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Mantell Associates Network: Q&A with Barbara Morgan

​As part of the Mantell Associates Network podcast earlier this year, CEO Alessandro Mantell spoke with Barbara Morgan.

As part of the Mantell Associates Network podcast earlier this year, CEO Alessandro Mantell welcomed Barbara Morgan, General Manager at the CDMO business of Lubrizol Life Science Health, a leading pharmaceutical CDMO based out of the US.

Having been part of the organisation for over seven years, Barbara talks us through the challenges faced by the CDMO business of Lubrizol Life Science Health and herself as a General Manager during this global pandemic, and how she has adapted during these uncertain times. She also discusses upcoming changes in the Pharmaceutical industry and offers advice for other business leaders looking to optimise their response during the COVID-19 crisis.

Alessandro Mantell: Thank you very much for joining me today for episode 9 of Mantell Associates Network. I am joined today by Barbara Morgan who is the General Manager of Lubrizol Corporation, she has been there for over 7 years. She is heading up a CDMO facility in the US which looks after a group of over 90 employees and of course Barbara you have been battling everything since it started with COVID-19, with life, with everything. So, to start of with, it would be great if you could talk me through life since COVID-19, being a GM of the business, how everything is done, what you are doing and kind of life, work and really what your average day is looking like at the moment, if there is an average day? 

Barbara Morgan: Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak, both with you and also the outside world whoever is listening. I love being able to talk to different people around the world and see what they are experiencing. For me the average day, before COVID-19, I was travelling a tonne. Lubrizol is a global company and so I have groups, not only the CDMO groups that you mentioned, I have global groups around the world that work on excipients and nutraceuticals and so I was travelling a tonne. I had already been managing remotely,  I am based out in Cleveland so the site that we are speaking about, the CDMO is based in Bethlehem PA. I was there every other week but I had already been really used to managing remotely.

For us in the beginning the biggest things were how can we do this safely. Lubrizol is one of those companies that firmly believe if you take care of your people,  the work will get done. Some of the things we did at the very beginning was if you need to take time off  because you have a family situation or you are trying to work out what is safest for you because of your health, we gave people that time off so that was nothing against your vacation, anything like that. We sorted out the safety of it. At the beginning I think we had around 25% of people on the site and now we are closer to 75% but if you can work from home and not on the site, work from home because it is safe. But for me on my average day, I do a lot of video calls so there is a lot of just connecting with people, making sure everyone is doing okay, both from a physical, social and mental perspective. Also just making sure we are aligned on what is important and what we need to focus on. That is a big piece of my day, on the phone, talking to people, sometimes getting to talk to customers which is my favourite thing  but you get to do less of that as you move up the chain, it’s a dirty secret that people don’t tell you! 

Alessandro Mantell: I love that, thank you so much! I liked what you said there about what’s important, in life, in work and really focusing on it. I guess one of the things of you being a leader at the moment and having to lead the business is all of the challenges that have been coming left, right and centre. What are some of the main challenges that you and the business have faced thus far from the pandemic because a lot of businesses, even pharmaceutical companies have gone under whereas you guys are thriving. How have you managed to do that and what are the challenges that you have faced? 

Barbara Morgan: So a big challenge is around the uncertainty itself, you navigate on uncertainty and you are creating a path for yourself so I think a big piece of that is learning how to navigate uncertainty. The market, especially for Pharma is still the same, you see very much that the whole world is kind of dependant on the Pharma Market for solving this situation for us and so there has been some delays in RD programmes which without a doubt there is going to be unless you are working on code. You want to make sure that you are continuing to move forward and that is what we have been doing with our clients. For us because we are a development house at heart there were some fits and starts with some clients. For example, some clients funding was uncertain, some were full bore ahead so you learn to be flexible but that is something we have always been.

If you are a CDMO, particularly if you are focused on development which is what we are known for, every year your pipeline is different. So we were already really well suited to be adaptable and to be flexible for changes and that certainly has been no different this year. I think what is layered onto this is just really making sure your people feel like they are being taken care of and that you help everyone align and focus on the most important things because there is a lot of noise out there. So that’s the biggest thing, helping people navigate through uncertainty and having flexibility but we were lucky enough to already be incredibly flexible just because of the nature of our business. 

