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Making Tough Commercial Decisions


Winselow Tucker, chief commercial officer, Loxo@Lilly (Eli Lilly’s oncology unit), discusses where to make budget cuts, how to motivate a team, what he wishes he had known earlier in his career, as well as his new role at Loxo@Lilly.

Even in an industry where that works to make the lives of others better, sometimes, tough decisions must be made. This is especially true in the commercial side of the business. It’s a fine balance of being mindful of the goals and objectives of a business as well as keeping the patient front-and-center.

Winselow Tucker, chief commercial officer, Loxo@Lilly (Eli Lilly’s oncology unit), shares in this Q&A his insights into making budget cuts, motivating a team, what he wish he knew earlier in his career, as well as his new role at Loxo@Lilly.

Meg Rivers, managing editor: When you have to make tough decisions as a chief commercial officer, where do you look to first to make cuts to ensure you are within budget? What tips do you have for other companies and executives who want to change the world and the lives of patients but also have to be mindful of financial budgets and limitations?

Tucker: When balancing the desire to innovate with the realities of financial limitations, I find it useful to bring it back to patient benefit by identifying the activities that are the most likely to have the greatest potential impact on patients.

I start by ensuring decisions are aligned with what matters most for patients and our overall strategy. Then I look to determine where our resource investments are working across the marketing mix and where they are ineffective, allowing us to focus on reducing spend[ing] in lower-value activities. Given the amount of data and information available, it is possible now more than ever to measure the return on investment of our commercial activities. In my experience focusing on fewer, more innovative activities that benefit patients often drives more impact than investing in scaling numerous activities that are also being executed by competitors.

Rivers: If you aren’t where you need to to hit company targets or objectives, what are your biggest tips for where to go next? How do you motivate your team?

Tucker: When faced with a situation where organizational goals are not being met, the first thing to do is determine why. I would start by examining internal factors like execution and external factors, such as market conditions or competition, to find out what’s impacting the organization’s ability to reach its objectives.

When measuring execution, I find it useful to identify root causes, such as problems in process, communication, or capability, that would impact efficiency. Then I’d ask if a change or adjustment to the strategy would improve results. You cannot be afraid to change strategies that are not working. Often, businesses continue to execute a strategy even if it is not resulting in the desired outcome due to a fear of change or perceived switching costs.

Lastly, in my experience having a solution and future focus, as opposed to assigning blame, is critical to motivating teams to embrace changes and take accountability for achieving goals. It’s also important to take time to identify and share learnings for continuous organizational improvement.

Rivers: Describe your leadership style. What do you wish you’d known earlier on in your career?

Tucker: My leadership style is based on my core values of transparency, accountability, respect, trust, and empowerment of others. Early in my career, like many leaders, my leadership style was more structured and focused on setting goals and objectives, measuring, directing, and removing barriers. While this style can be effective, it’s more focused on managing than leading.

As the size and complexity of the teams and businesses I manage have grown, I’ve learned to adapt my style to focus on defining and communicating a vision for the future while empowering teams and individual members to achieve our organizational goals. I’ve also learned over time how important it is to flex my leadership style based on the specific situation while staying consistent and true to my core leadership values.

I wish I had known earlier in my career that leadership is a journey—not a destination. I view every new position or situation as an opportunity to grow and develop my abilities. I’m honored to be leading the oncology commercial team and look forward to what we’ll achieve together.

Rivers: Congrats on your new role as the chief commercial officer of Loxo@Lilly. Could you describe your role and some of your goals for what you hope to do?

Tucker: Lilly has a rich history of delivering life-changing medicines and supporting people living with cancer and those who care for them. I chose to join Loxo@Lilly, Lilly’s oncology unit, because of this and the focus on developing differentiated products that can provide distinct benefits to patients, establishing a unique placement in their treatment.

As the chief commercial officer for Loxo@Lilly, I’m responsible for leading commercialization activities to maximize the delivery of our innovative oncology products and reach more patients. This includes leading teams through developing the right innovative go-to-market strategies for our new products and ensuring we grow the impact of our existing portfolio.

Lilly has experience launching and building impactful brands across some of the most prevalent cancers, such as lung and breast cancer. With our current portfolio and those in development, we have the potential to grow our impact with multiple new launches while entering new areas such as hematology, an area in which I have considerable experience. My goal is to leverage the scale of our team and Lilly’s world-class commercialization capabilities to launch multiple products across new areas, benefiting even more patients.

Rivers: What have you learned from your previous roles at Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis, and Celgene in navigating commercial strategies and policies?

Tucker: My previous experience working within multiple pharmaceutical companies of different scales and across various geographies has taught me the importance of developing commercial strategies that are relevant, timely, and cross-functionally aligned.

These strategies must be paired with policies that allow our teams to execute with urgency to meet patient and customer needs most effectively. This is why the thesis behind Loxo@Lilly of bringing together the spirit of biotech with the scale and heritage of Lilly makes so much sense to me. Oncology is becoming increasingly competitive with multiple therapies launched in the same disease category. We’ve also seen an acceleration in the rate of innovation and dissemination of medical and product information. This requires our commercial teams to explore new go-to-market models and develop commercial strategies that can be executed in an increasingly digital and data-driven marketing mix model.

Therefore, I believe world-class commercial teams today must develop strategies that can be quickly and easily adapted and executed across global markets while balancing speed of execution with quality and appropriate governance. This allows us to bring truly meaningful medicines to more patients faster.

About Winselow Tucker

Winselow Tucker, Chief Commercial Officer, Loxo@Lilly (Eli Lilly’s oncology unit)

Winselow Tucker, Chief Commercial Officer, Loxo@Lilly (Eli Lilly’s oncology unit)

Winselow Tucker is the senior vice president and chief commercial officer for oncology at Lilly’s oncology unit, Loxo@Lilly. He is passionate about delivering innovative pharmaceutical products to patients suffering from serious and rare diseases, such as cancer. He has more than 20 years of pharmaceutical and biotech experience delivering strong business results and successfully launching new products. In his current role, he is responsible for leading the commercialization activities for the oncology business of Loxo@Lilly, including leading US and global teams in the development of go-to-markets strategies, new product development activities associated with launches, and leadership of the US oncology business.

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