Read the Conversation

EF: What are the lessons learned from the pandemic and from this last atypical year?

JDR: I am a person who likes working in close contact with customers and stakeholders, with access managers, the field force, and everybody within the organization. I was worried about losing that closeness going virtual, but surprisingly today we are probably even closer. Transitioning to virtuality has been better than expected and although face-to-face interaction is important, I believe we will return to physical interaction in a different way. The pandemic has taught us that we can be more innovative, more proactive, and work closely. In terms of the business, the pandemic has been a great tool for us to take an attacking position as opposed to retreating or being passive. This proactive strategy has increased our presence by leaps and bounds in Colombia; we restructured our organization very successfully in face of the pandemic, the fastest company in Colombia to do so. Two months into the pandemic we reacted very differently to other companies in the country and focused on a more ‘hands-on approach. We hired new people into our workforce, mostly in access and in the field force. In my opinion, this is the way to be market leaders. The restructuring has allowed us to continue growing and we are still the fastest-growing company with employees committed to the company, happy, and aware of the benefits of what we are doing. 

EF: How did you balance the tactic and strategic decisions for the best management over the year? 

JDR: It isn’t rocket science; it's basically understanding how to read the market and capture opportunities. For me, it was key to listen to the insights of our access managers and field force and then put all the pieces together as the answers were there to be interpreted and that is exactly what we did. Close communication with the executive committee must also exist to successfully put the pieces together. The Colombian market is divided into two big areas: subsidized health and contributory health, and the key is to find the right balance of participation in both.

EF: What is BI´s footprint in Colombia and portfolio performance?

JDR: The most important aspect of the company's performance in the country is the contribution we have done to Colombian patients. I believe in taking action as opposed to getting paralyzed, and that is the footprint I have created. Developing new ideas and being committed to helping the Colombian population is a footprint in itself and through our actions, we are creating a snowball of innovation and confidence in the company and in the market. A lot can be done with confidence and passion especially if allowed the freedom to implement new ideas. People at the company are very committed and aware of the freedom they have, for example, last year at the beginning of the pandemic we created an internal contest for the process running, to innovate and find new ways of doing things as a lot was changing around us, we called it an innovation contest and had a lot of people getting involved and proposing innovation processes. We received 23 different innovation projects and we implemented 12, we are doing the final test phases as we speak. 33% of the organization became involved in the different innovation projects, a totally unexpected percentage in my opinion.  

EF: What is your personal definition of access? 

JDR: Access is the heart and the engine of the organization. Since 5 years ago, access has probably become the most strategic element for the organization, a natural consequence as governments are now are looking for ways to make the most of their resources while ensuring physicians have access to the latest technologies, and in this way creating sustainable health care systems through access. There is no government in the world able to maintain the cost of treating diseases such as Covid-19 and keep the health system running at the same level as before, it is just not possible. Access is the key to keep both systems running at the same time and the pharma industry needs to be agile and flexible. Part of my mission in Colombia was to replicate strategies I previously deployed in Mexico that were centred on our patients. We work to bring solutions for their diseases into the hands of the patients with the public health system acting as a vehicle that makes our products available to the people who need them. We even changed the name of the department to Patient Access and Value Creation because the patient is the centre of everything we do.

EF: What is your insight into the digital impact on medical consultations and the healthcare industry in general?

JDR: I think we have already reached an important level of digital interaction, to the extent physicians are suggesting returning to face-to-face consultations and interactions. As human beings we all need contact and to meet on a face to face basis, physicians need to talk to their patients and they are asking the pharma industry to return to face to face meetings to do business as they are vaccinated and the health risk reason no longer exists -the pharma industry has increased virtual contact exponentially due to lockdowns. I think eventually we will find a balance and although there is no doubt that digital will continue to be an important part of our interactions maybe we will have a hybrid model with 50% of our interactions being digital and the rest face to face. 

EF: With the shift in focus to communicable diseases, what would be your advice on managing a chronic disease portfolio in a communicable disease scenario?

JDR: We have been in contact with the regional health authorities and they are dealing with patients who are asking for their diabetes or hypertension or other diseases medication and we are advising them on how to maintain the service with those patients. If those patients are not supported, once the pandemic is over the authorities will have an even bigger problem on their hands. Here again, access is the keyword. 

 EF: What is it like hiring new people digitally and remotely? How do you build culture and how do you manage to attract young talent to your company and the pharma sector? 

JDR: We have an employee-centric approach which means our employees are at the centre of all our strategies, we are constantly implementing things around and for our employees to keep them engaged with the company. For instance, we have an executive committee that has virtual breakfasts at least once a month with a group of 6 to 10 people, to connect, talk and more importantly listen and get insights and based on those insights we have implemented new strategies such as paternity leave -even during the pandemic- and adoption strategies, we have improved benefits for all employees keeping them up during the pandemic. As a result of all these strategies last month we received the good news of being named a top employer in the country and last November we were named as the best youth employers company in Colombia. We rose from number 7 in 2019 to number 1 in 2020 mainly due to the initiatives we have around our people not to mention a lot of social responsibility strategies as well. We are socially very active and the younger generations look to that when searching for a job, they want companies that care for society and not only about making a profit.

EF: Looking back 5 years down the road what would you like your 2020/2021 tenure to be remembered for? 

JDR: I would like my tenure to be seen as one where I am changing paradigms. I also believe that innovation can be achieved with each person in the company becoming an agent for innovation. Each employee has the capacity if given the space to develop new ideas. I would also like this year to be remembered for people realizing the potential they already had.

March 2021