Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #708 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

This series of articles partakes from some material published in INSEAD Knowledge. INSEAD is in France and is highly ranked among the most prestigious business schools of the world.

We continue with the positive factors which have helped pharmaceutical companies grow. Our focus is on local, generic corporates.

Courage to Change

Most organizations start small and then develop if they develop. Initially, there are few people in every function, and they work closely with the entrepreneurs. They are the first and the fiercest in resisting change. In every sense of the phrase, they had become big fish in the small pond, and they would like that the pond stays small. If they allow it to grow bigger, they want to stay big and control everything. I have seen how the entrepreneurs had to take difficult decisions to part ways from old colleagues, who had stood by them in hard times. Unfortunately, there are no clean solutions to this problem. The old timers do not learn the new skills required for the evolving organization, and they would like to lead and control employees who are much more capable than them.

The other, and even bigger, resistors to change are the partners/shareholders. They may not share the new vision at all, and reject it hands down. There may be threats of breaking partnership, taking away the name and goodwill, or any other strong measure.

This is why the courage to change is so much important and so much required. The one partner/leader who is progressive and sees things differently is besieged with the predictions of doom if the change occurs. Some old timers may use excessive emotional blackmail to stay on board and stay in control. Handling these issues requires courage, tact, and wisdom.

Question is, what is the change which is causing so much dread? It is the induction of qualified, experienced managers at the head of various functions. What is at stake for the existing employees and shareholders? The personal, vested interests.

Clarity of Mind and Vision

The entrepreneurs are not the smartest, or the most intelligent people on the earth. They do have clarity of purpose which makes them to take up all the efforts required to start a new enterprise. They work with singlemindedness to achieve their purpose.

Similar clarity is required when major steps are to be taken to grow the enterprise. The entrepreneurs who achieved big in Pharma (and other trades) maintained their clarity, carried a vision, and worked relentlessly towards it.

Different people have different motivations: some work for money, some work for recognition, some for security, some for fame, some for luxuries, some for philanthropy, and so on. More than one drive may also be found. These drives keep the entrepreneur moving, and they may or may not be able to achieve their objectives to the desired levels.

Vision is different. It is an abstract thought which is timeless, but not dimensionless. I beg pardon from the majority who write a wordy ‘vision’ which is not really a vision, and hang it in the office of the CEO and in the corridors. Let me give an example. Long time back, I was listening to a Chinese entrepreneur whose company made razor blades. The interviewer asked, “what do you think your company would be doing five hundred years from now?”. The entrepreneur replied without hesitation, “we shall still be making razor blades. As long as the people are there, the need for shaving shall be there”. It is the simplest form of a clear vision. Visionary leaders in Pharma not only thought about business volume, they also had detailed thinking about what kind of organization they wished to raise. What kind of people will be working there? How will be business conducted? What will be the working environment? They searched out and engaged people who related to their vision and worked towards it.

Bringing Appropriate Talent

In logical succession to the point above, comes the talent hunt for the most appropriate staff. It is critical that the entrepreneur keeps himself involved in the hiring of key people. Even very capable managers sometimes fall prey to the temptation of not hiring better people. They may feel threatened, or get into making silos, the commonest curse in the corporate world.

The biggest reason for the entrepreneur to get involved in talent search and acquisition is that no one has the same vantage point that he has. He knows the entire organization, he knows where he plans to go, how he will reach there, what type of people he wants to populate in the organization, and how he will keep them engaged. No one else understands these things as clearly and therefore he must remain involved in the talent process.

The most successful business leaders have delegated other functions easily but kept working closely with the HR to find and hire the most appropriate people. I am deliberately not using the term ‘the best people’; a best here may not be a best there.

The organizations are run by people, not the technology, or the software; these are tools that are used by people to their great advantage. This is the reason the HR function has evolved and is still evolving. Only the right education, right skills, and right attitude are in demand; others are just fillers. Despite the high unemployment in most countries like ours, the required talent is not available. In Pakistan, students fresh out of the college/university are poorly qualified, know little about their subject, have not learnt any skills, and do not have any purpose in life. They do carry dreams of sitting in a plush office, driving luxury vehicles, and having the time of their life. And they want it to happen quickly, and without lot of effort. This issue is compounded by the quick rich stories in which young men and women claim to have earned millions in weeks/months on the internet.

To get to the point, the visionary entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for the most wanted talent and make effort to engage them.

To be Continued……

Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known. Some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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