S03 E06

Managing Change and Risk During Covid-19


Paul Petrelli

General Manager

Jazz Pharmaceuticals

In the sixth episode of our third season, Peter Brenders, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, talks with Paul Petrelli, General Manager of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, about creating value with physicians, reputation management, and the resiliency of the pharma industry.



From the National Pharmaceutical Congress, this is the NPC Podcast for March 10 2021. Each week, we're all about discussing and considering the purpose, process and people of the pharma industry during the Age of Covid. Today, let's continue the healthcare conversation by answering questions from listeners like you. 


The NPC Podcast is presented in cooperation with Impres. Impres is best in class commercial solutions offer top line and bottom line growth with maximum sales force, flexibility, speed and efficiency. Learn more about their next generation commercial model at www.impres.com


On today's podcast, our guest is Paul Petrelli, the General Manager of Jazz Pharmaceuticals. The program moderator is Peter Brenders, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation. First up, here's Mitch Shannon, CEO of Chronicle Companies.




Thanks Liona. 


Jazz Pharmaceuticals, formed just 18 years ago, is known for Xyrem, a blockbuster CNS drug that accounts for three quarters of the company's sales. The company made headlines last month by announcing it will pay 7.2 billion US dollars to acquire GW Pharma, which makes CBD based drugs. So in the words of Bing Crosby 


Now you has Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, Jazz. 


The general Manager of Jazz in Canada is Paul Petrelli, a good friend of the National Pharmaceutical Congress. Now you has Paul in conversation with Peter.




Welcome to the NPC Podcast. I'm Peter Brenders, your host. In the continuing look at the purpose, process and people of pharma in Canada. This episode explores the questions of general managers. For as it was once phrased in Forbes, the executive challenge no one talks about. The woe is you GM, you're given the overwhelming responsibility and pressure to appear calm to employees to consistently deliver results and beware the proverbial buck stops. And you get to do this in a pandemic in a rapidly changing business. But let's stop your worry there. 


Today's NPC Podcast is the therapy session to end the isolation and talk about these vexations. We have an exciting guest today to take on the challenges. Many of you know him from NPC webinars and previous congresses, Mr. Paul Petrelli, General Manager, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Canada. 


Welcome, Paul. 




Peter, thank you. That was a great warm up. Actually, can you next time I have my year end review, talk to my boss about all that stuff that I'm supposed to be doing? Because apparently it's not landing.




As we said at the beginning, woe is you GM. 


Okay, so let's jump right in and start with the taboo subjects. And frankly, it was an unanswered question from the NPC winter webinar. So Paul, where are the lunches? Where are the coffees? Can we send food so someone can talk to us on a zoom call?




Yeah, if you know what, Peter, that's a great question. And I'm, frankly, I'm surprised it has come up, given the environment that we're in. 


But look not to skirt the question. I think it breeds to a bigger one, which is how do we create value? Because I'll be honest with you, like we need to think about the day and age of when we created these opportunities for meals and lunches and coffees and all that stuff. Look, rules and regs were allowed to do it. Right. 


I think in their proper business practices, it happens. But really, you got to question yourself in terms of why we're doing it, and how are we creating value? And then also, are we propagating a past myth that we just really got to shake?




So you mean, we're not Uber Eats?




Unfortunately, last I remember no.




So if you think about it, so it's a widespread practice, it's out there. But does that mean we've created entitlement? With the customer? With our own staff?




You know, what, when you think through it, it could be entitlement, it could be habit. It could be just basically assumptions. And it could be confidence, you know what I mean? Like, I think is it, have we created this expectation of our customers to say, look, if you're going to give it I'm gonna take it habit on both sides, right? Our customers might be going look, in order for you to see me or whichever I'm expecting it. And then frankly, even on our side, is it habitual to say, no different than what we've done in the past and to say, "Look, I've got to do this." 


And I'll be honest, the bigger part is, is the confidence. What if we said no? Especially in this environment? What if we said, "Yeah, you know what, No, we're going to talk", because, again, where's the real value being created? Is it the Uber Eats lunch and great, fantastic food that's being created? Or actually the information and data that we can communicate?




