In this quarter’s newsletter, we exclusively interview Laurie Halloran, Founder and CEO of her pioneering Halloran Consulting Group, which assists life sciences firms with an array of wisdom, guidance, and problem-solving. An award-winning lecturer and visiting teacher at Ivy League universities, Ms. Halloran’s approachable brand of “Damn Good Consulting” has helped the Boston healthcare community embrace and celebrate diversity of all stripes.
Since 1998, your namesake consulting firm, Halloran, has been helping startups and bellwether life science firms navigate a myriad of strategic, commercial, and regulatory obstacles and opportunities they face every day. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
It changes on a day to day basis, but I love it when we advise a client that has an “Oh wow” moment, and knowing at that moment that our team is going to make a real difference in their business. That’s very rewarding. And having the entire team in the office working diligently towards a client solution – I love the collaborative, feel-good energy when everyone comes together to solve problems. Often, people and companies come to us because they are sent by their trusted advisors to get practical information on what they should do to further the goals they have – how to move their science into, and through, clinical development. The work we do that blends business savvy with a regulatory and clinical development strategy helps our clients feel like we’re working right with them to achieve the goal of getting potentially life-saving therapies to patients who really need them. A lot of these companies have the passion and the science, but navigating the narrow path between risk, efficiency and cost is something they have not done. That’s where we live every day. It’s tremendously rewarding to have the ability to influence what could be so important to patients while still respecting how hard it is to get to that goal. We challenge and empower our people to have the mindset that they should think vs. do, challenge vs. conform. At my core, I’m a teacher; I’m a fixer and I love matchmaking issues with people. What jazzes me is seeing the white space, seeing what’s in-between what is and what could be.
As a multiple award-winning female entrepreneur who’s been recognized by your peers for trailblazing a path from being an ICU nurse, to starting Halloran out of your bathroom, to being a true life sciences influencer, what have you learned about the importance of diversity (gender, age, ethnicity) in healthcare?
You’ll never find an exact person like you on the inside so why should you look for them to be like you on the outside? While diversity is a big new thing that everyone talks about, we still have challenges with living with diversity at the most basic level – and I mean both powerful people and people who aspire for more. There are so many “little voices” that people carry with them. Those “little voices” are a collection of their past positive experiences and a chorus telling them what is wrong with them. I really believe that tension between internal and external voices is often what keeps us from stepping up and taking opportunities. We wait to be handed opportunities and expect them to come along, and then wonder why they don’t. Also, as women, we think we must be perfect in every way before we can have a seat at the table, and we’re holding ourselves up to some standard that isn’t humanly possible. When I’m asked by women business leaders what I’ve learned in 20 years of consulting and being at the table, I say I’ve learned to believe in myself and speak up.
Having worked with hundreds of clients, you must be able to recognize warning signs or winning strategies a mile away. When you look at the big healthcare hubs in Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, and RTP, have you noticed patterns – in people, capital, culture, geography – that may help anticipate success or failure in these very particular markets?
In my opinion, the biggest indicator predicting success or failure is the mindset of the leadership team where it’s ok not to know everything, and it’s ok to fail. That has a tendency to be true if you believe failure is an option, and if your company does, you know you can go to another life science company and easily get another job, which is more prevalent in the geographic hubs. It’s an individual, cultural and leadership thing. Another major predictor of growth and success is if a majority of the folks working in a company sees their efforts going toward the mission of improving the lives of patients, instead of how many years they have before they retire. It’s a management team who cares deeply about their company, its people and its mission not just about the next quarter’s dividends. In the life science hubs people change companies relatively frequently, and I think that’s a really good thing because then there is no risk aversion to trying something new. Because when that passion is there, the money will come, the people will come; failure is just a step along the pathway of learning and growing to the next bigger and better thing.
At 30,000 feet, what’s happening in life sciences right now? What’s the future look like?
My feeling is that technology is finally at the right place to be a solution to streamline the collection of data and remove so much of what is now laborious and costly in clinical development and trials. This doesn’t appear to a big area of intense interest in the biopharma C-level community, but the potential return on investment is significant when close to 60% of a clinical development budget is spent on relatively inefficient activities. Also, I think the fear that existed in the life sciences industry when the new administration was elected has really abated because the sky didn’t fall. There’s now a massive amount of money out there and smart people are looking to spend it, and they’re more risk tolerant than maybe they should be. Science and technology is really coming into its heyday, and I don’t know exactly what that looks like when it matures, but everyone is excited about it.
Through diagnostics, telemedicine, wearables and access to digital health records, patients are much more involved with care and informed than they’ve ever been before. How are your life science clients creating and responding in this sea of constant change?
Everyone is intensely interested, but it’s early days. We have to figure out how to drink from the proverbial fire hose of data, and that’s where the opportunities lie. There’s a fairly big lag right now between healthcare companies and more potent outreach to patients, although with social media, they’re a lot closer to relationship building than they used to be. Better communications interfaces are needed because patients are going to force the dialogue – patients are going to seek the best treatments out there, so companies need to be ready.
Having lectured and taught at prestigious universities like Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and George Washington University, imparting knowledge and wisdom along the way, what’s the relationship look like between students, higher education and life sciences right now?
I’m really interested in this. There are a lot of academic programs delivering the basics which really didn’t exist 15 years ago, but there are some significant gaps in how graduates transition from academic experience to work experience. How does one turn his/her years of studies into an actual job? There is also a quiet but growing call for the need to certify people in this industry. It should be pretty alarming that your manicurist needs to meet a minimum standard but the doctor who offers you the experimental therapy doesn’t! And that gap exists virtually across the entire spectrum of people who work in life sciences – a highly-regulated industry that produces all of the therapies prescribed to patients. Doctors and pharmacists work in hospitals and pharmacies to gain experience as part of their study, but that’s simply not the case in life sciences. In the meantime, companies are crying for talent. I am currently doing a series of interviews in preparation for an article on internships, mentoring and some suggestions for a bridge to close that gap. There’s absolutely a business opportunity in there for someone who’s interested in it!
What makes you happy personally? Tell us about your life in Boston.
My husband and I have three sons who are all still at home – two of them are in college and one is entering next year. We are enjoying our time with them tremendously, knowing that it’s going to change soon. I love my home, and because my professional life is so busy, I really enjoy relaxing and spending time at home. Family time is balanced with a love of travel, art and music, and a love of exercise in any form. I’d round that out with a fantastic group of women I am proud to call “the Girlfriends” that has grown to be a bedrock of fun and support over the past 10 years. I love planning things with them. I love teaching and networking, so I’m also dabbling in local non-profit activities to both give back and to build a set of interests to expand into when I look to semi-retire. This all isn’t terribly radical, but I appreciate all of it!
For more information, visit www.hallorancg.com.
About Slone Partners
Slone Partners delivers the leaders who build amazing organizations – People Are Our Science™. Since 2000, Slone Partners specializes in delivering world-class C-suite leadership, executive, and upper management talent to the most promising and established life sciences, research, diagnostics, precision medicine and laboratory services companies. With coast-to-coast presence in the most active healthcare industry hubs of Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Research Triangle Park NC, and Washington DC, Slone Partners uniquely and precisely provides an array of executive search and advisory services to exceptional clients. Our full suite of services includes identifying, negotiating with, onboarding, and relocating talent, in addition to post-placement mentoring, success monitoring, and culture fit services.
To learn more about Slone Partners value proposition and processes, visit www.slonepartners.com.