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Q&A: Lessons Learned in 15 Years of Life Science Solutions

Back in 2008, noticing a gap in the market for a life science solutions provider that bridged the gap between manufacturers and end users, BioPharma Dynamics was formed to put customers first. This mentality has remained at the core of our business over the last 15 years.

As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, Joe Brennan, Managing Director, pays tribute to those who helped make the business what it is today. Whilst he reflects on how life as a Life Science Solutions Provider has changed, the challenges the company faced and the lessons learned along the way…

The BioPharma Dynamics team outside their Salford Headquarters

Q: What was the gap you saw in the biopharma space that led to the creation of BioPharma Dynamics?

Joe Brennan: “At the very beginning I was business development manager for our sister company Action Sealtite and they had a project that was focused around hosing and components for a well-known pharmaceutical site in the UK. Now this wasn’t too out of the ordinary, but it was at that point due to the value of the project, our directors at the time – Harry Robinson and Keith Davies – recognised there was an opportunity to utilise our experience in supplying hose and tubing but focus specifically on the pharmaceutical industry.

Action Sealtite had a reputation as a very industrial company, which obviously didn’t fit the market of what we were trying to offer. So BioPharma Dynamics was born as a division to focus purely on the pharmaceutical space. It was at this point that I became involved and together we worked to really understand the market, what suppliers were out there and what we could offer to end users.

Building upon the network we had at the time and Action Sealtite’s reputation was key to securing our first supplier – Saint-Gobain

“Overall it was finding a solution to that first project which triggered the start of this journey. But it was the passion of the people involved at the very beginning that stood us in good stead. The confidence shown by Harry Robinson at the beginning that we would succeed and the encouragement and faith he showed in me to be able to build this business have been constant drivers over the years, which have helped grow BioPharma Dynamics to what we are today.”

Q: How do you maintain a solid relationship with suppliers that helps customers?

Joe: “As with any business we had to start from nothing and drive it forward and we have always done so with our customers at the forefront.”

“We had to start from nothing and drive it forward and we have always done so with our customers at the forefront”

“Something that mattered to us from the very beginning was that we weren’t just a distributor. We have always referred to our suppliers as our partners. We understood that due to the nature of the industry with certifications and audits, the customer needs to have that line of communication with the manufacturer.

But also in the early days, we needed those partnerships to develop our skills, to learn the market better and to further progress as a business.

But as we’ve grown, we've carried that all the way through with our partners. Acting as an extension to our partners, utilising NDAs to share what we can about our customers, then also feeding back to them about what the market needs tomorrow and identifying what is missing.”

Obviously, coming from a purely industrial background into the Pharma space must have been a challenge to begin with.

Q: What would you say was main benefit of not having that Pharma background and did it impact the way you did business?

Joe: “It’s interesting to look back on this really. I think the biggest benefit was we that we didn't purely focus on products. We were learning about the products, but what we did focus on – and it’s what we still focus on today – was service.”

“For us it was all about making it easier for the customers”

“If we were going to slot in this space, how were we going to do it? We were an unknown, we appeared from nowhere. Having the partnerships we did was fantastic because they certainly had a strong reputation in the market. But we still had to differentiate ourselves because our competition was also very strong.

So I guess early days, the big thing that we focused on was good customer service. This industry seems to be so difficult for people to deal in, so let's go out and make life easier. We saw a space when we started talking to customers where we could add value by being more flexible where larger companies can’t be. It’s not a criticism of them, the fact is you get to a certain size, you can't customise processes for individual customers and we've been able to do that, whilst always remaining within the requirements of the industry.”

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Joe: “I think without a doubt it’s COVID-19. It’s the biggest challenge of everybody's lives, both in business and personally. It took a toll on everybody.

But for us, it was a challenge because there were things so far out of our control and factors at play that you would just never have expected. Such as DPAS orders in the US that impacted us. As I mentioned, our core as a business has always been that we're flexible where we can and respond quickly, but we found that we couldn’t deliver on that. We couldn’t match the demand and you ultimately had little control over that situation.”

Q: What impact did that have and how did you overcome it?

Joe: “The difficult part for me was letting customers down, it wasn’t the level of work involved. We were struggling to deliver when our customers needed us the most and there was nothing I could do about it.”

“But we did not go away and bury our head in the sand as some suppliers did. We went on video calls and at times I was having two or three calls a week with customers who were producing lifesaving drugs, just to try and keep them running. It was a tough balancing act.”

“A big lesson the industry learned was that supply chains were very vulnerable. You can see that everyone is working to combat that now, to ensure we have more alternatives in products and that the supply chain isn’t such a bottleneck. That has been a valuable outcome from what was a difficult situation at the time.”

With the challenges that the industry faced as a whole and having to work to adapt to those…

Q: What would you say motivates you each day?

Joe: “That’s a big question… why do we do it? Well I do it because we make a difference. Without sounding trite, whether it’s a simple length of tubing or creating assemblies, it’s the impact that it has. When it comes to cell and gene therapies, it’s such a personalised treatment that you’ll see it being taken to just one patient. So it’s special for us to be a small part of that. Along with the vaccines and cancer treatments that keep people well, I’m not a scientist so I could never have been involved in that way.”

“But because what we do is a big part of such important work, that’s what gets me up in a morning and drives me to ensure we’re supporting our customers as best we can.”

Q: Has that motivation changed from what it was in the beginning?

Joe: “I imagine it has, in the beginning starting a new business is all about getting it off the ground, particularly when starting from scratch. The motivation is to avoid failure and to nurture your concepts and ideas into a reality. Until you secure a level of financial security the whole thing is very fragile and I guess a part of the motivation has to be financially biased. But as the business grew it was important that we were true to what we had set out to attain which was to be easy to deal with and deliver excellent customer service. Once we had achieved our basic needs we were able to increase our focus on continual improvement of our service levels and the environment for our employees.

For me today, my motivation is to continue to deliver the best customer experience possible and to have a team working in the business that feel they make a difference”

“The size of the business is no longer the greatest motivator, the focus is to nurture an inclusive work environment where everybody has a voice and there is a true team ethic to the way we operate”

“I believe that recognising when people are being challenged is vital. So we have worked to provide support that people need, with two Mental Health First Aiders trained within our team it ensures we’re always prioritising mental health. I’m proud of the flexibility we have in the business and the support we give employees. Maintaining this environment is my motivation and I believe in today’s workplace it is something our employees and customers are entitled to demand.”

The business has certainly grown into something you’re proud of…

Q: Is there any element that you’re particularly proud of?

Joe: “Certainly has to be how we have grown over the last few years even with the turmoil of the pandemic. To see how easily we can bring people into the business and how quickly they have felt a part of it, this gives a true sense of pride.

Of course our focus is to help and support customers whilst also satisfying our shareholders requirements, but ultimately without the team we have nothing. I feel we have a great team and am very proud of the culture we have built together.”

“Each person who has been a part of BioPharma Dynamics over the years has had an impact on our success, and will continue to do so as we move forward, it’s just the nature of the business.”

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