Accord Healthcare is a young and dynamic pharmaceutical company, involved in the development, manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical products to over 70 markets around the world. We spoke to Vice-President of the company, James Burt as we looked for more information about his and the firm’s success.

Earlier this year, James passed the seventh anniversary of joining Accord. In this time, he has experienced many challenges and created many opportunities since arriving at the company, and what he and the company have achieved is something he is very proud of.

James talks us through some of the key lessons that he has learned whilst working at Accord, commenting further on what he has learned from the company’s progress within the industry.

1.       ‘Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organisation can have’ ‘ Pat Summitt

‘When I first came to Accord, we were a young, dynamic company that had less than 50 people in the region, but we were always passionate and believed in what we were trying to build. Seven years on, we are still a dynamic company and we have grown to over 1,200 people across over 25 different countries. Despite our growth, the passion of staff has not changed and individuals illustrate the key principal that we all need to show ownership. As we have grown, I have encouraged all our managers and leaders to keep the same bottom-up structure and drive their own path and career at Accord. I view our people as partners rather than employees, everyone has a great idea, or a suggestion that can help shape and create our business. We want our people to share our journey with us, so I have always tried to create an atmosphere that is collaborative and nurtures great ideas.

‘Fundamentally, my aspiration was always to hire and retain great people, because without them we will not achieve our vision. It is a virtuous circle as the more good people we attract, the better the organisation becomes and thus increasing the appeal to potential employees. I’ve been amazed by the number of applicants we have been receiving for new roles, it is testament to the great strides we are making in the industry.’

2.      Communication becomes even more important when you grow

‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ ‘ Aristotle

Crucial to the firm’s success is communication between work colleagues and of course between employees and clients. Highlighting the rapid growth of Accord Healthcare, James is quick to attribute communication as key to the development of the firm.

‘As with any growth in any company, especially as one that is as fast-paced and geographically spread as ours, ensuring that we keep everyone in the loop becomes an inevitable challenge. As we have grown, our communication approach has had to evolve and as a result we have overhauled our communications this year. We have spent time listening to our employee’s needs, especially our remote workers and manufacturing staff who are not as easy to reach with traditional communications. We don’t want people working in a silo as that is not good for business.

‘At Accord, it is important to me that everyone knows our vision and we work as one team. Our bottom-up approach means that anyone can share an idea whether they work on the factory floor, are out in the field or part of our executive board. Everyone has a voice.

‘With this in mind, we are investing in new digital tools including an intranet to encourage more two-way communication. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is Town Hall meetings. When we started out we held these regularly and today these are still a great way of getting people together to communicate, collaborate and connect.’

3.      Quality is the number one key success factor in generics

‘Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected’ ‘ Steve Jobs

Adopting a personal approach, James believes that patients should not be anonymous and faceless, as they are the heart of the business. This helps drive the quality of the products and service that Accord produces, as these people that staff are helping are family in all aspects of the word.

‘Every minute we make on average over 10,000 tablets in the UK. I am reminded every day that the average price to the NHS for a pack of medicine from Accord is under £1.30, meaning access to life-changing drugs for less than a cup of coffee per day. Despite the value of our offering, we can never cut corners and quality has to be at the very heart of our activity. It is not something we can ever afford to get wrong.

‘Accord has always had an enduring reputation for success through quality and integrity in the marketplace and this is something that sets us apart from some of our competitors. This year we successfully concluded inspections at all of our UK sites. Our record is something I am very proud of and something we can never afford to be complacent about. We invest in great talent and constantly evaluate our structures and processes to ensure we get it right first time, every time. Never turn a blind eye to activities that do not meet this expectation.’

4.      Don’t follow the herd

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”  ‘ John D Rockefeller

Aiming to stay ahead of the competition and differentiate the company from the rest, James says that one of the lessons he has learned is not to follow the herd. James is determined to make the company unique, focusing on what makes Accord special.

‘Early on in my career, when I first came to Accord I knew that it was different. An Indian owned company (Intas) who was at its heart, a family company that was driven and entrepreneurial. We were not one of the big players, and I think not on anyone’s radar in Europe, but we knew we wanted to break into the regional market and disrupt the status quo.

‘Since then we have gone above and beyond our original brief. We have grown revenues by over 1000% since I joined and our average growth has exceeded 40% annually in the past nine years. Brexit is a great example; in a time where companies are taking a conservative approach or even leaving the UK, we are demonstrating our confidence and commitment by investing in a new manufacturing in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.’

5.      Tenacity ‘ embrace the hard times, they alleviate and you learn the most from them

‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do.’ – Robert H. Schuller

In any industry, there are always challenges which present themselves and it is how people overcome these issues which help shape them as a person and a company. Embracing potential problems is something James is happy to do, and he notes that adversity has brought the team at Accord together, with difficult experiences making the company stronger.

‘Honestly, I have made mistakes in the last seven years, and there are deals or products that I wish I could go back to, but the job of a leader is you have to get the rest of the organisation through the challenging times. You have to get others to believe and buy into your vision, and that means that you have to passionately believe in what you are doing and the difference you are trying to make to patients and other stakeholders.

6.      Never lose that entrepreneurial spirit

‘If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you’ ‘ Steve Jobs

Regarding the internal culture within Accord, James comments on the thriving work environment, with staff all motivated towards achieving the same goal. He refers us to the passionate nature of his teams, and how the company is continuously looking for ways to improve.

‘Importantly, we are still the same Accord with the same ethos and ambitions to provide life-saving drugs to patients across the world as we have been since the start. We still retain that sense of entrepreneurship we have had from the outset, but businesses have to evolve otherwise they stagnate. To get bigger, better and stronger it is vital that we constantly challenge ourselves and our ethos.’

‘It is important that passion and sense of excitement is felt from the bottom-up ‘ it doesn’t work if it is just dictated from above. We give employees much more scope and progression within Accord than in some more traditional pharma companies, nonetheless that drive to push forward and to not be satisfied with adequate has to come from every aspect of the business.’

7.      Stick to the plan

‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ – Antoine de Saint-Exup’ry

Lastly, James signs off by mentioning the final lesson he has learned, which is to stick to the plan, and do not change on a whim. James is looking to continue to learn, both in regard to his personal development and for his company. Learning from these lessons has led James to foresee an exciting future for Accord as it continues to grow within the healthcare sector. 

‘Planning is a large part of what my day to day job entails and ensuring that we all stick to the same plan. We are not a traditional company, so most of my planning is around what we need to ensure that we can make our next milestone to help us achieve our vision or reacting to market place demands. We operate in a very unpredictable marketplace; any number of issues can hit us from a failed drug launch, to a MHRA inspection, to ideas for supply chain designs and what we need to do differently; so, despite our continued growth it is important we remain nimble, competitive and reactive to help our customers. 

‘Yet again, communication is central to focus everyone in the same direction and provide a clear strategy. Additionally, I also acknowledge that I am not always the person with all the answers and that I do not know more than anyone else, part of my planning has to come from the teams around me. I might give the destination of the journey but it is the teams around me that will help take the company there.  

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Company: Accord Healthcare