Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Op-Ed Piece

When TSB was launched, our intent was and will always be to provide our readers with a forum to have an intelligent and academic platform affording all our readers a venue to express their opinions. This is not CafePharma! In addition, this blog is not a website subsidized by industry based advertising revenue, we do not sell data, or claim to offer business solutions, we do not have a vested interest in creating new markets or influencing equities, nor, do we charge a subscription rate to allow our readers to blog. The rationale for this model has enabled us to keep a neutral position on evaluating technology, management teams, and on the information provided in confidence by our followers, allowing our readers to keep their anonymity, as well as our critics. We attempt to perform as much due diligence as time allows. Yet, TSB does not expect our readers to agree with everything. The objective is to offer our readers an honest assessment of what is going on in the industry, and "what is heard on the street."

Recently, we have had much commentary and banter regarding a few "early-stage" companies, its management teams, and its investors. It seems that some ego's have been bruised. My polite response to these people is that if you are unhappy about what is being discussed, please don't read the blog, or when you wake up take a good look at yourself in the mirror. We must question those that express their animus by asking "is there any truth to what is being said?" Sometimes the truth is a difficult pill to swallow. Unlike other platforms TSB does not delete any comments, whether they critique TSB or its readers, as long as it is done in good taste.

The one question that must be asked is, why is it when small companies fail, have no idea how to implement a strategic plan and do not understand how to execute, it is always the fault of a distributor, middle manager, or the dynamics of the industry? Does anyone ever take responsibility on an executive level? Could it be that so many people are incompetent, or, could it be that you make poor decisions and lack good people management skills?

In closing, I would like to use this opportunity to wish all my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving! Keep reading, your voice counts and can make a difference!


  1. TSB - well said & a great holiday to you as well

  2. TSB - This is Marc V. I am an avid reader of your blog and a fan. I think your content is fresh, thought-provoking and honest. I think it is a good thing that you have set this blog up in the manner in which you did and allow the industry to have a forum to voice a healthy debate.

    Having been involved as an executive in a number of musculoskeletal businesses, including currently a spine business, among others, I want to specifically address your point about taking responsibility at the executive level. I think I have a little bit of a unique perspective because I have been on all sides of the table, as a passive and active investor, as an executive, and as both at the same time.

    Speaking for myself, I know I am guilty of not taking responsibility for mis-steps and mistakes. I think I've grown beyond that now, but not without its opportunities to learn and challenges to overcome (such as suppressing my ego) along the way. So, with as much humbleness as I can offer, I'd like to offer some thoughts for consideration and discussion.

    First, I try to make sure that the mistakes aren't big ones, but rather small ones - in fact, if we don't make mistakes, how do we learn? But, I try not to push the blame and consequences of those mistakes on to others. I think it is important that an organization and culture allow for small mistakes to occur so that people can grow. Unfortunately, politics and the corporate ladder always spin it into failures and opportunities for others to get ahead. In my view, its important to have a culture which discourages feeding off of others mis-steps. Having said that, it is very difficult, when managing teams of people and growing a business (and constantly evolving the culture) to keep that equation completely in check. This is a source of constant struggle in any growing organization and no one ever gets it perfect.

    Second, I believe it is important to characterize the types of factors that can cause mis-steps and mistakes. On one hand, healthcare reform, FDA reviewing and revising its device approval process and the reimbursement environment are all exogenous factors which individually we have little ability to influence, but as a whole, with a united voice, possibly. On the other hand, bad product designs or bad contracts (and the resulting after-effects) are avoidable, for the most part. As an example, I want the Head of Quality reporting directly to me. If there is a product problem, I want to give that person unencumbered access to me, without someone else putting their spin on whatever their vested interest or hidden agenda may be. I've only learned this through my own mistakes.

    Third, small companies can fail for a whole host of reasons, many of which you elucidated. However, I do believe that you are right in that the implementation of a strategic plan plays out over a 3-5 year horizon and if you do not make the right underlying assumptions, there is significant risk to the plan and to success. I know that whenever I do a strategic plan, I try to look out over a five year horizon, and I frequently get it wrong... but, sometimes I get some important parts right and those can be very positive. The key I have learned is to try to account for various types of competitive pressures, try to anticipate negative market dynamics, always double the time of anything and increase the costs appropriately. Everyone tends to plan with rose-colored glasses - I am the worst at it too and need to constantly remind myself of this.

    I know that many will disagree with what I have written, but I thought in the spirit of your blog and trying to stimulate thinking and debate, I would take a shot at it.

  3. Marc: Thank you for your commentary! You are a breath of fresh air in an industry that has too many of the usual suspects. I believe that if many more people were as candid as you, the industry would be better off. I appreciate your gracious words and encourage you to keep on reading! Have a great holiday!

  4. "White Meat, Dark Meat......I Love Turkey on Thanksgiving."

    ___ Adam Sandler