Valeant Grows While Staying Lean

With a small team, Joe Morales helps the quickly growing Valeant Pharmaceuticals stand apart from its peers

Joe Morales, Executive Director of Supply Chain, Valeant Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical company Valeant, based in Canada, is valued at more than $10 billion and has seen an enormous amount of growth in the past seven years. Its strategic markets span the world: the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Africa. Joe Morales came to Valeant through an acquisition and found himself climbing the ladder to his current position as executive director of supply chain. Hispanic Executive sat down with Morales to catch up on the state of the industry, what makes Valeant stand apart from its peers, and what waits on the horizon for the rapidly growing pharmaceutical company.

Hispanic Executive: What steps led you to the pharmaceutical industry?

Joe Morales: I worked  as a pharma tech during my college days. That work networked me into the industry and led to an open position at Bristol-Myers when I was graduating. I joined them as an entry-level process engineer.

HE: How did you get from engineering to the supply chain position you have with Valeant now?

JM: Well, I progressed through the engineering ranks, and I became a manager of engineering. Eventually, management picked up on how I learned and applied  information from other disciplines. That interest helped to make me more successful within teams and in my own projects. Since supply chain touches every project, I quickly became knowledgeable and effective in that area. During some turmoil, an opportunity presented itself to manage a department including direct management of engineers, supply chain professionals, and indirect management of QA. There is where my supply chain career started.

HE: Tell me about your current responsibilities.

JM: Since joining the company about seven years ago, there’s been tremendous growth, and I’ve been very involved with many acquisitions. I have had the opportunity to perform  due diligence  and  participate in the integration. I am responsible for assessing the supply chain and assuring it can support the business; continuity of supply is paramount. My duties also include managing  certain business segments from end to end, sourcing, contracting, cost management/cost savings, and management and development of people.

HE: How many direct reports do you have?

JM: We’re a small, lean group. I have two direct reports, and I have part of a head count from one of my colleagues. We stay lean by working well together and sharing resources when there is not enough work to justify an additional person. We don’t hire people if we don’t have a full allocation of work for them.

HE: What’s a project you’re excited about  working on these days?

JM: I’m working on a drug called Brodalumab, a biological product, that will come in a prefilled syringe injection. It’s for moderate to severe psoriasis. It is a cold chain product; this means it has to be maintained in 2–8 degrees Celsius. This makes the supply chain a little more challenging. FDA approval for the drug is scheduled for November [2016]. I feel passionate about this product because it will truly impact and improve the lives of many people.

HE: In this election year, how is the industry overall faring?

JM: It’s a political season right now, and every election cycle they get into the politics of healthcare. Like any other industry, there’s always room for improvement, but I think it’s a healthy and growing industry. I’ve always found it satisfying to deliver products that help people. For example, Brodalumab. You might think psoriasis is not a big deal, but the people who will use this have it over a large percentage of their body. It’s painful and it’s visible, so the disease has an impact on their life. The drug has the potential to change people’s lives. It’s awesome. I think sometimes the industry isn’t well-understood, but we actually do a lot of good.

HE: How has your team responded to such rapid growth?

JM: We’ve grown so much through acquisitions and there’s been tremendous synergies, which means we’re doing a lot more with less. We are doing the work of the company we acquired, plus our regular work. What I see here is that if you don’t know your business, if you aren’t a subject-matter expert, and don’t have enough bandwidth to understand what others do, you’re not going to do well. It has been and continues to be a dynamic and exciting place to work.

HE: What’s unique about Valeant?

JM: I’ve seen the entire spectrum of this industry from start-up pharma to big pharma, and I can tell you that Valeant is unique in what it takes to be able to thrive here. The amount of change and growth accomplished is well above the norm. Then the proper execution of lean operations to incorporate the growth is something the company does better than any other I have seen. Many companies talk about how important people are; here we show it every day through execution by a talented group of people.

“Many companies talk about how important people are; here we show it every day through execution by a talented group of people.”

Joe Morales

HE: Can you tell me about some of your goals for the near future with the company?

JM: This company has been really good to me. I came here through an acquisition, and I was really happy to remain. I hope to continue growing with the company.  My goal is to provide as much value as I can for the company. This has been my strategy for many years. I find that if you do show value, your career will continue to grow and reflect that value.

HE: What advice might you give somebody in the early stages of a career path similar to yours?

JM: Coming out of college, most people don’t know what the real work world is like, so be prepared. I learned early on that everybody likes the young workers who come in, because they look at them and think of themselves; perhaps it is a bit of nostalgia, or perhaps you remind them of their son or daughter. They’re very willing to help, so use that gift. Then, work really hard. Show people you’re willing to go the extra mile, no matter what it is. Do more than what is expected, and you will make friends in all places. Finally, I recommend that you learn about other disciplines. This will help you with your work and will make you a more rounded and valuable employee.