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The C-Suite Takes Front Seat in Lively Panel Discussion at ASAP BioPharma Conference (Part 3)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, November 1, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

This is a continuation from the panel discussion “Speak My Language: How to Have a High Impact Conversation with the C-suite,” which took place at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. See Part 1 of this blog post for background information on the panel, which included:

  • James C. Mullen, chairman of the board of directors at Editas Medicine, Inc., who has grown many organizations dependent on partnerships
  •   Samantha Singer, chief operating officer at the Broad Institute, whose organization partners with multiple industries to achieve the Institute’s mission to impact human health throughout the world
  • Alex Waldron, chief commercial officer at Pear Therapeutics, who is highly skilled at bringing in business development and alliance management expertise to grow a company through partnerships

Christine Carberry, CSAP, chief operating officer at Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, moderated the session. At this point in the discussion, Carberry had just prompted panel members to answer the following: “Let’s dig into where things tend to go awry. How do alliance professionals demonstrate their value to the organization? The second half of my question is, what are some of the pitfalls? Where do alliances get in trouble, and how can an alliance manager avoid those pitfalls?” After listening to the responses (see Part 2 of this blog for panelists’ answers), she added her thoughts.

Carberry: Build C-suite-to-C-suite [connections] early on in the relationship. I use to joke that it’s important to have relationships between companies that play golf so the CEOs can get together. You need to be comfortable getting on the phone with them and having a conversation that can go like this: “This is what we’ve done, tried, and this is why it didn’t work.” This is helpful to an executive. We need to implement what will remove barriers and allow us to go forward. The value proposition may have just changed for the companies: That beautiful future might not get created, because we all know divorce is part of the deal. One of the things you will discover as an alliance manager is  you will get people in the organization grumbling about the partner.

Mullen: How many of you inherited a contact, and you were not at the table? [At this point, nearly everyone raised his or her hand while laughter rippled through the room.] Look for the wishy-washy language. Those are the issues that never got resolved during the contract negotiations.

Singer: No matter how good your business development is, the reality is [your perception of the contract] will not match three months later.

Mullen: If you are talking about “stage gate,” make sure it means the same thing between the partners. It may seem really obvious, but it’s not. Make exactly sure of what they are saying.

Carberry: Have clear definitions. For example, “First Patient In.” You may think things are commonly understood, but lawyers say it’s important to make sure definitions are as clear as they possibly can be.

Carberry then fielded an audience question from Jeremy Ahouse, CSAP, vice president alliances, Merus. “A lot of alliance people complain that when they have to bring bad news, the C-suite thinks they only bring problems. How can you do that so that the messenger doesn’t feel like they will get shot?”

Mullen: You need a fairly straight scorecard for the goals of the partnership, and you need a record against that. That way,  it becomes evident that you are making progress. The fact is, [otherwise], you are just raising problems. Check off the problems, and let them know that they talked to you about it, that work was done, and here’s how it got resolved. Keep a high-level scorecard.

Waldron: I agree on the scorecard. And talk about successes, don’t only talk about problems.

Carberry: Everyone is conditioned to success. So if you are doing your job well, you are having those conversations about problems with us.

Waldron: If your company doesn’t have some kind of periodic review, push for that—even if it’s a 15-minute review. Push for that so you can get in front of them. We had a lot of customers, and both the customers and our company didn’t do everything perfectly. But when I had that review of information first, then when they called me up and let me know, 90 percent of the problem was already solved. I knew about it, cared about it, and it got solved.

See parts one and two of this blog and ASAP Media’s ongoing coverage from the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org. You will find interviews with conference presenters and other coverage of leadership and strategy, biopharma-tech partnerships, and other trending conference topics in recent and forthcoming editions of Strategic Alliance Magazine and eSAM Plus

Tags:  Alex Waldron  alliance managers  Broad Institute  Christine Carberry  collaborations  c-suite  Editas Medicine  James C. Mullen  Keryx Biopharmaceuticals  partnerships  Pear Therapeutics  Samantha Singer  scorecard 

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