The Voice of Marc Beer: How to Be a Good Leader

Few people have as good a handle on becoming successful in a leadership role as Marc Beer. Over a career that has spanned two and a half decades, Marc has climbed to the top a number of times. Beer graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science in Business from Miami University. He got his professional start in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, which eventually led to the position of Vice President of Global Marketing at Genzyme.

Beer moved on from Genzyme when he decided it was time to start his own venture. He moved on to found ViaCell, a biotech company that went ended up employing 300 people and going public in 2005. Beer eventually sold ViaCell to PerkinElmer for $300 million. Beer’s most recent success story is as co-founder and CEO of Renovia.

Beer’s tenacity and his ability to see the solutions to problems that allude others are just two of the reasons he has found such success. As it turns out, Marc has learned a lot on his journey that he now shares openly with anyone who is treading the path to leadership. In a nutshell, he shares about finances, community, and the mental aspect of success.

Financial Health Matters

Beer knows from years of experience that launching a startup in the healthcare industry and working your way to the top requires significant capital. Beer has seen time and again that too many innovators in the healthcare industry lose site of the importance of having a positive cashflow. Relying on the idea that there will always be another investor when it’s needed, many healthcare startups inevitably fail because their cash supply runs out. The lesson here? No amount of great innovation will keep a company afloat early on without the cashflow to back it up. Instead, managers and business leaders must learn how to properly manage cashflow.

Beer recommends that any entrepreneur considering a healthcare startup (or any other business for that matter) do some solid financial planning before making a move. He has always done this, which is one of the reasons he has succeeded in his ventures. In fact, Beer has never once launched a company for which he did not first raise sufficient funds.

It’s important to ensure there is at least one year’s worth of finances in reserve, enough to cover both business and personal expenses. This financing most often comes from savings and venture capital financing. Any more than the bare minimum of financing, Beer says, should be put toward building the business to the point where it begins to turn a profit, which is the ultimate goal of any business leader.

Part of this investment in the business should be a heavy investment in the technology it takes to support that company as it grows beyond its initial boundaries. This investment in technology ideally comes in the form of software that will provides services that are critical to business operations. Beer also reminds entrepreneurs in the healthcare industry that this is ultimately about the patients and their care. He says, “In health care, failure to raise capital means that patients who need help cannot get it.”

Talent Helps Push the Boundaries

Beer knows just how important human capital is. No business leader can succeed on their own. Instead, there must be a team of highly talented people behind them, propelling them and their business ideas forward to success. For this reason, Beer insists that talent acquisition be at the forefront of a leader’s decision-making and that this talent is allocated in a way that will make the most of it.

Get Your Head in the Game

While it’s easy to think that finances and talent acquisition play the most significant role in success as a leader, Beer is the first to attest to the fact that it’s a person’s mental game that takes precedence. Without the mental fortitude to succeed, nothing else matters. However, mental fortitude doesn’t necessarily mean what many people would think. Instead it means, to let go of the fear and embrace failure, two things that are frequently roadblocks for entrepreneurs. Beer explains, “Winning doesn’t have to mean that you make a lot of money. Winning can also mean that you have learned a lot on your journey, and you can say that you’ve grown.”

It is true that there is no success without failure and setbacks. Mistakes are made, ideas don’t work out, yet the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who just pick themselves up, learn from their failures, and keep pushing forward. “When you learn from failures, you can do things differently the next time, and you might get it right!” Beer reminds us. Beer learned this through experience, particularly with his company ViaCell. While Beer had set up the financial foundation for the business, he underestimated the time it would take to realize the scientific success they were looking for. As such, he wasn’t prepared for a 25-year-long timeline to establish gene therapy and stem cells as a strong offering in the healthcare industry.

Patience and enjoying the process is something he encourages. It’s about delaying the reward, and it’s often through this level of patience that success comes more quickly than expected. However, in order to have this level of patience, Beer says it’s important to leave emotions out of the process. Behaviors and decisions must be made with a logical mind and emotions firmly under control. To do this, Beer recommends thinking things through and being aware of any potential issues that might arise, having a plan in place to deal with them. When negative emotions are triggered, it’s important to have in place a way to manage them so they don’t get the better of you.

Community Spirit Plays a Role

Overall, Marc Beer reminds entrepreneurs who are just starting out to remember the community in which they operate. Beer has demonstrated his commitment to community in many ways over the years. He has served on many boards of directors and committees, such as the Notre Dame Research and Commercialization Advisory Committee, the Graduate Studies Research and Advisory Council, the Mass Life Science Board for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) Emerging Companies Section Governing Board, the board of directors of Erytech Pharma, and the board of directors of the Joe Andruzzi Cancer Foundation.

Of course, community also means family, which is something Beer holds in a place of high importance in his life. He aspires to make travel with his kids something they can do together, something that will help them bond. Boston, California, and the beach are all winners with the Beer family and it’s his family that grounds Beer and helps him be better in his professional life. After all, even in his non-work hours, when he’s not spending time with his kids, Beer is constantly looking for ways to improve business.

Being a successful leader and part of a community also means recognizing the contributions of others and helping to lift others up, so they can reach their own goals and find their own success. Marc Beer feels that this pay-it-forward attitude is the foundation of true success in this world. Perhaps it is this message that he most wants to impart to up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business leaders. After all, it takes all of us working toward our own success to hold each other up and to hold the world up and ultimately find success as a community.

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