronic is a company with one of the largest portfolios in the market, with more than two hundred thousand products. As an affiliate of Medtronic, I have all the products at our disposal, only we have to bring and correctly place the technologies in the market, launch them, and have a sustainable plan in segmentation and marketing. Medtronic invests in R&D, last fiscal year we invested 2.3 billion dollars globally. In Brazil, we created a service-oriented department, and we work on adding value to the new technologies we launch. I am not referring to the service we offer doctors to enable them to use our equipment safely and efficiently, we always do that, I mean service from the customer's perspective. Hospitals need to improve their ORs (Operating Room) efficiency as they take too long to transition patients or lose products in inventory mismanagement. We can help them improve their protocols, controls, and processes efficiency by offering solutions from a customer perspective.
EF: How did the launches go in the middle of the pandemic?
FB: The launches were very successful, better than we thought or hoped. We had included the pandemic factor into those models and we were very conservative, but I think there was a positive healthcare effect because patient awareness has grown significantly. People today generally know about vaccines and the need for quality care, which has made the public more aware of what we do. Medtronic is no longer a foreign word, people know about us. We used to only be known in the medical world, but that has changed.
EF: How do you envision the hospitals and home care of the future? Will you be taking care of your patients with a more remote system, and what resources will be needed?
FB: Walls are no longer the ultimate requirement in healthcare, it is not about the building but the patient journey. Some great hospital groups in Brazil are already thinking in this direction. We are very interested in partnering with them because we believe in a future of standard of care offered regardless of where the patient is. It is not the facility but the solutions the patient has access to, a combination of technologies, professionals providing those technologies, early diagnostics, and aftercare patient follow-up to ensure the procedure was effective. Walls are part of a much larger spectrum, the patient's journey. We should address healthcare preventively, using artificial intelligence, telemedicine, and other innovation, to do early diagnostics and post-care either from hospitals or remotely. This year, to celebrate Medtronic's 50 years in Brazil, among other initiatives, we led with the Brazilian Society of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery a task force to perform 50 bariatric minimally invasive surgeries free of charge on patients from the public health system. We worked with eight hospitals in four Brazilian States, and the venture's logistics were big. There is even the possibility that in the future, a large portion of these patients would not even need treatment as their condition would be identified early on and treated preventively.
EF: What is the strategic importance of Brazil to Medtronic?
FB: Brazil is an emerging market, and as such, it is important for Medtronic and other multinational companies.
- Brazil is in the interest of all multinationals that want to increase their footprint globally and provide access to care, particularly if they have less presence than in developed markets (US, Europe, Japan).
- Access to patients: an important portion of the population in Brazil, relatively speaking, does not have good access to healthcare, making Brazil a priority country to expand access.
- Optimal environment: excellent hospitals, professionals, and institutions and the possibility of extending access to a population of more than 200 million people. Despite being an emerging market, Brazil has state-of-the-art hospitals that are world-known, doctors that are also known for their work globally, and the academic quality of universities is excellent.
EF: What is your personal definition of access?
FB: My definition of access is making sure that the people in need of care receive the required solutions, whether a product, a service, or a combination of both.
EF: New healthcare will require new talent; how do you attract and keep the new generation working for Medtronic?
FB: Medtronic invests enormously in research and development, and in a context of more awareness of good healthcare, it appeals to more people. As a leader, I believe we all do what is in our essence; by discovering and recognizing our essence, we become essential, and by working on our essence, we become fulfilled and that attracts people to us. We were honoured this year with the Great Place to Work Certification, and it is very seldom a company gets certified the first year it participates. The company scored 88% on a 0 to 100 range where 70% must be achieved. I believe we did so well because everybody is on board, regardless of where they work, they feel part of something special. We look at targets, metrics, and goals as guard rails to ensure we stay on the road. If we are focused as an organization on driving well enough to anticipate, see the curves ahead, and the straight parts where we can accelerate, the guard rails almost become dispensable. When we work on the essence, we are more focused on driving on the road than on the guard rails that are supposed to keep us on the road. At Medtronic Brazil, we concentrate on giving our employees the driver's seat and telling them as part of the team to make sure they stay on the road, we are all responsible, and to win the race we must remain on the road as much as possible.
EF: Have there been any new KPIs you introduced during the pandemic which you believe will be important for the future?
FB: Market share is a big one, especially because it seems to vary every month. Some markets are growing, and some are decreasing, partially due to the pandemic and changing world markets. Markets also vary more often because we are all launching new technologies; if we find a cure for a disease for which we formerly used technologies, that market vanishes in a matter of a year. More important than the market size is our share in that game. To qualify for success, we must grow our share in the market.
EF: When you look back at this period in your professional career, how would you like your tenure to be remembered?
FB: The legacy I would like to leave behind is a recognition of having done something for society. I could do volunteer work, but with the engine of Medtronic under me, I can leave a more meaningful legacy for humanity. I want to be remembered for having made a difference for the company. Medtronic would benefit from the difference achieved for the society we served; Medtronic's benefit would be a consequence, not the means.
EF: What was your message to your team when you recently celebrated Brazil's 50th anniversary?
FB: My speech was split into two parts; on the one hand, the last 50 years and what we have accomplished, we took pictures of hospitals and how they have evolved over the previous 50 years and inserted that visual information. Medtronic has evolved and become a massive organization with a presence in most hospitals in Brazil, one way or another. The second part was about taking the learnings of the last 50 years to go into the future and drive the organization to be successful for the next half-century. Based on accomplishments and lessons from the previous half-century, how to continue growing and be remembered for the next 50 years.