Bold Bets - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Bold Bets
Serono is muscling its way into the US market with head-to-head trials and big marketing partners.


Pharmaceutical Executive



At a Glance
The United States—40 percent of the world market—is key to the company's future growth, so Serono's US division is critical. Firouz, who has been with Serono for his entire pharma career, worked his way up the ranks to become its president. Earning his BS in political science and business from George Washington University, Firouz went to work for Serono as a government affairs associate in the company's Washington, DC, office in 1989. From there he moved to International Business Operations, where he helped set up subsidiaries in Greece, Turkey, and Israel. In 1998 he was promoted to vice-president, Latin America, where he launched many products and oversaw a 43 percent sales growth. In 2001 Firouz was assigned to lead the reproductive health unit of Serono's US division, and in March 2003 he was named president.

Firouz credits much of his management style to his international background and experience. "I've been able to create and manage very small companies, and with very small budgets was able to drive business," he says. "In America, where the resources are available, there's an opportunity to really employ what I've learned, and to be innovative and differentiate our products." Firouz also looks for international experience when he interviews candidates for management positions.

"I'm not a micromanager," he says. That is evident in his creation of a management team, which meets monthly to systematically review operations and strategize about how to improve them. "We have expertise around the table with a dialogue every month at a senior management meeting, which I have the honor to chair," he says. "I believe in giving delegation and empowerment to the people who have the expertise."


Priority Pipeline
Firouz is quick to point out that he is a decision maker at only one level of the company. He describes the relationship between Geneva and the US division as "a joint operation, a joint decision making process," but he says the big moves—such as acquisitions—are decided at the company's corporate headquarters in Switzerland by the executive team, of which he is a member.

Structural Support In keeping with that collaborative style, Firouz has also organized Serono's US division in a way that gives the franchises strength, autonomy, and room to grow. The therapeutic areas, each headed by an executive vice-president, have their own marketing divisions, sales forces, and administrative functions. The EVPs—James Pusey (neurology), James Sapirstein (metabolic endocrinology) and Bharat Tewarie (reproductive health)—function much like general managers.


Serono's therapeutic EVPs—(l-r) James Sapirstein (metabolic endocrinology); Bharat Tewarie (reproductive health); and James Pusey (neurology)—function much like general managers, with their own marketing divisions, sales forces, and administrative functions.
This structural separation is atypical in the industry, but the franchise heads are united in their support of the arrangement. They contend that the expertise developed in one area—whether injectable technology or a human resources solution—quickly becomes the province of all. Here's a look at the company's therapeutic areas:


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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