The speed of change has increased exponentially in recent years, particularly in the business world. It’s as if a phantom foot has hit the accelerator of some giant, unknowable vehicle, and we’re all along for the ride. As we go about our lives adjusting to these changes – from tech innovations to climate to social distancing – invisible g-forces wear away at us, leaving us feeling more exhausted than ever.
To survive in such an environment, businesses must keep the same pace. It’s not always easy, but with the right blend of people, skills and attitude, it’s possible. For some, it’s critical.
“We need to accelerate,” says Galderma Hong Kong and Macau General Manager Victor Ng. “Whether you’re a slow-moving car or a rocket, you need speed to move forward. What excites me about Galderma is the company’s potential to grow in a fast-moving industry.”
Established in 1981 as a joint venture between Néstle and L’Oréal, Galderma has, in a relatively short space of time, evolved into the largest independent global dermatology company in the world with the purpose to advance dermatology for every skin story. Its range of skincare products – including Cetaphil, Sculptra and Restylane – treat a wide spectrum of skin types and situations, and are available both over the counter and by prescription. “It’s a company with a lot of momentum, but one strong focus: building an integrated dermatology platform to deliver business growth,” Victor says.
Victor’s own ascent has been in step with Galderma’s quick pace. After beginning his career as a system manager for Procter & Gamble, he soon developed an appreciation for the virtues of the fast-moving consumer goods sector. Further roles followed, including H&H Group (infant milk formula and probiotics) and Hasbro, serving to broaden his horizons.
When I’m choosing a career or a company, I always ask myself if I would use the company’s products.
When the opportunity arose to join Galderma Hong Kong and Macau as General Manager, Victor welcomed the change presented by the pharmaceuticals industry. “I could see that the company had great products,” he recalls. “When I’m choosing a career or a company, I always ask myself if I would use the company’s products. If I look in my bathroom, can I see that company’s products there? That’s the simplest question to ask. If you don’t use or even trust what you’re selling, you can’t be in that job for too long.”
In Galderma, he saw a perfect fit for his own style of management. “I’ve always strived to be a game-changer wherever I’ve worked,” he explains. “I like to bring change, whether it’s the way the work is done, commercial strategies, really any impact I can make on the business. My aim is always to build a highly effective organisation. It didn’t take me too long to make a call in Galderma’s case. I knew I could make a difference.”
Victor hit the ground running. “The first thing I did was to bring in external talent,” he says. “Personally, I hadn’t come from the pharmaceutical industry like my peers. But what’s important in today’s commercial world isn’t always industry knowledge, it’s a more strategic management mindset and experience out in the world.”
With that in mind, he set about creating a team with the leadership skills and the business mindset to take Galderma to the next level. The second step of his plan wasn’t as clear-cut thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic raging around the world. “It’s a tough time for everyone, but in times like this, the performance of a business speaks louder than anything else.”
This rapid acceleration of Galderma’s profile was a first for the Hong Kong branch. “It’s what we believe in,” he says. “It’s not enough to build innovations; you have to aggressively invest in them and then drive communication with would-be stakeholders. It’s never been more important.”
Also important was digitalisation, which allowed the company to achieve all it has despite the circumstances. “It’s quite hard to connect in COVID times,” Victor admits. “We’ve moved a lot of our activities online, and consumer purchase patterns have done the same.” In response, Galderma has invested heavily in ecommerce. “We’ve pioneered quite a bit in that space. We’ve partnered with ecommerce players to do live streaming and digital communication. We’ve moved our media to digital to make sure we adjust according to consumer satisfaction.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s bricks-and-mortar stores were decimated by COVID-19 lockdowns. “Beauty centres, which contributed over half of our business, were shut down completely for basically 80 per cent of the time,” Victor recalls. “We’ve only had a brief window to see customers and clients face-to-face, but the other side of that coin is that we’ve had plenty of time to prepare and plan for when we do see them.”
We’ve done more in the last 12 months than we had in the previous 10 years. There’s still huge potential for growth.
The result was an agile, holistic plan to aid market rebound and change the way Galderma worked with its customers. “The one-two punch of COVID-19 and the social unrest in Hong Kong changed the business model not only for us, but for our customers. We had to make a choice to act,” he says. “After all, what is the cost of doing nothing?”
The plan worked: the company was able to capture growth and seize upon sales while its competitors were still stuck in limbo. “Galderma’s brands are growing ahead of the market,” Victor confirms. “We’ve done more in the last 12 months than we had in the previous 10 years. There’s still huge potential for growth.”
The situation has also gifted Victor with a vision of Galderma’s future. “If we simply say we’ll continue to grow, that’s just a slogan. We need to drive that growth, and we’ll do that by closely collaborating with our partners, our patients, our consumers and the doctors. We’ll innovate. I empower my team to try new things because by doing that, at least we’re doing something new and different every time. If they get it right even 50 per cent of the time, we’re one up on our competition.”
That last part involves a significant amount of trust in his team, something Victor believes is the key to doing business in the modern world. “Business today is the business of people,” he stresses. “You need to trust your team, empower them and give them ownership of the tasks they do. Eventually, they’ll be independent and their work will only ever gain from it.”
Speed is the key to staying ahead of the challenges and competitors of the world, Victor believes. “As as company moving forward, we need to grow extremely quickly,” he says. “We need to find every single possible way to grow faster than expected. This is what we’ve done for the past two years now, and it’s what we’ll continue to do. Our job is not done.”