Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders

Pharmaceutical Executive


Russia's Right Man — Denis Chetverikov, Teva


Denis Chetverikov, General Manager Russia, Teva Pharmaceuticals
For Denis Chetverikov, the seeds of professional advancement were sown in his native country's rise to prominence as a fertile landscape for Big Pharma investors. Graduating from medical school in 1995, Chetverikov discovered there were few opportunities for physicians in a healthcare system reeling from disinvestment and the collapse of the old Soviet infrastructure. But it was precisely that time when a new system was starting to take root, with an open market for medicines emerging to supplement state procurement and creating opportunities for anyone who could combine medical knowledge with an appreciation for Western-style marketing and promotion.

Chetverikov promptly abandoned his plans to practice medicine and took a big risk around what at the time was an entirely new occupation for Russia: medical sales representative. A specialist in gynecology and obstetrics, he landed his first job detailing for Dutch-based Organon. "I was given a huge territory, the Volga River basin, where I was responsible for detailing our medicines to practitioners covering some 33 million patients," Denis told Pharm Exec. It was a frontier experience, with no fixed ground rules on how to manage for success. But that early baptism of fire taught Denis some key management capabilities which he continues to rely on today: constant learning; being open to new ideas; and filtering out the "noise of the moment" to think strategically, for the long-term.

After Organon, Denis moved to sales and marketing positions at Roche and Abbott, after which he took his first step into the fast-growing generics business by taking a leadership position at IVAX, as Russia country manager. He became Teva's local manager after the Israeli-based company acquired IVAX in January 2006. The transition was aided by strong mentor relationships forged at the time with Allan Oberman, Teva's EVP for the East Europe, Mid-East Africa (EMIA) region, who now leads the company's operations in the US; and Teva Board member Chaim Hurvitz.

Oberman underscored the importance of working to raise local standards of business practice in line with international norms. "His counsel made me aware that what we do in Russia—where compliance rules have historically been ambiguous—can have an impact on the company's global reputation. It requires us to be anticipatory and proactive, because, to cite just one example, the definition of 'health professional,' which is widely used in other countries to regulate ethical behavior in our industry, does not exist in Russia."

In his current role as Teva General Manager, Chetverikov's responsibilities extend beyond Russia to former Soviet republics like Kazakhstan—itself a target of growing interest for the Big Pharma multinationals. As his circle of responsibilities has widened, so he says have the opportunities. "I approach my job from the standpoint of not just doing more of what I do today, but to always look forward, looking at fresh opportunities for growth and then being first to exploit it."

Chetverikov has a phrase that, translated, articulates his team's commitment to fostering change: going full depth. "I describe Teva Russia as a developing company in a developing country. It follows that being successful means being prepared to ride the wave—everyone who works here has to be a change agent." The results speak for themselves: when he started as General Manager, Teva had annual sales of $24 million and less than 100 employees. Last year, the affiliate posted sales of $600 million, according to IMS data, with a head count of 800.

Chetverikov achieved this expansion by leveraging the company's global product portfolio to meet local disease priorities, forward-looking investments in product launch strategies, and acquisitions and partnerships based on mutual interests. A partnership struck with P&G's global consumer health business in 2010 has helped jumpstart Teva Russia's OTC medicines franchise, sales of which have outpaced all other local competitors during the last six consecutive quarters. "Building a solid business around OTC products is a real breakthrough for us," Chetverikov says.

Next up is building in more competitive advantage from the assets of the global organization. "Teva is a company that has historically differentiated itself through its high level of local responsiveness, which we execute through a decentralized management structure. Now, under our new CEO, Jeremy Levin, we are seeking to tie things together, applying the company's global scale and reach to secure a better competitive advantage for us here in Russia. Simply put, the efficiencies that we can obtain through our size are an asset waiting to be exploited. This is the company's new direction." In terms of his own future, Denis hopes to also plow that course, perhaps with a new assignment in management outside Russia.

Succeeding in this fast changing environment will require specific skills, from Chetverikov himself and others in the next generation of Teva management. Denis lists these as follows: the ability to execute projects where the pathway to a good result is often circuitous, not linear; superior behavioral traits, including influencing, collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution; and fostering a culture of trust throughout the organization, which is mainly leading by example. "A leader's brilliant idea will go nowhere if his or her colleagues won't cooperate. Trust is what motivates people to contribute with what is also best in them." Getting these capabilities right with the local talent is a task that Chetverikov puts top of the list—because the pharma business is ultimately a people business.

—William Looney


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