Alessandro Mantell: Absolutely, with everything that is going on I guess being flexible and with the Lubrizol business being in development are two things that makes you guys as an organisation unique. What else separates you from your competitors and what makes you unique as an organisation? 

Barbara Morgan: One of the things that we talk about at our CDMO is we generalise in dosage forms but we specialise in complex so we handle a whole variety of dosage forms from injectables to eye drops to implants. We do some oral but mostly in the sterile space is where we are focused. People tend to come to us with the more complex side of things, I would say the two biggest areas that we end up developing around are insoluble drug products. If you look at what is out there in the pipeline there are stats that are 50%-90% what’s out there are insoluble so BCS class two or four. So we have a whole host of technologies that are off the shelf technologies so we know how to employ them into formulations so that is one piece. But then there is also the added layer of sterile products and so we are able to do a lot of these things in sterile environments and also translate them into first a clinic so that’s a big hurdle, formulating for the clinic, formulating for being able to get it out there and get it in your patients to see if it is effective. I would say that is where we are differentiated on being able to handle those complex developments and our team loves it, they love the diversity, they love that we are seeing new science constantly. 

Alessandro Mantell: Amazing and that has all helped, what you mentioned about your team loving that, it goes to show really how flexible you guys are as a business. The fact that you can jump into that and jump into that and get excited about working on these types of new projects is really brilliant. I think something which I wanted to touch on with you was really from a personal standpoint. You are managing a far larger group of people in the organisation, with far more responsibility then I do, to gain an understanding of being a leader in the Pharma Industry, how have you adapted personally, on a work side, physically, mentally and family, work life, how have you adapted to everything and how are you doing? 

Barbara Morgan: Thanks, that’s a great question and one that we should be asking more. The way I have adapted, the way I tend to do everything, I tend to be really authentic in areas I am struggling with personally and areas that I think I am thriving and moving through. I think for me the biggest struggle has been, I am a huge extrovert so I am not getting that daily energy boost from being with people and so I tell my team that is it okay that you are struggling through this, you should be. I think that it is just acknowledging that and being empathetic with people and saying  you can do that and still be incredibly focused on what you need to get done. I think that the biggest thing I think for me is being authentic with my people, trusting them, checking in on them and also making sure everyone is incredibly aligned.

For me, because I am not getting that daily refresh with seeing people outside of my family I have had to look to charge myself with other things, I now play more soccer with my daughter, I make all of them hug me so much more, I have actually taken up trying to meditate daily. Things that are telling my body that hey this is giving some energy back to you but it’s not perfect, some days are better than others but I think one of the ways that you build trust with your team is being incredibly honest. I will tell you, we have gotten more done during this time than I have ever seen us which is amazing and I think it has helped us to focus in some ways and I am really incredibly proud of the team and all of the accomplishments that we have made in this time.

Alessandro Mantell: What is amazing about what you have just said is the fact you mentioned meditation, being authentic with your team and something that is commonly so lost in development, manufacturing, in all types of companies. People are like ‘here’s the job, get on with it’ and actually we forget day to day, no one is enjoying this, nobody. The team needs reassurance and people in businesses, clients as well that you are talking to daily are going to be having the same problems that we have. The meditation part and keeping mentally there, also in terms of fitness that you have been doing which is brilliant, I can’t say the same on my side but doing all of that it helps you to stay positive. If we can be positive with the teams that we are leading and what you have done is hugely amazing. Do you think that all of this is testing leaders across the world now more than ever before, especially the pharmaceutical industry? 

Barbara Morgan: Yes without a doubt, you can’t lead in the same way that you used to, meaning the in person stuff isn’t there anymore, the way we do work in some ways has really changed, so sure it is testing people. I think one of the things though is if you help people, rally around the common cause it is amazing what you can get done. If you build trust within your people, it is also amazing what you can get done, it is all about the team around you. To be a really impactful leader it is not what gets accomplished when you are there, it’s what you can get accomplished when you’re gone, what you have empowered your team to do, the alignment and collaboration you have built across your teams.

