A Glaxo Executive, Seeing Through a Sales Rep’s Eyes The Boss By DEIRDRE P. CONNELLY July 6, 2013 I WAS born and raised in San Juan, one of nine children of an Irish-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. They met at the chapel of Bellevue Hospital in New York when they were taking care of relatives who were patients there. My parents later moved to San Juan, where my father started an insurance company. My mother was a nurse but later left the field to help my father at his company. Four siblings were born in New York, and I was the first of the five brothers and sisters born in Puerto Rico. Some of my siblings became nurses and physicians, but I was intrigued by business. I loved tagging along with my father when he visited clients, and learned lessons about leadership and values from him that I use every day. When it came time to go to college, my father suggested Lycoming College, in Williamsport, Pa., which was not far from two other colleges where my sisters were studying. I started in the accounting program, but after a few classes I switched my major to economics and marketing. Dierdre P. Connelly is president of North America Pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline. GlaxoSmithKline It was a small college, which was good for me because I had more interaction with professors. While I spoke English, I still had a lot to learn before I became proficient. I graduated in 1983 and returned to San Juan to help my father, who had received a diagnosis of lupus. A year later, he was able to return to his insurance business, and I became a sales representative for Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, in San Juan. As part of Lilly’s management development program, I spent a year learning about marketing at its Indianapolis headquarters. In 1988, I became sales manager for Puerto Rico, and, in 1997, general manager for the Caribbean region. I became head of the women’s health business unit at Lilly’s United States affiliate in 2000. My next position was head of the company’s human resources. Then, in 2005, I was named its United States president, and oversaw a reconfiguration of its sales force. Four years later, GlaxoSmithKline, which is based in England, approached me about becoming president of its North America operations. At first, I was not sure. Then I read an article about its new chief executive, Andrew Witty, and agreed to meet him for coffee. I was convinced that we could move ahead together to transform the way GlaxoSmithKline operated its $11 billion United States pharmaceuticals business. I moved to Philadelphia to join the company. I am still very close to my siblings, and have 14 nieces and nephews, from ages 10 to 35. Our company is facing a changing health care market that demands higher-quality care, lower costs and better outcomes. As part of rethinking and redesigning our commercial model in the United States, we have revamped our procedures for training, evaluating and compensating our 5,000 sales people. This was under way when, last year, the company paid $3 billion in fines to the federal government because it had earlier promoted some antidepressants for unapproved uses and failed to report the status of studies about our diabetes drug. We are committed to ensuring that this never happens again. To stay plugged in and know better what the sales job now entails, I sometimes join our sales representatives when they call on customers, who are often physicians. I keep a low profile, and don’t announce my position, and I find that these visits help me see that this is a very different job, requiring more knowledge of medicine and of business operations, than the one I had in the mid-1980s. My job is to make sure the company adheres to its values, and that means the patient always comes first. As told to Elizabeth Olson.
Posted on: Mon, 08 Jul 2013 02:06:00 +0000
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