I recently returned from a couple of beautiful days on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, the site of this year’s Convergence Forum – The Life Sciences Leaders Forum – where I was a speaker on the panel “Exit Scenarios: Considering the Options” for my first YouTube appearance). The forum provided a great chance to catch up with life sciences CEOs, investors and other thought leaders while enjoying fresh lobsters at The Black Dog Tavern (for those of you unfamiliar with the Vineyard, The Black Dog Store is where President Clinton purchased a T-shirt for his favorite intern). There was plenty of talk about the future of big pharma and what the industry is going to look like in the next few years when several more blockbuster drugs come off patent (can you say fewer and fewer). In addition, there was the usual talk about valuations and the like. However, what was most surprising (to a financial toad such as myself) was the continued mentioning of the importance of culture for the success of a business.
Don’t get me wrong, I like culture but I have always viewed it as one of those softer areas which is nice but not critical. Maybe it wasn’t as prevalent as I thought but just seemed so since it was unexpected. The interesting thing that I heard repeatedly is much of the success from companies came not just from the big idea but from the ability of leaders to instill and maintain a culture that not only enabled but encouraged their highly skilled teams to go above and beyond. Successful leaders also recognized (and subsequently dealt with) threats to their culture from partnerships, new hires and board members. Serial entrepreneurs were able to highlight a number of their successes and failures that were due to culture. This conversation raised the interesting dilemma faced by convergence companies (companies who have combination products that straddle the worlds of pharma and med device where there exist major cultural differences).
My head was spinning from all of this talk about culture (or possibly the drinks) and I longed for a return to my world of multiples, M&A, private placements and IPOs. One of the purposes of events such as these is to give you new perspectives on things – this year’s Convergence Forum certainly did that. If you can wrangle an invite, the conference is a good take.
Ben Dunn is a Managing Director at Covington Associates. He can be reached at 617-314-3950 or [email protected].
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