I think one of the most important things that leaders can do is to take care of their people, if people think that you care about them and if you genuinely do care about your people you are going to be rewarded every single time. I have never had a case in which I really took care of someone or really focused on another person and it didn’t pay back in some way. My biggest advice for people is to go out there, look at your people, take care of them, I always say to my team I am here to feed resources for you and to clear the noise, you know what to do, they don’t need me for that. I think that’s a fallacy where it’s all of these strong leaders telling everyone what to do, that’s not what it is, it’s helping people feel supported and that you are there to have their backs, feed resources to them and to take care of them. 

Alessandro Mantell: Amazing, that whole style of telling them what to do, how to do it and stuff like that is slowly dying out. This guy I follow online, a great leader called Simon Sinek talked similarly to the way you were talking. It just then reminded me of a lot of the things that I have heard him say and it is so true about, just because you are leading an organisation you are still a part of that team, it is your responsibility. Everything you are saying is about good team spirit, being a good coach, would you actually say that your team has gotten closer and stronger through this?

Barbara Morgan: Yes absolutely in some ways, we know a lot more, each other’s home lives, we know a lot more about each other’s quirks and I think people’s personalities really come out in these types of things. In some ways we are closer than ever, you know you kind of feel like you are going through a war together. There is a bond that has been forged that I think all of us will carry with us for a very long time. So if you love Simon Sinek, another person I started following is Francis Frye who is of a similar vein. She came and spoke to our company earlier this year and I just fell in love with her message on taking care of people. Another person I absolutely love is Adam Grant, have you looked into any of his stuff? 

Alessandro Mantell: I think I have seen his name but I have never listened to him directly or Frances Fry, neither of them!

Barbara Morgan: Oh she is amazing and Adam Grant he feeds my nerdy side, he knows every stat around every study and I think for me I really enjoy that kind of stuff, I enjoy reading it. At the end of the day, you’re the best leader when you are just yourself. I am a huge nerd, I love to read and I think the best thing you can do is be authentic, be yourself and help the team align on what is important. 

Alessandro Mantell:  Amazing, great advice, the future, I feel despite all of these, for some industries it is not looking bright but for the pharmaceutical industry, CDMO industry it is looking bright. What are some of the changes that you have seen in the industry as a whole in the coming years, what are some of the challenges that you foresee, how do you think the future of the industry looks?

Barbara Morgan: So I am an optimist, there is a thing called the stockdale paradox where you are based in the reality of that, this is very tough there are things we have to undercome,  you have to have an unwavering opinion that things are going to work out and that you will always get to the other side of things. The reality is that we are going to continue as a world to face diseases but I am so optimistic about the science that is coming out. Some of the challenges that have unearthed during all of this is you’re looking at our supply chains. 

I think countries are realising that they don’t have nearly as much in the country as they did before. There will probably be a bit of a focus on making sure that your supply chain per country is really understanding the essential medicines and that you are able to flow those in a better way. I actually think that will lead to some improvements. I think for us especially in the sterile product spaces there is not enough manufacturing out there to suit the needs of tomorrow which is flexible and modular so you are going to see a lot more of that coming online. For us, our commercial facility is just now coming online and it is set up to do small batch, flexible sterile products and I think you are going to see a lot more sterile products manufacturing coming online. There is also a huge amount of biologics that are coming through and they are all a little different. You are going to see a huge amount of investment in that as well and we are going to have to figure out some of the cold chain storage things so you see the vaccines coming through and the logistics and supply chain opportunities are out there. 

I think the future is bright, we know so much and there are so many opportunities out there, for everyone but we have to make sure we take care of the sanctity of science. Science is not a political issue, it’s pretty black and white so I think that there is a long history of revering science and I think we will continue to do that, that is a little bit of it. The noise out there is louder than before, maybe I am just conscious of it, I just don’t remember the same noise in the past 10 years. I think that those are some of our challenges but without a doubt we have shown as an industry how we have risen to the occasion and we have blocked that, we have had our eye on the price and I think we will continue to do that. 

