B+L's singular therapeutic focus—eye health—was splintered by the lack of collaboration between its business units, so Saunders
began his tenure as CEO in listening mode. He spent time with customers and frontline sales reps and managers, in addition
to scientists in R&D and line managers in manufacturing, and came away with a unification strategy, which he calls "connecting
rods." One of the initial changes Saunders made was to bring marketing, sales, manufacturing, and regulatory input to bear
on the R&D process; as a symbolic commitment, he changed R&D to 'D&R,' placing the emphasis on 'development.' "We didn't cut
one research head in doing this," says Saunders, "but we are going to put our effort and our money and our resources behind
development." Communication between the pharmaceutical D&R group and the contact lens D&R group, for example, can help anticipate
and then adapt to changes in the market, like a shift toward more implantable, drug-eluting systems in the eye; or a surgical
solution for glaucoma, a condition that today is predominantly managed through drug interventions. Additionally, ophthalmologists
and optometrists are increasingly working in concert to offer a full range of buyout services to patients, in one setting.
According to Saunders, "99.8 percent of our business is focused on eye health ... the entire spectrum of eye health. That
gives us a unique perspective on patient needs and what ophthalmologists and optometrists are looking for," he says. The company
employs close to 3,500 sales reps globally, and "calls on virtually every ophthalmologist and optometrist in the world," says
To help initiate information exchanges across frontline managers and sales forces, Saunders says the company uses Chatter,
http://SalesForce.com/ CRM platform, which provides an open, global forum for communication. Reps can do account planning on Chatter, and exchange
tips on communicating with physicians. Saunders also launched an off-line pilot program last year in the U.S., informally
known as "Have a lunch on management," which provides a free lunch to sales reps who sit down with a colleague in the same
territory to talk business. The program is getting rolled out in other countries, says Saunders. He credits board chairman
Fred Hassan's mentorship and "open-door policy," as an instructive guide in his own vision.
In addition to Chatter, and perhaps to make a more visible commitment to those employees working further down the ranks—but
closer to the customer—Saunders put the executive suites up for sale. "We had a big skyscraper tower [in Rochester, N.Y.]
and then we had about a million square feet where we had a lab and a plant, and that's where everybody really worked. The
executives sat in the big building, and all the other people—the really important people—worked at the building a couple of
minutes away," says Saunders. "So we moved out ... We put our executives in the other building, and put the tower up for sale.
And I got notes and letters from people saying, "That's our heritage." But the building has been around for 10 or 11 years,
while the company has been in business for almost 160 years, so I don't think that represents our heritage," Saunders says.