Having founded nearly a dozen ventures over a span of 40 years, I'd like to share some of my experiences and help those who are beginning their journey avoid pitfalls and disappointment. Visit our company website at Sancilio.com.
I grew up in an immigrant town called Hoboken in New Jersey in the 1950s. Folks who go visit Hoboken now wouldn't believe what it was like when I grew up. By the time I was 8 years old, all I could think about was how could a poor kid attain the "American Dream". My parents worked hard to give me what I needed to succeed, but it was up to me and my wits to do something with myself. Someday, I wanted to live in my own house, on my own land and raise my own family in a better place!
Some might say that I grew up poor, but I would disagree. My mother and father provided me and my two brothers with all of the basic needs. They made sure we were safe and were able to go to school and learn. But they didn't provide frills. If we wanted more, we had to earn it. That's a lesson that is hard to teach your own kids but its critical for their success.
After graduating from Hoboken High School in 1968, I headed off to Rutgers University's Newark Campus. There, rather than joining an existing fraternity, I decided to start a chapter of Alpha Delta Mu, a small organization that hadn't yet established itself on the Newark Campus. Being their first President, I nearly dropped out of school since I spent most of my time recruiting "brothers" and renovating an abandoned apartment and bar that would become our fraternity house.
Being warned by the faculty to focus on my grades and not fraternity, I had to give up this challenge and face yet another.... getting a degree! First, I thought the "US foreign service" was my career of choice, but that soon gave way to a scientific path that led me to my entrepreneurial aspirations.
In quick succession, I competed my Bachelors, master's and Ph.D. in just under 7 years and concurrently joined the research team at one of the world's greatest pharmaceutical companies called Hoffman-LaRoche. While at Roche's Physical Chemistry Department, I learned research from some of the most experienced scientists in the world. That would lead me to building several ventures that would never have been had it not been for the discipline learned at Roche.
Thirteen years later, having been recruited by three other major companies, I founded Applied Analytical Industries (AAI), Inc., probably the first Contract Research Organization (CRO) focused on development of drug products. In parallel, Dr. Besselar would found a clinical research group today called Covance. Between AAI and Besselar, a multibillion dollar industry was created!
AAI went on to become a major factor in the growth of the CRO industry as would Covance. Today AAI is known as Alcami and continues to thrive and Besselar's dream came true since they are now one of the biggest CROs in the world. There is so much more to the story, and I'll slowly publish these over the next months.....
One of the things I learned during my early days as a scientist at Roche, was to never forget that our goal was to save lives. The dedication to that goal has become a lifelong challenge. Over the decades that would follow, I participated in literally hundreds of research and development programs that would ultimately introduce medicines that not only saved lives but eased the pain and suffering of millions.
I continue to work with brilliant scientists to conduct research and development of new medicaments and endeavor to help as many people as I can. As I grow older, the need to further this goal hasn't subsided, but has grown to more than a career, it has become my passion.
I enjoy many things. However, my greatest joy has been watching my children and now my grandchildren grow. I firmly believe that whatever you do with children repeatedly when they are young, will become their base for the rest of their lives. So, if you fish with your kids, they'll likely fish with theirs! If you yell, so will they. Hence, plan carefully what you do with them, because someday, you'll see the fruits of what you've sown!
By the way, I love the sea and my children have an equal love for it. I personally spent nearly every free hour on the ocean or below it. I was an avid scuba diver for decades until I blew out both my ear drums one day. I enjoy powering my boat in virtually any weather, and I fish, but seldom kill any of them.
I love working too! I don't look at most of my work tasks as work at all. It is just another of my passions along with family, the sea, science and my wonderful wife, Alex
What I constantly tell anyone who will listen is that there is no such thing as too much planning especially when starting a new business. You can't predict the future, but you can anticipate several outcomes and to stop and formulate plans and back-up plans is invaluable. Over the past 4 decades my teams evolved a strategy that would lay out exactly what we hoped to happen over the next months, and years. This planning process was called the "White Book Planning session" and became fundamental to our success.
In many ways, the resulting White Book was the road map that provided a clear path for the next 6 months and an inspirational guide for the next year or two. In this way, our team, which consisted of hundreds of participants scattered around the globe, had the same road map to follow.
If you contact me, I'll share a copy of one of the White Books with you to help better define the process and detail of the planning cycle.
I am sure that nearly everyone who will read this will know what a SWOT analysis is. If not, here is a brief explanation: S = documenting the STRENGHTS of your program, W= doing the same for WEAKNESSES, O = listing clearly OPPORTUNTIES and T = THREATS that you can identify.
If a team seriously reviews each element during a SWOT analysis of a business or project, and there are no constraints to speak honestly, the team will learn a lot about their business and chances of success. But it takes a strong leader to allow everyone invited to a SWOT session to allow each individual to share what they believe to be reality. I have found that my teams had a far more realistic view of our programs than I could have because they each viewed the elements of the SWOT from their perspective.
I seriously recommend doing such an analysis before preparing other planning documents and budgets. You'll be shocked to hear how others perceive your vision.