At Talentmark, our mission is to help companies bring new products (bio-pharmaceuticals, drug treatments, devices and diagnostics) to clinicians and patients, by placing the right expert people in the right business at the right time.
In our sector, interims have an important part to play in the talent mix, be it in small biotech start-ups or in larger established players on the path of continuous innovation. Interim management is now a mature market in life sciences and interims are more likely to be used as a strategic response to an opportunity or as part of a mixed resource platform rather than as a last resort or gap cover.
The majority of the interim positions we fill are at senior management level. This can even include board-level as well as other functional heads in highly strategic change and transformation roles. To meet this requirement, our executive search team act as advisors and our USP is our ability to work seamlessly across search, senior interim and resourcing solutions and to find the right solution for our clients depending on where they are along their growth curve. In other words, we often suggest interim as the solution before a client has even considered an interim.
When an interim is specified, more often than not we have been asked to find people who can either help to solve specific problems or to help an organisation to become more competitive in what is a very fast moving marketplace. We are also asked to source interims for change and transformation programmes for larger companies as well as help with start-ups where flexibility is key.
The innovation driver cannot be underestimated in life sciences, nor the challenges of speed and complexity. Frankly, it’s fundamental - and this demands creative solutions to the talent agenda and an agile approach. Interims come into their own in this landscape, and we are passionate about identifying individuals who have game-changing qualities, people who will really make a difference.
Such is the value of a highly-aligned interim appointment that it is often possible to demonstrate a direct correlation between a key senior interim appointment and the bottom line. In the case of one recent assignment for a growing life sciences business, a mix of permanent and interim positions coincided with their share price increasing from 90p to £2.40 within 18 months.
Another example is that of an early-stage medical imaging company for whom we filled both a CTO role as well as finding an interim NED. In the case of the NED, the candidate had an exceptional corporate track record and huge domain experience, proving to be a substantial asset for the business. The key to the success of this assignment was that we were able to help the young CEO to understand how a key strategic hire could be pivotal to the growth of the business when it wasn’t originally a role they had planned to fill. This has been such as success that they now plan to offer their NED a full-time appointment.
Smaller, fast growth bio-tech companies can have a larger proportion of interims because they are not at the point where they have the budget for a full-time person. In other scenarios, we are asked to find interims for larger firms during periods of uncertainty or where their future game-plan is still unclear. This is fairly common where a larger player has made a string of acquisitions but are as yet uncertain about how many roles will still exist a year down the road and so don’t want to commit to hiring full-time people.
We also act in an advisory capacity to help interims in life sciences with their own careers. Whilst the majority of the individuals we work with are career interims, there are situations where an interim role offers a useful stepping stone, such as helping someone to gain international experience. Currently, we are finding that there is a strong demand for market access experts with international experience and expertise in niche areas such as biotech.
A typical assignment of this kind was for a Japanese biotech start-up that had made a significant investment in order to get FDA approval for a new drug. But things did not go to plan, and the management team in Japan were unclear as to why progress had stalled. Initially, we were asked to provide an experienced interim with strategic medical and clinical insight to refresh the strategic direction of the development programme. However, as the assignment unfolded, our interim alerted us to the fact that this was going to be far more of a challenge than originally thought. In fact, in order to deliver the outcome they wanted, a more complex leadership and communication role, including challenging the team being managed, was needed to get to the bottom of the issues that were holding back progress. It’s in situations like this where interims really come into their own as their extensive experience means that they can be agile and adapt to the situation they find themselves in.
Talentmark is the leading specialist recruitment consultancy to the life sciences industry. Established in 1971, Talentmark was the first company to work uniquely in supplying international life sciences with specialist leaders.