COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to explore how to survive while ensuring business continuity and protecting the health of their employees. We talked to Paolo Morelli, CEO of PM Holding (Arithmos, CROS NT, seQure), in order to understand what business owners can do to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on their operations, ensure business continuity, and deliver better outcomes in times of crisis.
What were your initial steps when the outbreak started?
We had two major concerns when the outbreak started: safety of our team and business continuity.
In order to deal with these concerns, we have formed a risk management team and carried out an operational and commercial revision. The former was necessary to mitigate the risks for our clients and employees, while the latter allowed us to adjust the way our company interacts with the market.
The operational and commercial revision was a way to quickly reassess the situation from the business point of view. COVID-19 had changed the way our Life Science industry operates, so we needed to evaluate regulatory aspects of the new situation and understand new operational constraints. For example, we had to assess how to conduct GCP audits with travel restrictions or how to do on-site monitoring. All of these questions needed urgent answers if we wanted to continue delivering services to our clients.
How did the transition to the home office go?
Smoothly. In the last 5 years we have created a structure that allowed our teams to move to their home office without any obstacles. All the companies across PM Holding have a very clear organisational structure. Each company has a managing director, line managers, team leads that work closely with their units and have clear work objectives. We currently have in place recurring meetings and revisions to ensure that projects are delivered on time and many of our colleagues already have experience with working from home.
All these factors combined with the reliable IT infrastructure and underpinned by our company values – trust and communication – allowed us to switch to home office working in the blink of an eye.
What is the biggest challenge in managing a business in pandemic times?
I believe that regardless of the industry, the most challenging part is the change management. All of us are more comfortable with doing things in a familiar way and we can sometimes struggle when we need to adopt new paradigms as some are very risk adverse.
However, these are times when we need to be flexible and adopt a smart strategy effectively, like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Are you happy about the way PM Holding companies are coping with the COVID-19 challenge?
Yes. We have worked hard to build the company culture based on trust, innovation, and communication and I see very clearly now that the results of these efforts and investments.
What have we learnt?
First of all, we now have proof that our processes and internal structure are really effective. In calm periods these processes, rules and procedures may seem unnecessary and too strict, but in times of crisis like COVID-19 pandemic, they turned out to be hugely advantageous. They have allowed us to provide business as usual approach to our clients and ensure smooth transition to the home office for our teams.
Secondly, we have seen the importance of glocal management. Thinking globally and acting locally allows us to have a global strategy and global mindset, and at the same time, consider local events and be as close to our clients and employees as possible.
How can businesses deliver better outcomes in times of a crisis?
There are three tips that I would like to share:
- Analyse the company organisation and understand the new risks
- Define the risk mitigation plan and do the necessary changes in the company organisation
- Identify opportunities that the crisis may give rise to
I also can’t emphasise enough the importance of innovation. Innovation needs to be part of company culture, as this is one of the only ways to find new solutions, take risks and cope with adverse circumstances successfully. I am not talking only about technology here – innovation is a mindset! We need to develop this mindset and bring the younger generation into our businesses, as they are like sponges and take onboard so much information, have open minds and are able to think outside the box.
What do you think will be COVID-19 impact on Life Sciences?
Pre-COVID-19 working from home in our industry was the exception rather than the rule, however, it may be vice versa in the future. I also think there will be much more focus on decentralised clinical trials and further enhancing technology with the buy in both from sponsors and patients.