Read the Conversation

EF: What was your given mission when appointed General Manager of Thermo Fisher? 

FC: My mission was to achieve a more consolidated approach for Latin America and for the last couple of years we have been transitioning from a vertically oriented company to a different model. We wanted a more focused model to leverage our portfolio and with many divisions in our company the challenge was to offer the best set of products, solutions and systems to our customers while integrating all the divisions. We also aim to strategically consolidate talent development in management to attract the best talent in the region as well as working on the infrastructure of the region. We have invested a lot in infrastructure in Latin American emerging markets, in Peru for example, to cover the customer’s needs in that country as well as others. It is a very large area to cover and service, many different markets with commitments and different stakeholders. 

EF: What is the relevance and strategic importance of Latin America for Thermo Fisher global? 

FC: Latin America is becoming more and more important for Thermo Fisher Global; it still needs development but looking at the A-pack and emerging markets, we are right up there behind China, Korea and Japan so our relevance and strategic importance is substantial. 

EF: What is your strategy for consolidating talent development in Latin America as there appears to be a leak of brains in the region in favor of US or Europe? 

FC: That is true but in our case we keep refining the model -an ever evolving procedure- and nowadays this is more important than ever before due to all the existing environment changes to which we have had to adapt. We have a strong preference to developing leaders within the region in cross functional assignments but we also have a good component of people developed outside the region with specific skills and capabilities that can be brought into Latin America. The company has corporate team programs which we develop locally as well as employees participating in the global training, so we build a strong talent pool in the company and bring in people from the outside when necessary with their specific capabilities, skills and insights always looking for the best in the market, building a very diverse group. Diversity is one of our main strengths and for Latin America we do this across the board as there is a culture of diversity and we apply this in the company. So even if the US and European markets are very attractive for talent nowadays -although with the current situation this is debatable- the talent does also need to work somewhere else, we bet on our people and put them out there which sometimes is a challenge as we can fail but learning from our mistakes is also part of the plan. We also believe in moving people around the region for their professional and personal development. Regional rotation is a generally enriching technique for both the person involved and the company.

EF: What drives your portfolio in Latin America and what are your expectations? 

FC: From a market perspective we have a couple of focal points and from an academic and research point of view we are typically and traditionally very strong, we are referred to as the leading service provider for science and this has been our mission and vision. There is a lot of public funding in most of our markets which has been a challenge made worse by the pandemic, we also play a big role in the private side where we are highly diversified and we service a lot of industries, the food industry for example has needed a lot of solutions with the pandemic and we play a big role offering positive solutions which have been successful. For mining, forensics or automobile industries it has not been the same case as there has been a hiatus and certain industries are waiting for 2020 to end before taking decisions but they are struggling with the present situation. On the other hand, the market segment pertaining to healthcare & clinical is growing tremendously mainly because our sector is part of the solution of the pandemic with testing and diagnostics, in our case with equipment and treatment we provide and the clinical side thrives due to our focus in the pharma industry. There is also a market for life science/Biotech which is the cornerstone of our strategy because we are an innovation company and we are working on developing a vaccine, the cure and the discovery of a lot of new viruses, bacteria and diseases so our role in this area is also considerable. We don’t compete with J&J, AstraZeneca or other big companies as we provide services to pharma. We work very closely with labs supplying equipment as well as in the hospital arena where we supply treatment for specific diseases. Today healthcare/clinical is very strong and is helping us survive all the costs in a sustained way. 

EF: How do you balance the strategic and tactical approach in your decision making, considering you must have had to make adjustments this year? 

FC: Of course we have had to adjust; we are working with the different countries to establish an available testing program sustainable over time. Most country governments already understand the importance of the testing programs for education and for the industry so that there are protocols to return to the workplace and to manage the new normal which will exist from now on. We are working with different platforms, people, scientists, healthcare professionals, technology developers to better understand how to apply the new way of doing things for the general public, this all being part of our new strategy. Secondly, we are looking to the future trying to get a glimpse of how things will be done until we have a COVID vaccine, and we are having a lot of dialogue on subjects such as vaccines, testing markets etc. We participate in the Oxford developments with other companies on the clinical trials, as it is one of our areas of expertise. We are doing this in Brazil at the moment as well as participating with Jansen of J&J, AstraZeneca and Pfizer contributing towards the vaccine and therapy development with diagnostics as a very good complement to our already great offering and portfolio. We will keep on finding new viruses, a take-away of this pandemic is working on all these versions of flues as it has shifted and mutated since its onset at the end of last year and has shown up our vulnerability to it. We are very proud to be contributing in this area to make the world safer for our customers. 