Okay, so but I guess another way, I could challenge that back is so what if we don't say no, I mean, how much of our reputation are we driving?




That's the issue, though, right, is really if we think about reputation management, the one thing I think Covid has basically taught us and showed us is our ability to evolve. And really, where's the nice happy place that we always gravitate to? And can we really change? 


If you think about it from our customer's point of view, they're changing. Our customers have changed, right? Who are the decision makers are have changed. I think when we think about data, right, and again, there's numerous sources of information out there basically saying that data is at your fingertips now. 


Think about the pharma industry, originally, the sales rep role, and I'm not picking on that role, but the sales rep role was designed as a detailer to go in at a time when there wasn't computers wasn't Internet, and basically help inform physicians of new launches, prescribing information, etc. Well, that information is at everyone's fingertips right now. Yet, we still remain doing the same things consistently over and over again.


And then on top of that, it's how are we communicating? Different devices and different activities. I think websites, I'm all for them and all that stuff. But really, again, what are we driving as reputation? I honestly, I think it's our inability to change. 




But it's a great point on that one. So alright, so we need change, right? And let's look ahead there. 


So we're early in the in the fiscal year for most companies and GMs are probably already back there rethinking the year, they're looking at their gameplay, they're trying to figure out in terms of what the plan is maybe even updating projections. So how long do you wait until you make that change?




And so I'll be honest with you, if you're still making that decision, right now: you're late. Look, you can give it to everybody to say that this time last year, weirdly enough, world has changed, right? And I think at that time, it was okay, watching and waiting was probably a bit of the prudent thing to do. We're a year later now. And if you're somewhat thinking that we're going to go back to the old way, I think you've missed the bus. 


Again, you can read McKinsey reports, IQVIA reports, all these different reports, basically stating where our customers are, how they like the current form, process, they like the current format, they like getting information where they are. All those things beg us to sort of change and think differently about what we need to do. So I think change has to happen now. Now, whether it's a question of whether we evolve or revolutionize depends on your risk tolerance.




You're listening to Paul Petrelli, General Manager, Jazz Pharmaceuticals Canada, on the NPC Podcast. 


And that's the question right? Change is risky. So what if you're wrong? What if you're wrong, Paul?




Well, and that, you know what, that's where I think that our biggest challenge and our biggest anchor has always been as we constantly think about what if you're wrong? And I don't know, maybe it's time we turn this around and say, what if we're right? What if we do something? And there's actually upside to this? 


And also, I think it's how do we manage change? And how do we manage risk, you don't have to eat the elephant all at once. We're areas in our business where we can make small incremental changes to sort of move that needle forward. If you think about Covid. And honestly, the one or three things that Covid has taught me over this time, right? 


One is, again, it shows that as an industry, we need to change. 


Two, when you think through it is like there's resiliency in our industry, right, with all things going on, and you compare ourselves to other industries. We still weather this pretty well. And in fact, I think depending on what data source you look at the industry in Canada is still going to grow, call it anywhere between three to 5%. year on year. So we're in a pretty good place that way as well. 


I think this third part, as well, when we think about what it's taught us is we can be nimble, and we can change. We've made some small incremental ones, right. Think about how late we were to the party on social media, way back to three years ago, right? We're always one of those, oh, you can't be there "What if, what if that's happens, etc." Covid happened, we very quickly went and relied on social media to be able to communicate. Now interestingly, again, we put ourselves in the situation to say we're currently using the model we have, and all we've really done is just put a computer in between, right? It's still about reach and frequency. And we just use a computer as an interface. I think again, we need to change what that model looks like.




So it's funny you say think again, because it reminds me of Adam Grant's new book I read last week called Think Again. In the opening it said, when it comes to our possessions, we update with fervor. We refresh our wardrobes when they fall out of style and renovate our kitchens when they're no longer in vogue. When it comes to our knowledge and our opinions, though, we tend to stick to our guns. 


And so when I read that, I thought it's like, I suppose the same thing can be said about our business model. We stick to what we've done. It's proven it works. And is how do we get that 'think again' philosophy into our industry?




