The VOCAL Approach

Bart Valdez uses an innovative approach that goes beyond the Voice of the Customer to build relevant solutions for biopharmaceutical customers

Bart Valdez, President of the Strategic Resourcing Group, INC Research / inVentiv Health

Bart Valdez has always helped develop creative solutions. Valdez worked his way through college as a carpenter’s apprentice, where trying to figure out how to drywall an elevator shaft was just part of his normal day.

As president of the strategic resourcing group for INC Research / inVentiv Health, Valdez provides expertise to an industry-changing organization. The new company, created through a merger in 2017, is reinventing how drugs are developed and commercialized. As a part of this effort, Valdez leads a team that develops intelligent global solutions for effectively staffing clinical development programs, managing resources, and optimizing processes.

Valdez relies on the VOCAL method, which is a process that he’s used throughout his career to rebrand, rebuild, and reposition companies. It is built on the traditional Voice of the Consumer (VOC) approach, a market research technique that evaluates customers’ expectations, preferences and aversions to shape new offerings. Valdez has enhanced the strategy by adding input from A, academics, and L, leaders in the financial community.

“Introducing academic and analytical perspectives from sources like Harvard Business Review and guidance from financial leaders who can assess potential investment interest in a new strategy offers much-needed balance to the voice of the customer,” Valdez says. “And more informed context always facilitates better decisions.”

At INC Research / inVentiv Health, these elements have led to Valdez developing a multipronged strategy for building relevant solutions in the complex drug development environment. Customers voiced the need for more engagement in understanding their challenges and business drivers. The academic viewpoint stressed the need for innovation and differentiation, while financial leaders emphasized the importance of both these insights in the face of continued compression and competition of outsourced biopharmaceutical service providers.

Beyond the Voice of the Customer

At Baxter Healthcare, Valdez transformed the company’s custom pack business (prepackaged in-patient supplies) when he discovered that the focus should be on the convenience and efficiency the packs provided to hospitals, the commodities. In addition to recognizing the branding opportunities that individual pack items presented for hospitals, research data also indicated correlations between increased regional sales of pack items and participating hospitals. As a result, distributors began offering Baxter items without charge. This transformation energized the entire business line.

As an independent consultant, Valdez went a step further by listening to the voice of his customer’s customers. A pharmaceutical industry event planning firm asked him to find a buyer for the company. After speaking with event attendees, he learned how highly they valued the quality of the information they received.

“I told the company I didn’t think they were really in the event planning business,” Valdez points out. “They distributed information. So they needed to reposition themselves as the specialized oracle of truth for all areas of pain control, one of the largest global drug spend categories.”

The company sold for a multiple almost four times higher than the industry standard price.

Leveraging Academics

When Valdez was at Ceridian, the Affordable Care Act put its COBRA insurance business at risk. “No one gets successful shrinking or liquidating a business,” he says. “Instead, you identify the value drivers and figure out what you can do different or better.”

In this case, academic sources indicated that COBRA operations were based on the same five components as healthcare exchanges: education, eligibility, shop and compare, collecting funds, and distribution of funds. Ceridian became the first organization to successfully win a health exchange back-office contract. 

Valdez further focused the business by consolidating several divisions and divesting others for which Ceridian lacked the operational expertise. This enabled a back-office health exchange to be established that increased earnings by 500 percent.

Following the Leaders

When Valdez joined First Advantage, the company had a small regional business providing employment and security background screenings on an á la carte basis. However, studying the market and discussing the appetite for investment with the financial community revealed that combining services and applications into a single talent acquisition company would create a very attractive offering.

Title services company First American provided a budget, and Valdez led the acquisition of thirty-six companies in forty-eight months to create a global talent acquisition enterprise. First American later spun out First Advantage to become the top global provider of talent and prescreening, going from an $18 million regional business to a $300 million global business. That business has grown to more than $1 billion in revenue.

“My advice to most companies is to always check from as many angles as possible so that you can balance multiple viewpoints to make the best decisions for your organization,” Valdez says.