Wolves are fascinating creatures. They are intelligent, strong and fierce. Many innovators are lone wolves. Many founders are too. Sometimes the lone wolf moniker gets a bad rap, just like the founders did. But the best of the lone wolf mythology is found in their independence, individuality and passion for a unique vision. These are the most universal and admirable traits of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Yet the power of the wolf is found in the real world, not mythology. In the real world, a wolf relies on its pack to survive. In fact, their hunting strategies are based on group organization, and a wolf that finds itself alone finds itself hungry. In fact, wolves have been so successful as predators – and therefore feared – in large part because they work together so well as a social unit. Wolves’ notoriety as loyal, cooperative communicators has led to the coining of the term “wolf pack mentality.” As Rudyard Kipling said, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
One way a founder can find their package is by adopting Good Business Practices (GBP). For the innovator and founder, their suite of trusted advisors allows them to navigate the uncertain business landscape unscathed – especially in the highly regulated world of MedTech.
In today’s complex market, GBP is wolf pack mentality at its best. Relying on them allows the package to function well. It’s not so much a rigid structure as a large stable of experts who are readily available to dynamically advise on strategy and quickly remove any short-term barriers—barriers that might prevent a much-needed product from reaching the patients who need it. from him .
With medical companies often developing solutions for specific clinical needs (read: underserved and/or underrepresented populations), the bundle is not a nice thing to have; it’s a must have. It protects start-ups from failure and ensures they have the best chance to bring their solutions to market to their advantage and to the benefit of the patients who need them most.
What Good Business Practice (GBP) looks like.
Healthcare is about helping people, often when they are most vulnerable. Patients put their lives in the hands of other people and companies that make the products they use – often when they have no other choice. Therein lies the burden of responsibility. GBP promotes integrity, trust and treating people the right way. In today’s climate, this is what investors, consumers and employees are looking for.
For most companies, and for medtech in particular, GBP happens on multiple levels. At the micro level it is more prescriptive (ie regulatory best practices or good manufacturing practices). At the macro level, this is expressed as a set of ethics and principles that govern the company’s behavior. It is more than a statement of values or a marketing strategy; it is expressed in every decision made by a company and should include the following values.
Honesty and transparency
Companies that trust their partners and strive to be transparent come out ahead, especially in highly regulated markets. Companies that don’t often encounter problems that can be avoided.
My team and I also had to learn (sometimes the hard way) how to identify early companies that follow the GBP. We have worked with our share of companies that lacked transparency in our partnership. This includes an experience we had with an inventor founder who had the typical lone wolf trust issues. Although his lone wolf had created an exciting vision for the product and the company, six months into our engagement with him we realized that his product was not performing as presented and had to withdraw the launch. If he had been honest with us from the beginning (instead of thinking he could fix it in time), we could have potentially worked with him to resolve the issue and avoid what ended up being a failure.
A good question to consider is:
How does communication and information flow within and outside the organization? What information is provided and how forthcoming is it (ie are they sharing ten zipped folders or three documents)? Closed or filtered information is a red flag and can be a sign of an immature leader or company.
Bottom line: When it comes to transparency, getting aligned with partners as soon as possible eliminates risk.
A culture of collaboration
At the opposite end of the lone wolf spectrum, you will find many companies that understand that working with GBP is a real value add. I recently worked with a company with a passionate leadership team who were not the founders of the technology their company was trying to bring to market. It took them eight years to get FDA approval, and because they were so focused on approval, they fell behind in their go-to-market strategy. They asked us for help. After showing us their data and a productive give-and-take, they decided to expand their portfolio into other areas of focus, which led to earlier technology approval and a more stable company. If they had proceeded unilaterally, they might have missed opportunities that would have led to a greater expansion of their offering and their company.
Having a suite of in-house counsel has only benefited one company so far. It is essential to be able to draw on the expertise of external consultants and professional service providers.
A good question to consider is:
How does a company or founder respond to feedback? How willing is the founder to say, Tell me all the reasons why this won’t work?
Bottom Line: Administrative complexity and regulation are systems of momentum, so having battle-tested partners can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to bringing a new product to market.
A challenge for founders and other lone wolves is self-confidence to a fault. No matter how innovative or brilliant a product, founder or company is, blind spots are called blind spots for a reason. We all have them. Openness to outside ideas may not be a precursor to innovation, but it is a driving force—especially in healthcare.
I don’t just talk the talk; I’ve had to walk it myself and know how uncomfortable it can be. Eleven years ago when I started my company, I sat down with an advisor and showed them my financials. He actually felt vulnerable. What was coming? What didn’t I know? But by doing this and being open and trusting, I was able to get rid of problems I didn’t even know I was stuck with. It brought greater clarity and pushed me towards success.
Consider: How open is this founder or company to new ideas? Are they ready to say, “I never thought of it that way”?
Conclusions: When you are open, doors open and new opportunities are created.
The Benefits of GBP (Especially for Newcomers)
There is an influx of new players in healthcare, particularly in direct-to-consumer subscription models. This can be a good thing or a challenging predicament. Many of these players bring innovative thinking, but often lack experience working in the regulated healthcare environment; this is where the risk is and this is where GBP delivers its value in spades.
When companies build a culture of openness, trust and collaboration, it shows in everything they do. Enables greater innovation while avoiding unnecessary risk.
Photo: bluebay2014, Getty Images