That's a great question. And I think it's a tough one to, again, not to look like I'm trying to beat up an industry I obviously know and love and spent a lot of time in. But all too often when you have these conversations, the first things that come up is there's suddenly resistance around whether it's legal compliance or whichever, right? 


Honestly, I think we have to challenge ourselves to say, okay, there's other examples of highly regulated industries, the liquor industry, the banking industry, that even over the past little while has changed, right? Now, you might not remember this, because you're a young, spry, individual in Canada, but-




Hold on a second here. It just want to make sure that the audience heard that "young and spry".




I remember back in the day going to the liquor store with my dad, you actually physically had to hand somebody a slip of paper, they went into the bag, grab a bottle of whatever you had, and come back, right? 


It evolved to you can go into a store and pull it off of a shelf. Well, now they're delivering, right, here's a highly regulated, we're worried about abuse, and they're going to be delivering, right? Banking industry, there's a Japanese bank I read a book the other day, that is no longer going to open up branches. It's all online. 


So I think these other highly regulated areas are doing it now. Again, they're not doing it and jumping into the water full step. But I think there's opportunities for us to really start looking at and breaking down, where are the areas of change? And where are the areas that we need to keep?




It's interesting you say that, because it's something also that Grant echoes in his book, when he talks about, you know, we're inclined to listen to the views that make us feel good instead of the ideas that make us think hard. And so same way, you've always done it, there's comfort, there's security in that, and then do what I'm hearing you as GM, sometimes you need to challenge that. 


So let's take it to your specific situation. So I know Jazz, you're about to launch a number of products this year. And as you think about sort of your approach in terms of bringing that forward, like, how do you sort of change the game plan that you've always done?




So first off, thanks a lot for the recommendation of the book, I just started to read it, I passed the "Hey, I could read the first page without making a mistake on five words", so it's appropriate for me to be able to read, but it's a fantastic book to start with highly recommend it. 


But to go into your question, that it is a challenge, right? I think, again, changing a very, very large shifts direction is going to take small steps. But I think where it starts even where we are in terms of being able to launch three products in new therapeutic areas, I think what's even more exciting about me in terms of creating change is we're going to be doubling the size of the organization. In doing that, we get to look at who we're recruiting, how we're recruiting, right? What's the structure gonna look like? What are some of the skill sets that we want to bring in that we never had in the past? Are there roles that we want to take a risk on and bringing outside of our industry? What if you brought a commercial impact is good person in as a marketer versus the same old same old that we know and love? 


I think there's other opportunities internally as well. We're having some fun this year, actually, with our annual objectives setting. And I've actually asked everybody in my organization to put in a BHAG, as you all know, the big, hairy, audacious goal. Color outside the lines. So think about one thing that you want to accomplish this year that's just out there, it's got to be realistic, it's got to be related to your brand, your role, your function, but get out there and with the guarantee that like, it's not going to impact you at the end of the year. You don't accomplish, it doesn't mean you're going to get a does not meet. You do accomplish it, you'd be surprised what success looks like. So I think there's two sides to it. There's a structural side. And there's the emotional side of things as well that we got to bring into the mix to help facilitate change.




You're listening to the NPC Podcast. 


So that emotional side, though, so I think there's a big piece on that when it comes down to I mean, it's going to take a certain type of person that has that ability, that confidence to be able to accept that change, right, that confident humility, if you will, I mean, you don't want that arrogance, confidence, you want that confident humility, to be able to accept change and have that one. So how are you building? Or how should a company build that within their organization?




Yeah, a big part of it starts with the culture of the organization. To be honest with you, I think we're all really good at skills and all that it's just really bringing in the fabric and what you want to create. 


There is, actually timely, I read this sort of little short story. It's from a New York University psychologist called Jonathan Haidt. I'll be getting this last name wrong. I apologize if I am. And he brings up the story of the elephant and the rider where the elephant is emotion, the rider is being rational thinking and obviously the pathway or road is the environment around them. And if you think about it, right, trying to move emotion with rational thought is difficult. Concept of trying to push elephants on your own, you're just never going to do it. 


