This fall, ASAP joined forces with Thought Leader Global to deliver its first ASAP European Alliance Summit, held Nov. 13 and 14 at Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson. ASAP President & CEO Michael Leonetti, who welcomed more than 60 executives in attendance, said the success of the event vindicates ASAP’s approach. Partnering with an organization that had “boots on the ground” in Europe significantly accelerated the development timeline—and ensured ASAP and Thought Leader Global delivered a compelling program.
This week, ASAP Media caught up with Leonetti to what made the ASAP European Alliance Summit so successful—and to find out if the next one is in the works.
ASAP Media: Expansion of the ASAP presence in Europe has been discussed for years. Why was it so important to have an event in Europe this year? What does this mean for ASAP’s international footprint?
Mike Leonetti: We have to do things that prove our international commitment—and it’s been several years since the 2011 BioPharma Conference (held in the US and in Europe), which was our last major event in Europe. It’s ASAP’s strategy and desire to cultivate a strong European community of partnering and alliance management executives—and to develop Europe as part of our global vision. Simply put, I’m focused on making ASAP a true global player. We recognize the importance of doing much more outside of North America, to support our burgeoning international membership and chapters. Europe was perfect place to start.
To develop the international community, you need to bring partnering executives together as we do so successfully each year with the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. That’s a US-centric event—and now we have a repeatable event in Europe. I’m far from satisfied with our European presence. But I’m very pleased that we’re making significant progress and working with chapters and members in Europe to build on this foundation.
It certainly seems appropriate for an alliance management association to partner—but why did ASAP choose to partner for this event? How did this approach pay off?
We partnered with Thought Leader Global to demonstrate that a partnership capability can allow you to enter a market much more quickly and efficiently. When we made the commitment to do a European event, I only had eight months to plan and execute it—so this partnership was needed. I also think it was important for ASAP to take a bit of our own medicine. We faced the classic buy-build-ally choice and it made sense to ally. Thought Leader Global was an excellent partner—they provided excellent feet on the ground in Europe. It was a great opportunity for Thought Leader Global to connect with our community, and vice versa, and together we drew about 60 people there. So partnering gave us access to resources we don’t have, helped us build a new market faster—and there’s value inherent in the partnership.
The event featured two days of great small group discussion and main stage presentations from notable ASAP members such as Alistair Pim of Schneider Electric, Nick Dunscomb from AstraZeneca, and Michael Andersen of Grundfos, to name a few. In addition, new companies not from AstraZeneca currently ASAP members were attracted to and attended this event including Hitachi Data Systems and GE Oil and Gas, and others.
How would you characterize the event—and what were the hot topics for discussion?
Because the room was relatively small, typically not more than 35-40 people, it gave participants the ability to ask a lot of questions and was very interactive in most cases. Topics were interesting and diverse, encompassing all levels of strategic partnerships, including alliances, joint ventures, and post-merger integration.
Is there a renewed emphasis within ASAP on joint ventures and integration of mergers and acquisitions?
ASAP has de-focused on JVs and some have said that they really are not strategic partnerships. In fact, JVs are as strategic as you can get, but governed legally as well as with partnership governance structures and processes. For me, it was refreshing to look at those as very, very sophisticated partnerships.
And there’s no group more qualified than the alliance group in post-merger integration. I think some smart companies like Lilly and AstraZeneca are realizing they should use the experts who are good at bringing people together. Why wouldn’t we use what we’ve learned in the alliance world in post-merger integration? There’s been an explosion in M&As—but the M&A is the easy part. Post-integration failure rates are high because it really requires a lot of expertise to integrate operations and cultures. You need a sound integration strategy—or otherwise you have one side decimating the other side, getting rid of everyone. For me, it wasn’t ‘same-old, same-old’ –it was refreshing to have a post-merger integration topic, and we’ve asked Nick [Dunscombe] to do a session on it again at the 2015 ASAP Global Alliance Summit [March 2-5 in Orlando USA].
What’s the future hold—how will ASAP build on this success?
ASAP and Thought Leader Global have agreed in principle to partner to deliver the ASAP European Summit again in 2015, likely in October, so a bit earlier next year. The agreement hasn’t been signed—but that’s our plan. ASAP will continue to focus on European development as we revitalize our existing European chapters in BeNeLux, France, and the UK, and as we work with Michael Andersen to explore new chapters in the Nordic region. And of course, we expect that our partnership with Thought Leader Global once again will accelerate our development of new, compelling programming for our 2015 European Summit.