Joe Jimenez, MBA 84

CEO, Novartis
Basel, Switzerland

In January, when he was named the CEO of Novartis, a Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant, Joe Jimenez, MBA 84, felt "deeply honored and very excited."

 

He had every reason to be: Jimenez is the first American at the helm of the 14-year-old Swiss company, which generated $44.3 billion in sales last year.

 

In the few months since his promotion, Jimenez, who had previously headed Novartis' Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Health Divisions, discovered that running a global company that employs nearly 100,000 workers in 140 countries requires expertise that goes above and beyond traditional management skills. "One of my goals is to create a clear vision and help our associates understand how to implement it," Jimenez says.

 

The ability to identify and meet challenges, and motivate employees to accomplish goals, is one of many fortes Jimenez has been perfecting since his days climbing the corporate ladder at Clorox, ConAgra, and H.J. Heinz in both the U.S. and Europe. His extensive managerial background, international experience, global perspective, and adaptability to new situations helped Jimenez bridge the gap from consumer goods to pharma industry without too many growing pains.

 

"Packaged consumer goods is a fast-moving environment, requiring quick decisions and actions," Jimenez explains. "Health products move at a slower pace. On average, it takes six to seven years for a medication to be developed, tested, and approved."

 

However, Jimenez points out that these seemingly disparate sectors do have a common ground—focus on the consumer. "I was able to apply this approach to the pharma industry," he says. "Commitment to our customers remains my top priority."

 

While Jimenez says it is too early into his new tenure to draw conclusions about his performance, he is busy setting objectives and finding solutions to the company's future challenges.

 

One specific challenge looms on the near horizon in 2012, when Novartis' hypertension drug, Diovan, will go generic in western markets, leading to a considerable drop in the sale of the brand medication. While such a scenario might plunge many company heads into despair, Jimenez has been devising a "Plan B"—driving research into new innovative products, building licensing programs with other companies, and expanding into new markets like China and Russia—to compensate for the projected loss of revenue.

This action, Jimenez predicts, will actually translate into
additional profits over the next several years.

 

"There are always crises we can't avoid," he says. "But overall, I am quite optimistic about the company's future and believe there are no problems we can't solve."

 

Jimenez is quick to attribute his problem-solving ability and positive thinking to skills he gained at Haas. "It is a highly analytical environment that taught me to dissect a problem into smaller pieces before tackling it," he notes. "When approached this way, no problem is unsolvable." – Helena Bachmann



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