The goal here is to obviously give the right direction that helps engage the rational thought, but really get into the core of creating what the vision and value looks like in the future. It really challenges that emotional thinking which actually helped stimulate forward movement and then obviously with the road as you want to empower and remove any barriers to success. 


So some specific examples in terms of engaging on the emotional side look, I think one thing is you can talk about small victories reminding themselves in terms of reminding people of the successes that they have how they lead to the greater good. I think the big part that we also need to look at as well is ways in which we can avoid punishing failure, rather than looking at failure as an opportunity to learn, I know it's easier to say, harder to do. 


But it really is something that creating that idea, you know, what, go out and make a mistake. We'll learn from it. And I'll be honest, there's very few things that are going to happen in our industry, going back to what I said before about the resiliency of it, that's really, really going to screw things up, right? Outside of putting me back into jail, which honestly, I gotta say, I can't do jail time again.






So that's the message to tune into the next podcast on Paul and his time at the County Lockup. 


But, so okay, so let's take these lessons. And All right, so here's your magic world here. Paul, if you were to set up from scratch, again, if we were to rebuild this industry, as we think about sort of that, bringing that value to this sector. What does that look like?




So that's the question of the ages. Right. I know, one of the one of the questions that always asked is look, if you're going to set up the pharmaceutical industry on Mars, would you do that again, right? 


And part of that, like, I don't profess to be an expert, this or organizational design and all these other bits and pieces to it. But I think there's a couple of questions that I would say we need to think about it and ask, right? I think we need to look at who the customers is, it has evolved, it's changed. There's new customers, how do we create partnership? 


I think we do need to look at how do you bring value into what that looks like as well. And where we can add value? Right? Again, going back to the time of at a time and age where there was little data, there was a role that served. I think moving forward into where it is I think we need to evolve around. 


I think we need to look at roles, right roles that potentially could look at how do we navigate through the healthcare system? Is there value created through that? I think looking at really specifically and always careful about saying this because I weird out all the sales people that I know is what about a hybrid role, right? use the analogy of med devices where you have people that not only sell product, help negotiate pricing on it, but are actually in surgery, showing physicians how to use it, right? Do we really need MSLs, as well as sales reps in new roles, especially in the rare disease space where there's not a lot of competitors, maybe the true value is coming in and actually helping them navigate systems, being able to work through the hospital environment so that they can increase productivity. 


And then dare I say and this is a big jump is maybe there's some opportunity now the patient facing roles too. And creating opportunities there where we can create greater value because again, think of the complexity that's out there. And also the rare nature of a lot of these diseases, virtual value could be helping us navigate patients through so that they get the best care possible. A bit of a panacea bit of way out there thinking and again, I'm not an expert on how do you get there, but I think it's stuff we need to think about.




And so ends today's therapy session, you've been listening to Paul Petrelli, General Manager of Jazz Pharmaceuticals Canada on the NBC podcast. Thank you for listening. 




Thanks, Peter.




Thanks to Paul and Peter. Just to clarify, when Paul referred to his stay in the Martin Skreli wing of the County Lockup, he was just kidding. I know because I never saw him once in the chow line or in the prison library. 


But who needs libraries when you've got the NPC Podcast here every Wednesday. Past episodes are always available on Google Podcasts, Apple iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, pretty much everywhere you get your podcasts, also at pharmacongress.info. 


Hey listeners, if you want to compare experiences or ask some questions, you can direct message us on Twitter @2021NPC or just send us an email at health@chronicle.org Don't forget our comment line at 647-873-6995 it's open 24/7. 


The winter series of the NPC Podcast is presented in cooperation with Impres, Canada's next generation commercial partner. Find out more at www.impres.com


In Toronto, this is Mitch Shannon of Chronicle Companies. This episode was produced by Jeremy Visser. Your announcer is Liona Droid-Halter. The musical theme is performed in our studio by the NPC Podcast Orchestra under the direction of Maestra Clotida Millbrook. 


Have a good weekend. Stay safe. We'll talk to you again next Wednesday.