STADA Group subsidiary Hemofarm was struggling in the Serbian pharmaceutical sector when Ronald Seeliger was appointed as CEO in 2012. His directive was to restructure and improve Hemofarm’s operations in a bid to accommodate future growth and success. He was well equipped to take on the challenge, having spent more than a decade in similar management roles across a wide range of industries, from media to IT.
Ronald began his career as an assistant professor at the Technical University in Berlin, the institution he had studied business and civil engineering at, and he also attended courses in the London School of Economics and IMB business school in Lausanne.
When he came into the position with Hemofarm, the economic crisis in Europe — and particularly in Serbia — was at its peak.
“Everybody was very short of cash, the economy was very tight, and so was the pharmaceutical sector,” he recalls. “Hemofarm was significantly affected by this. Just as an example, about 80-90% of the clients that Hemofarm had actually came from a wholesaler that went bankrupt years before. So when I came in we had to prioritise setting up a business that was totally new and unheard of in those days.”
Suffering from a lack of activity in the pharmaceutical marketplace, Ronald had to focus on stabilising the company’s sales. “This might sound quite normal in a stable environment, but in the environment that Serbia was in at that time it was anything but,” he shares. “We delivered our products through state pharmacies, hospitals, and wholesalers, and basically all of them were very short of activity. What we decided to do was collaborate all of our receivables right away. We reminded all of our clients to pay for the goods they had received or were waiting to receive, but many of them decided not to pay. We had clients who, believe it or not, called us and asked us whether we were sure that we really wanted to get paid for the goods in a timely manner. We said yes, we would like to because we have to pay our people and our suppliers. But this was part of a cultural change in the Serbian environment in those days.