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All things Pharma

A Day in the Life

 

In the ninth of our series on healthcare industry professionals, Simon Talbot, Managing Director of medical device company P3 Medical, talks to On Target about his working life.

What happens in your typical working week?

At the top level, having set a direction for the company, I try and keep everything on an even keel. Below that, I try to keep everyone doing what they need to be doing and deal with all the day-to-day problems – for example, what’s going on in our two factories, what problems we are facing there, capacity issues, customer issues, all of those day-to-day things.

We tend to work partly on a routine basis – for example, meetings scheduled for the same time every month to fit in with financial reporting – and then a lot of ad hoc stuff, dealing with specific problems as they arise.

Also, I spend a lot of time in the marketplace, mostly with customers – either travelling with someone else or seeing people directly. The NHS is a good example: I’ll get in and see the NHS buyers or some of the larger B2B customers that we have in the UK. I also do a fair amount of overseas travel, seeing distributors and suppliers.

By far our biggest customer is the NHS, in terms of both central procurement and individual UK hospitals – we actually supply just about every hospital in the UK with something. We also supply a lot of other medical device manufacturers with components.

Overall I’m in my own office about half the time, and otherwise I could be anywhere – we sell into 40 different countries worldwide. I go to the USA three or four times each year and China maybe twice each year, and there’s quite a lot of European travel.

I’ve been involved in the medical devices industry for 17 years, and it gets under your skin. I enjoy doing what we do: we manufacture products that get used in patient care. I’m involved in every aspect of that: the design of the products, how they’re made, priced and delivered to market – so I see the whole route of getting a device to the point where it can be used on a patient. That’s what gives me the most satisfaction.

What are the main challenges you face in your role?

The biggest challenge for us in the last year has been the changes in the structure of procurement, affecting the way we do tenders. Tenders are a fact of life – you win them and you lose them, but the difficult thing has been understanding why it doesn’t seem to be consistent. If you’re playing a game you like to know what the rules are – but they’re not always that clear, and they seem to be changing more quickly than we can keep up with them.

The conventional business pressures are always there in terms of getting the right product at the right price, but the recent changes in the NHS have made it more difficult than it needs to be. In the short term they have made life harder for industry. We started our business in 2001 – I’m not sure that it would be possible to do it now, given the structures we have to deal with.

What are the key achievements that have marked the success of P3 Medical, and what does the future hold for you?

Our biggest achievement is surviving. We started pretty much with nothing but our experience. The chances of a business like that surviving are pretty slim. Most of our competitors are big, powerful companies, some of them household names. Our most important marketplace is the NHS, which has been a hostile place to do business. So just getting where we are has been an enormous achievement. Also, we have been able to acquire a couple of other companies, which gave us the critical mass that we needed to survive in the market.

Our expectation for the future is that we will continue to grow – we’ve been growing on average at about 10% per year, and we expect that to continue. We’ve spent a lot of time and money developing new variations on our existing products and making our product range more effective for the customer, making sure there are clear advantages over the current offerings from our competitors. And we continue to strive to be as efficient as possible, because there is still a strong tendency to buy on price: you have to be as low-priced as possible without compromising the effectiveness and quality of the product.

 

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