EF: What are the lessons learnt –so far- from this totally atypical situation, can you develop a framework, a plan based on lessons learnt? How do you lead and manage a company in this specific situation? 

FC: There is a lot of theory written on the subject but when a pandemic happens, reality shows there is no perfect plan. As a leader, I think my biggest takeaway critical for my work has been that knowledge. We leaders should have a plan B and a plan C and be ready to explore any one of those. Secondly, I think we can all agree that it has caused and confirmed digital transformation and the acceptance of it, even against some wills, from now on with the importance of data of science our future will be different in many areas. Instruments generate a lot of data and the challenge is to translate that into solving health issues. Data digital transformation is here to stay and most certainly has changed our mindset. Thirdly the new generations are different to the extent where a 12 year old can be connected all day long to digital devices, to social networks, expos, zoom, online classes, etc., while others of my generation still struggle to adapt, some of our employees have never done home office before. Certain technological skills are necessary to work remotely and effectively something we have learnt very recently and the hard way. Remote leadership and operation can be much harder and we have had to teach people to work this new way and in my opinion this new way is here to stay. Whether it will change 100% or less so remains to be seen but this new way allows us to connect worldwide, I personally am more in contact now with my team than before the pandemic. We have better connections because we are not busy all the time or travelling. Travel will become less important, we will spend less time and money travelling or at least be much more selective on where and how we travel and this will give us additional time and specific skills into the future. This pandemic has proven that humanity is highly vulnerable to the environment, it has shown we are not being sustainable and that we need to take care of the planet -something we are not doing. The new generation is more into this, like my 16 year old son who has a totally different mindset on what is important. Micromanaging these days can be highly debatable because the results aren’t there, and there are fewer mechanisms in place, so we have to give our employees work with a clear set of priorities so they know what they have to do when working remotely and alone. It boils down to having a clear set of priorities! 

EF: Our feature is on Health Transformers 2020, what sort of impact would you like to have 10 years down the road? 

FC: I would like to have an impact on the customers, our approach in the future will be different and forever changed from what it is now, communication will be mostly done digitally, via conferences and information online, sales teams work on a face to face basis to be effective and this will have to change. We will have to work out and understand the new set of priorities and needs of the customers and this can only mean change. I think there will be a more consultative approach and our interaction will be modified, value added products and services will be a critical piece of the equation, time and speed fundamental elements and all our companies are putting their feet on the accelerator on digital transformation and how they connect with each other. The future of companies in general will I think be about agility and skills. Companies like us must keep on looking for systems and ways of attracting business and understanding the needs of the customer. Personally I think customer centricity will be the number one topic and whoever figures that one out first will have a huge competitive advantage over the rest. I think we will keep on raising the bar on customer service, it has been exponentially raised already over these last months, mainly possible because people have more time especially if they live in Mexico City where commuting time can easily be 2 or more hours per day. The concept of wellness is something that will become a talent attraction for corporations if it was not already. Google employees do a lot wellness innovative stuff which we as a science company don’t and maybe we will be including it in the near future. I think the challenging status quo will remain a challenge as it has always been for companies like us. The future will be about customers and experience, about interaction and solutions. Travelling to congresses and different locations uses up a lot of money and this money could be used in new product development. There are industries that were leaders a year ago and will cease to exist in the next 5 years and equally newly created business and newly created products and solutions that nobody has thought of until now will crop up -it has already started happening- last year Amazon was the top company in sales retail experience (400 billion dollars). Communication is of critical importance, I now have digital coffees, happy hours with Brazil, tequila night in Mexico and so forth, this is the future and I personally am looking forward to the changes.

July 2020