Alessandro Mantell: Incredible, something that I picked up on and what you just mentioned there was about protecting science. This is often what can happen when VC or PE firms invest in organisations, they want it done in a certain time frame. All of these great things, especially with vaccines, you see a lot of it going on in the US and across Europe at the moment and it has got to be right because this will affect people’s lives and it is so sensitive especially now. You have given me a lot of insight into you as a person, you have your nerdy side, you love humans as a whole, leadership but what do you enjoy most about working inside the pharmaceutical industry at the moment?

Barbara Morgan: I love that I am working on things that absolutely matter, as we have seen with a pandemic or armageddon or something like that that has happened and medicine would still matter. I get a lot of joy and personal fulfilment on working on something that I think advances the world. That for me, from a moral standpoint, I love that I am working on something that has a big impact and for us we get to work on some social things as well. We have been working with the Gates foundation and different foundations on supporting access to healthcare around products so I love that we get to do stuff like that. We get to work on impact and but also the nerdy side, the science,  I get to see that on a daily basis really revs me up, I love it. As someone who is a continual learner it feeds that in me where I learn something new everyday from my team or from my customers and I love that. I just feel so fulfilled, I might feel exhausted at times but I feel so fulfilled at the end of the day. Having taken on the nutraceutical group I have just realised that there is so much more out there to learn and I think that also refreshed me this year. 

Alessandro Mantell: Great, speaking of exhaustion by the way, I found that most of the people that are working from home are even more tired than before because they are finding that they can’t switch off, as they are doing more work, longer hours. It has actually meant that businesses have actually improved their services in the way that you said and you guys have been doing as well. How have you found the market in terms of new sales, new business development, what type of ideas and strategies have Lubrizol and yourself come up with as an organisation? 

Barbara Morgan: In terms of Sales and business development, there has been a tonne of interest in some pieces of the business, the sales have skyrocketed and in other pieces you have seen there has been a bit of a softening. I think one of the things that this has done is that it has really accelerated being digital and just like most things our CDMO has never actually had a salesforce out there, we were always digital so in some ways we were prepared for this already. That is one of the things that you are seeing more and more, one of the things that clinch the sales on CDMOs is tours of the facility. You can’t do that in the same way so we have been doing virtual tours, videos that have adaptability and flexibility. I think that in general digital is going to be here to stay. Consumers like to get their information and customers like to get their information differently and so that has been one of the biggest changes in development.

From us, from the CDMO side, for development programmes, we have some soft months because people were trying to sort out what this COVID-19 means for these development programmes. We saw MNA soften in the Pharma market as well so there was some uncertainty there but we have had a couple of super strong months. Pharma is revving back up and a lot of people know that these vaccines are coming and so people are rallying back around all these different Pharma programmes. We have had pieces of the business that have skyrocketed and pieces of the business that have softened, we have just had to adapt like we always do! I think one of the biggest things that have changed is and will be here to stay is, the digital outreach to customers. 

Alessandro Mantell: Amazing, with it being all on the digital side now, when we first started this conversation you mentioned that you are an extrovert and I can definitely see that. You mentioned that you were travelling everywhere because you look after people across the globe. Do you think that is going to happen again for you?

Barbara Morgan: Probably not in the same way, I think we have found we can do a lot more on video, I think I will still be back out there travelling around the globe, in part you need to be out there and see your people face to face. So I have teams that I work with in Europe, I have teams in India so I need to be out there and I need to see them so I can make that connection. There is also no replacing actually being out there and meeting your customers and seeing what healthcare looks like in different regions. I think people get really isolated from thinking that their healthcare is what healthcare is for everyone and it is just not true. I think that will continue as it is really important as it shapes your perspective and your perspectives really shape your beliefs and that shapes your actions so that will continue. In the US, I was doing a tonne of travelling, I don’t think I will do as much as that, I will tell you though if my boss would let me, I would be in my car right now out there in Bethlehem to see my team out there. I miss seeing my colleagues there so it will be one of my first stops. I was thinking last night, I wonder how I can convince my boss that I am really needed out there when I’m really not. 

