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Building commercial teams in biopharma with Tiffany Ahlers

Mycovia CCO shared her insights on the Venari Podcast

‘I think what companies are looking for in Chief Commercial Officers, particularly start-ups and small pharma, is a strategist and tactician,’ says Mycovia CCO Tiffany Ahlers. With over 25 years’ commercial experience in startups, small and mid-sized biopharma and consultancy companies, she has plenty of knowledge to draw on. Our Life Sciences Commercial Consultant, Joe Knight, was delighted to welcome her to the Venari Podcast recently as part of the Chief Commercial Officer series, where Tiffany shared insights she’s learned over the course of her career.

Diverse experience is key

Tiffany has worked across marketing, market research, data, strategy, and sales, which certainly helped in her become a successful CCO. She says having ‘broad and diverse experience in commercialisation’ is certainly necessary, but it’s not the only thing you will need to stand out; you must ‘be willing, as a commercial leader, to roll up your sleeves and work side-by-side with your team to get the job done.’



Plan for success

Building commercial organisations, for Tiffany, is all about ‘the five Ps: “Prior planning prevents poor performance.”’ This is especially important in startups, where you may not always have the benefit of time and/or resources. ‘Developing your contracting strategy, identifying your key HCP and patient targets, ensuring the differentiation and positioning of your brand’ are all crucial – as is building, and maintaining, good contacts: ‘I can’t say how much I rely on my network,’ Tiffany notes.

However, qualifications will only take you so far. To be a successful CCO in the biopharma sphere, showing that you know the culture and ‘core values of the organisation’, aligning yourself with ‘the company’s mission and vision’, are key. For Tiffany, developing a team with ‘open and transparent communication’ is crucial; this will pay dividends when it comes to launching your product.

Launch strategies

But when is the right time for a biotech company to launch? When preparing a first product, ‘there’s a value of bringing on at least one commercial lead earlier on in the process.’ A strong commercial perspective can help you move from Phase 2 to Phase 3, while bringing the marketing team on board earlier is a good idea depending on your resources: ‘typically within 6-9 months prior to your PDUFA date.’

In the future, Tiffany predicts that more biopharma companies will change how they forecast, using what she calls ‘operational or bottoms-up forecast at launch versus demand forecast’. Sizing up your sales force at the beginning is crucial – as is applying a ‘surgical’ approach to your launches; launching first with a regional focus may be beneficial, rather than doing so nationally.

Tiffany’s recommendations for the CCOs of tomorrow

Tiffany advises any aspiring CCOs to ‘take every experience given to you’, as additional roles and responsibilities will enrich your skillset. ‘Latch on to them,’ she says, ‘because that will really help you’ – as will your network, who can direct you on how ‘to get additional experience or knowledge.’

At Venari Partners, we are passionate about helping biopharma companies to find the best executive talent. If you would like assistance sourcing the right candidate, please get in touch.


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