Any leader worth their salt knows that one of the key ingredients to success is the quality, skills and experience of the people they surround themselves with. No matter what the industry or the challenges, from established operations to start-ups, from the retail sector to professional services, the leaders at the top of any organisation cannot exist in a vacuum. The medtech industry is no exception.
Around the world, healthcare markets are dealing with rapid changes in demographics, life expectancies and funding models. Public services in many parts of the world are facing heavy cost pressures and are navigating their way through uncertainty. In the UK, for example, the reorganisation of the NHS along the lines of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) to meet growing demand and seemingly ever-tighter budgets is a reflection of the scale of the challenge facing the health service.
In such a context, one may feel that the outlook is challenging for medtechs. The combination of price pressure and uncertainty may not incline health services to take any chances on investing in new products. However, I believe that, for the best products that can deliver provable gains, the reverse is true: it’s a time of great opportunity for medtechs who develop products that genuinely meet a need and deliver savings. Research by McKinsey shows that medtechs operating in fast-growing, specialist markets which require innovation have the largest share of sales. But as everyone knows, having a superb product is not in itself any guarantee of success. The healthcare market is complex, highly regulated, expensive to enter and has long development lead times. That is why the quality and make-up of the leadership team within a medtech company is truly fundamental to its success. All too often, medtech leadership teams are concocted of either scientists trying to make it in business, or business people trying to make it in science. The team is unbalanced and therefore unlikely to deliver sustainable top-line growth.
The leadership team has to have the right mix of skills and experience across the spectrum. You need a chairman at the helm with extensive leadership experience. Medical science will be at the heart of your offering, so of course it’s a pre-requisite to have a genuinely leading scientist who has developed the technology on the board too. It also helps if they have the technical skills to deliver that medical science.
So, at Creavo Medical Technologies we have our Chief Scientific Officer who developed the magnetocardiography (MCG) concept working closely with our Technical Director to deliver our device. One area that is often overlooked is the need for considerable advisory depth. At Creavo, we have a team of five non-executives – our Medical Advisory Board – who are leading clinicians at centres of excellence around the country. It is this team that provides the unquestionable medical, technical expertise and counsel to ensure that our device and any other products we develop are genuinely rooted in medical evidence.
However good your medical and technology leadership team, you won’t succeed without the finance and investment needed to develop your product or obtain the regulatory clearances and take it to market. So, finding the right CFO for your team is a hugely important step. Our CFO, John von Benecke joined us in January last year, and his appointment was a real milestone for us. John has more than 15 years’ experience in the healthcare industry and a decade of experience working for start-ups and venture capital and private equity-backed businesses. He has raised more than $100m of equity and debt, and taken companies through to successful exits. John works closely with me on fundraising, commercial strategy and financial planning. In July last year, we successfully closed a £13.4m funding round that was over-subscribed.
With our device now being trialled at five of the UK’s largest NHS emergency departments and achieving FDA 510(k) clearance in the US ahead of trials in five prestigious locations there, these are exciting times for Creavo. However, we’re conscious that nothing is certain. We have our route to market and launch plans in place. As a leadership team, you have to take a longterm view and be confident that your organisation can run the course.
Planning for the long-term is a key requirement for any leadership team. Indeed, research by consultants Heidrick & Struggles found that over half (52 per cent) of the senior executives they spoke to in the medical technology sector believed their leadership capability was ‘solid today but a long-term concern’. Given the timescales involved in the medtech sector and the knowledge required, succession planning in the event that a senior team member moves on is essential.
Meanwhile, the research also found that the top perceived talent need for the coming years was in sales and marketing (69 per cent), followed by general management (63 per cent) and market access and reimbursement (55 per cent). It is the leadership team’s function to ensure that there are the right skills in the workforce and that key talent is being nurtured and retained.
Becoming a viable medtech company is a complex and demanding process. Putting the right leadership team together needs careful thought and planning – it’s one of the make or breaks in your journey.
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