Alessandro Mantell: Absolutely love it and everything about you really shines through and also your leadership style does. Often leaders in businesses can be pushed because you have KPIs, you have deadlines, so it is hard to keep balance of everything. What do you think is the secret to good leadership and how would you define success as a leader whether that is right now in your role or as a whole?  

Barbara Morgan: You have to deliver results without a doubt, if you are a leader and don’t deliver results you are not a good leader. Your results can be more than financial results so I think that is really important for people to keep in mind. Being a good leader I think, more than anything, is being crystal clear with people around the focus, alignment and support they need to get those results achieved. I think the legacy of a good leader is the talent they attract, the people that they develop and what the business looks like when they leave and it’s not about you. It is really hard sometimes to remember that because everyone is asking you these questions and the biggest thing that you can do is align the people around you, where you guys are heading from a strategic standpoint and the results that need to be achieved, I think that is the biggest thing. 

Another thing, I have incredibly high standards, I push people but I am also really open to feedback, feedback is your friend so I ask for feedback all the time. I am incredibly direct and for some people that is a little off putting so I need to temper that for the person. One thing that is huge for everyone that works for me is that they know how much I believe about diversity and inclusion, that is because diverse teams lead to a better outcome. But I will tell you it is much harder to manage a really diverse team because you have really different personalities around the table but within all of that is where you get the best ideas, you get the best results and it is worth the corralling of opinions, the moving forward as a cohesive team.

As long as there is trust and everyone is rallied around the common cause. The diverse teams is a huge thing for us, I think 50% of our leadership is women and that isn’t very common in Pharma and it is something that we have been very intentional about. For diversity to work you have to have inclusion and so that is another thing, I want everyone to make sure that they are heard. It is not that we will always agree with each other but people need to know that their opinions are valued. 

Alessandro Mantell: Absolutely, something that you mentioned there was, it is not about you. There is a book I read years ago called ‘How to win friends and influence people’ and the ultimate message that I took from it was that nothing is really about you, it is about the people you are dealing with everything like that which I absolutely love. It is amazing to hear that Lubrizol has 50% females in the organisation.
Leading a headhunting organisation where we are often having people interviewing at businesses or seeing why people are leaving businesses. We have actually had a lot of those sorts of questions asked, candidates that have panel interviews with 10-15 people and have said hang on, every single one of them was male, are they not promoting that. It is good that this conversation is going on and I hope it continues longer and longer and brilliant to hear the work that you guys are doing. Just to quickly round it off and thank you so much for everything, what advice would you give to other business leaders right now to optimise the crisis and get through it for their businesses?

Barbara Morgan: I would tell them to do exactly what Lubrizol does, take care of people without a doubt and don’t be looking for cost cutting out there. Right now it is all about taking care of your people, you have to optimise. I am not naïve, you can’t be out there operating at a loss, I’m not saying that. What I am saying is use this opportunity to really build trust with your people, take care of them, get to know them, use this time to really get aligned as a team, focus on what is really important. I think for everyone out there, if you take care of your team that will reward you so much more than any other thing that you can do out there.

Alessandro Mantell: Brilliant, it is during this time period where teams are going to appreciate every little thing, every human being rather, is going to appreciate it more. They can see the stresses of the companies, that you’re under, that I am under, that we are all under, so to have that little bit of, you mentioned, empathy, and being authentic as a person is great. Barbara, thank you so much for today it has been brilliant meeting you and you are a great person. Thank you so much, we will talk very very soon. Take care.

If you missed Barbara Morgan’s original podcast and would like to listen, please click here!

Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Recruitment organisation founded by CEO Alessandro Mantell in January 2019. If you would like to find out more about how we support finding you the right talent or the right opportunity, reach out to Alessandro on alessandro@mantellassociates.com or give us a call on +44 (0)20 3778 0990.