Growing our Business Faster with One Big Idea

Turning this around starts with serving differently, transforming from product/profit to patient/purpose.

My friend Benita went on a family vacation to Portugal. Being the over-achieving rep that she is, she arranged to spend a day in the life of a rep there. She discovered many similarities and differences and one huge truth; that trust opens doors the world over.

Here’s her story. As she and the rep approached a clinic, the rep explained that they couldn’t go in. You see, the rep had reached her maximum, government-allotted number of visits for the year. Benita was surprised when the rep started walking toward the clinic. But instead of going in the front door, she walked by it and around the corner where she bumped face to face into the doc and nurse. Benita caught up in time to hear them engaged in a great discussion about specific patients and how to best manage them.

She realized that the doc and nurse trusted this rep to have the best interests of patients top of mind. The rep was driven by her purpose to serve the doc and the patient. That is why they were willing to sneak out to see her.

My question for you is this. Do doctors sneak out of clinic to meet with you – or with your reps? 

I think we'd all like to feel they would, but if we're honest with ourselves we know that this is the exception and not the rule.

We need to figure out how to earn our seat at the healthcare table. We are perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be focused on our needs more than patient needs. And this is causing the closed doors, the no-sees, the poor access to healthcare providers. If we don’t have a seat at the table, we may just be on the menu! 

Turning this around starts with serving differently. One big idea we need to pursue is to transform our business approach from being product/profit focused to being purpose/patient focused.

Many in pharma are talking about it; being patient focused. It’s not a new idea, but it’s time to transform that idea to practice. But many of us are worried. What does that have to do with creating a sustainable business; you know—being profitable!

I went searching for evidence. Which approach works best – product focus or patient focus? Which approach do you think comes out on top? Below are 3 references that just might change your future.  

1)    The Purpose Economy, by Aaron Hurst

Let’s start with a great book called The Purpose Economy. In it, Aaron Hurst describes how the new economy is changing work to better serve people. The book includes not just his beliefs, but those of 2000 thought leaders who contributed to the manuscript! How’s that for adding strength to his convictions!

Aaron predicts that in 20 years, the pursuit of purpose will eclipse the Information Economy. He says "Much like technology a few decades ago, purpose has now become a business imperative." –p. 21

The Purpose Economy is based on the fact that when people serve needs greater than their own, value is created. So by doing good, people and organizations do well!

If you are trying to grow your business faster, take heed. Look around you. Think about where we stand in history today: our current culture, values, education, technological abilities, social organizations, political realities and the state of our natural environment.

The public is changing their priorities and their desire is changing what we buy, how we buy it, from whom we buy it, why we buy it and how much we buy. There is a shift from “business” to “business and society”.

Hurst’s insights illustrate the reality that people in our industry are not only ready to be purpose driven, but if they want to survive, they better figure out how to be purpose driven! In fact, according to eyeforpharma’s 2014 Healthcheck survey, 86% of pharma leaders believe patient centricity (focusing on our purpose) is the path to future profitability. Wayne Gretzky famously said: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.” Well, for pharma, Purpose is where the puck is going.

You can read the full summary of The Purpose Economy here

2) Grow, by Jim Stengel

“What do the world’s 50 best brands have in common?” wondered Jim Stengel (then the global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble). He set out to answer this question by performing a 10-year growth study of 50,000 brands. The study tracked the connection over a ten-year period between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

He zoomed in on the top 50 brands now referred to as “The Stengel 50”. If you had invested in these brands over the last 10 years, you would have been 400 percent more profitable than if you had invested in the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500! So what’s the secret? What did the top 50 do differently?

Stengel discovered that the most profitable brands focus on what he calls their brand ideal. In other words, they focus on their higher order benefit to the world. Jim summarized it simply by saying “Great businesses have great ideals.” -P. 20 He wrote the book Grow to share with us what he learned.

And what a breath of fresh air it is! He offers proof that corporations can outperform their competitors by focusing on the larger purpose of their products!

Working in the pharmaceutical industry where we make life-enhancing, life-saving drugs I was dismayed to see that there wasn’t one pharma company in the top 50. It seems so obvious that we should be focusing on the benefit we bring to the world. Yet, apparently we are not.

With trustworthiness in pharma at an all-time low, perhaps it’s time to shift our focus.

Read the full summary of Grow here

3)    Give and Take by Adam Grant

Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton, wrote a book to prove a point to his students. All his research pointed to a revolutionary approach that is turning heads. He discovered that the most successful people are givers. They focus not on what they will ‘get’ but rather what they can ‘give’. He even studied this with pharma people. He determined that:

“The defining quality of a top pharmaceutical salesperson was being a giver.”- P. 19

He admitted that there is a caveat. You need to find your sweet spot so you don’t become a doormat.

Some givers end up exhausted and unproductive while others end up passionate and successful. Grant calls them “successful givers” and “failed givers.” You can likely picture a few of these dramatically different givers in your network. What do you think causes the difference?

Grant found that the successful givers aren’t just more ‘other-oriented’ than their peers, they are also more self-interested.

The failed givers are completely selfless—to a fault. They have high other-interest and low self-interest. And this ends up hurting them. It reminds me of the instructions on the plane to put on your own oxygen mask first so you are able to help those around you.

Find the sweet spot where the patient interests, the healthcare professional’s interests and the interests of you and your company intersect. This will become your guide for choosing when, where, how and to whom you will give. Then you will do well by doing good! As Adam says, “Fulfillment results from serving those who serve others.” P. 15 (Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success)

You can read my summary of his book here and watch my interview with Adam Grant here.

Our vision is of a world where pharma professionals are an integral part of the health-care team. A world where they are respected for the life saving and life changing medicines they create and trusted for the knowledge they contribute. A world where social good and corporate good are aligned. To achieve this, all of us in pharma need to believe and act on the truth that when patients come first, everyone wins.

Today you read three pieces of evidence that this vision can come true. We need to realize that profitability results from doing the right thing – focusing on the patient in all we do.

And it starts with YOU!

If you made it to the end of this article, clearly you are passionate about improvement. As a reward we created a little ebook with summaries of the above and several more excellent books about purpose-driven profit. Let’s see how many people read this far! The ebook is yours for the asking at

Patient Summit Europe

Jun 25, 2015 - Jun 26, 2015, London

Build trust: redesign your company around a better patient experience