Russia's Right Man — Denis Chetverikov, Teva
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.
Denis Chetverikov, General Manager Russia, Teva
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.