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Blog Posts

Management by Method
Part five of our Business Growth Blog Series

The penultimate in our series, this blog looks at how MRN approach management generally.  If you read the series from the start, you will recall this is all about our ability to grow, which got us onto the London Stock Exchange list of 1000 high growth companies to watch in the UK.  Our reflections on the topic have trotted through our history and major milestones as well as some of the high-level management principles used at MRN – our purpose, vision and mission, our values and culture – that have allowed us to achieve them. Here we talk about management skills which allow us to do all this. I boil it down as follows:

1. We follow methods where we can find them

2. We have big company backgrounds

3. We are experts in our field and understand our customers in a very fundamental way

We follow methods where we can find them – what does that mean? Fundamentally, our managers should be management scientists. As part of their training, they guide them to read about management theory, think about how it applies to their situation, and try to act on it. This gives the managers a feeling of control over their day and their job. Otherwise, we are back to the dodgem cars at the fair – see blog one in this series. As a doctor, I remember reading the annual report sent to all members by the medical insurance group I belonged to. The report reviewed the many cases each year where doctors had been successfully sued in the courts and analysed what had happened. The stand-out conclusion from their analysis was that doctors who got sued did not follow the basic rules – what we are taught in medical school – usually to ask ALL the questions and to make sure you examined the patient with their clothes OFF! I took this to heart, have never been sued and tell all my managers to just cover the basics fully (or uncover it if they are doctors).

What methods are fundamentally important to us (in no particular order)?

  1. Marketing through the use of multiple channels to maximise awareness
  2. Management of relationships with our customers, suppliers and partners
  3. Using a defined sales pipeline and account segmentation
  4. Linking the use of our people’s time to the cost of the activity to our customer
  5. Project Management
  6. Management by KPIs and regular reporting within a clear general management infrastructure
  7. Well defined Quality Management System focused on business quality first and regulatory requirements second (but never ignored).
  8. Structured management of vendors
  9. Clinical competence of our nurses
  10. Continuous Improvement
  11. Service development through R&D
  12. IT implementation
  13. Financial management

What stands out about this list is it is not short. This gives us concerns about how much focus we can achieve. However, although large mature companies, growing slowly, can afford to change one thing at a time, smaller, high growth businesses have to address the full spectrum of needs all the time or fall over. This means we juggle competing for resource demands all the time. Having a method in several major management areas makes this easier. We are still standing, because of this approach.

Why is a background in big business important? Essentially, because that is where you learn the list above and how to go about doing some of it. Our challenge here was working out how much of what we already knew from managing larger businesses, did we need to implement in a smaller one. The answer was – most of it. As we grew, we had to write more and more of it down. This is the challenge of training and communication. If you have five experts (as we were when we started), a short conversation between us all was enough to ensure we all knew what we were doing and how to do it. As you grow, the verbal route becomes overwhelmed by an exponential increase in the number of conversations required. The people you hire are younger and less experienced and so need more information and more time to absorb it. To get the whole company to operate at a high standard you have to write, train, monitor and enforce all the time – skills that come from large business experience.

And why do we have to be experts? Because we know what our sector needs – because we have lived it. For us, it is not theoretical, it is written in our bones from living and working in the pharma and CRO environment for years. We are not a set of money men looking to run the next big thing, whatever that is. We are trial experts implementing what we know the industry needs. We set a simple mantra in the business – always try to do a quality job. We know what is important and how to balance our pros and cons in a way most of our customers would do it. The money men must ask what is important, to try to learn from metrics and reports, to ask people. We don’t – we are the people they ask.


This is the penultimate blog in our Business Growth Blog Series, stay tuned for the final blog coming soon.

Posted by:
Toby Heath
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