24 Nov Keith M, Director of Business Development
A Day in the Life of KEITH M., Director of business development for a biotechnology company, New York City area, U.S.
MBA GENERAL MANAGEMENT
What I Do
The company I work for is focused on bioinformatics and drug discovery and development. This company was founded as a bioinformatic company, supplying information on the human genome to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
As the West Coast–based bioinformatics business matured, the company realized it needed an additional source of revenue to grow earnings, so it started an East Coast division in December 2001, to focus on drug discovery.
We are actively in the process of creating the entire drug discovery and development division of the company. We currently have 75 employees in the division—mostly chemists and biologists.
I joined the business development team of the new division last year after finishing the MBA. In my business development role, I leverage my prior medical expertise and my newfound business skills to analyze both the medical feasibility and the financial potential of the proposed product before negotiating the terms of the deal.
My role is to identify new technologies and pharmaceutical-drug candidates and analyze them and consider if they would create value for the company. If a particular technology appears to be a financially sound business decision, I then develop the business relationship and attempt to acquire that technology or compound while maintaining financial soundness.
The actual acquisition can be a lengthy negotiation. If the technology is a tool used in the drug discovery process, we would acquire it for use by our own scientists. If it is a pharmacy candidate, we would optimize the chemical structure of the compound, test it for safety and efficacy in non-humans, and, if it progresses, enter it into clinical trials by testing it in humans.
It will take several years and potentially hundreds of compounds to get even one drug to that stage.
What I Enjoy Most
Business development allows me the opportunity to use a number of skills simultaneously, including strategic planning, financial analysis, negotiation, and industry subject-matter expertise. My pharmacy knowledge is critical to researching the technologies.
I get to use all the skills I’ve developed throughout my career, plus I constantly learn new things at the very cutting edge of medical technologies, some of which I anticipate will be revolutionary products and provide great benefit to patients.
What I Enjoy Least
The wait-and-see game: We are looking to place very calculated bets today that one or more things will pay off in five to 10 years. It is not so common in business to wait that long, so you spend tremendous resources before you know whether something was a good decision.
I hope to say in five years or so that we made a good decision that has bettered healthcare or helped treat patients and, consequently, has been financially worthwhile for my organization.
Negotiations can be difficult, especially when dealing with people who are seeing things from a different point of view; success in negotiation is dependent on learning what is important to the other party and why. You have to go beyond their position and determine the underlying issue. However, getting to that point in a dialogue can be very frustrating.
Why I Chose This Career
As a clinical pharmacist at the Mayo Clinic, I had the opportunity to start something that changed hospital practice organization-wide. Pharmacists are typically not responsible for selecting the drugs for patients but are more often an information resource for the physicians.
I believed that this practice should change because pharmacists typically are more familiar with the effects of the drugs than physicians. I piloted a specialty team approach in one of the intensive care units at the hospital; as it became accepted by the physicians, this practice was initiated hospital-wide.
The specialty team approach involved a combination of the specialty physician making the diagnosis and the clinical pharmacist selecting the most appropriate medication for the disease. This team approach, with each decision being made by a specialist in that area, optimized patient care and increased hospital profits.
After implementing this clinical pharmacy practice hospital-wide, I felt I needed a new challenge. I also realized that I had the ability to have a vision of something—a new, better process or better way of looking at something and that I may be able to help more people in a less direct manner by pursuing a new career.
Oftentimes in medicine, it’s very hard to break away from the template. Additionally, I believed that I could become a good negotiator and wanted to develop the skill. This led me to business school.
I had considered taking a job as an equities analyst covering pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies; however, in corporate business development, I’m actually creating business, whereas as an analyst, I’d be tracking and reporting on those who are creating the business. I am creating the content for the book that the analysts write, and I enjoy that role.
Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career
You need faith and confidence in your decisions with little need for feedback. As I said, the feedback on whether you made a good decision today often won’t be available for five years or longer. The ability to multitask is also critical to success in this career because I’m often working on up to 20 projects at any one time.
You need negotiation skills—both the natural ability to communicate and convince effectively and also training in the science behind negotiation. I took an MBA course in negotiation at the Carlson School, which laid the foundation, but one must experience real, live negotiations to become skilled in negotiation.
You need a natural ability to foster strong relationships with your assistants, clients, and counterparts. Can you develop a rapport with people you rely on and who rely on you? Without 110% effort on everyone’s part, higher-than-expected results won’t occur.
You should be generally good at evaluating a process and seeing a new or better way to achieve the same result.
Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path
To do business development in a particular industry, an understanding of the information demands of that industry is critical if you want to remain a subject-matter expert. I need to maintain medical and pharmaceutical expertise to be able to make assumptions about the value of a technology, so I must keep my clinical skills current.
I accomplish this by doing continuing education and reading scientific and health-related journals. When analyzing various disease states, I get to know the market and medical practices by researching the latest clinical trials in the New England Journal of Medicine and a number of publications specific to the pharmaceutical industry, like Bioworld, and databases like the Investigational Drugs Database.
I also pore over the Research Analysts’ reports from investment banks to obtain their market size estimates. I am always looking for the new class of drugs coming out.
What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)
I went to pharmacy school and obtained my doctor of pharmacy degree and then, after completing one year of clinical residency at the Mayo Clinic Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, started looking for clinical pharmacy positions.
I decided to accept an offer from the Mayo Clinic because we agreed I’d be able to try a pilot study to see if my clinical pharmacy practice model might work. I am proud to say that this model is gaining acceptance within the medical community as medicine itself has become specialized and pharmacists can specialize along the same lines.
I was a clinical pharmacy specialist for six years before entering the full-time Carlson MBA program.
Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)
- MBA, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, finance and entrepreneurial studies, 2012
- Doctor of pharmacy, City College of New York, 2004
- Bachelor of science, City College of New York, 2000
- GED diploma, SUNY Manhattan EOC, 1996
In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…
Look for programs that offer experiential learning opportunities or innovative
teaching methods in real-world scenarios—this was one of the reasons Carlson stood out to me. A course called the Carlson Ventures Enterprise is a multisemester course sequence that was a perfect practice run for what I’m doing now.
We worked with early-stage companies to identify which of those had an opportunity that would be financially rewarding. It was hands-on—talking to customers, determining if technologies were unique, and whether customers would find them valuable.
We then created a business plan, which communicates to potential investors the business opportunity, including the strategy and financial projections required to implement that new idea.
The director of this program had tremendous early-stage company expertise as a former investment banker and venture capitalist. To have someone who has actually done this successfully as a teacher/mentor was a phenomenal experience. I remain in contact with this professor and have called him for advice and for his network of contacts.
I have found that I learn much more effectively when I can apply the business theory to real-world business situations. The ability to identify and appropriately evaluate an innovative opportunity is critical to success at all levels of business, whether you are working for a start-up company or a Fortune 500 company. My opportunity to learn these skills at Carlson School will prove quite valuable to my success in business.