In our interaction with Axel Schörling, President/CEO of EQL Pharma, he discusses how cost-efficient medicines of the highest quality can be delivered to pharmacies and hospitals and his role as a CEO to take EQL Pharma to new heights along with his team.
Below is an excerpt from The Chief’s Digest interview with Axel.
Leading an organization toward growth and success is definitely not an easy feat. In what circumstances did you find your leadership spirit?
For me, personally, leadership is a lot about engagement and empowerment, which I believe is quite a part of the Northern European leadership style where the primary focus is given on creating a positive and supportive work culture. In my opinion, having a work atmosphere where people feel engaged, involved, and empowered really helps to get the most out of the team.
Speaking of our organizational structure, we are a small and flat organization, where most of the team members understand the broader picture of our success and the outcomes of our collective efforts. It’s not only me and the CFO who have knowledge of the strategic direction and priorities; our team members know that as well. I try to be as transparent as possible so that people truly know where we’re going and feel empowered to make their own decisions that are in line with our long-term goals, both at the individual and organizational levels.
If you were to tell us about the value system that drives your work culture, what would it be?
We have talked about how transparency is a crucial part of our value system. In addition to that, I would say we have an approach that we call – “We roll up our sleeves and get things done.” Sometimes, organizations tend to get caught up in too much analysis and evaluation before doing something. We believe in rolling up our sleeves and getting to work regardless of the situation we have at hand.
Then we also focus on doing things right and delivering care and service to our customers. Since we are in the pharmaceutical industry, people consume our very products and it is supposed to cure them. So, we can never compromise on the quality of our products or take any shortcuts.
How would you say that you provide value to society at large?
On a structural level, we provide value to society through two components. Firstly, when we talk about the niche generic segment, the price drops in the patent expiry aren’t as big as they are for other generic products. In the case of other generic products where you have twenty competitors, there’s a huge price drop where a lot of money can be saved for patients and payers.
For the niche products, the price can drop by around 20 or 30 percent since the patent expiry. Here, we can enter the market and push the price down even further so that pharmaceuticals can be made cheaper for patients, society, and taxpayers.
Secondly, these niche products aren’t so common. And when there are only one or two suppliers, there’s a risk that the product may not come to the patient. Therefore, we build a more robust system where important pharmaceuticals can actually go to the patients who need them.
Last but not least, there’s one product that I’m particularly proud of that we call Mellozzan. It’s a melatonin-based product used to treat insomnia in children with ADHD. The patient group is very close to my heart because it’s a very complicated disorder that happens to affect the whole family. With this product, we can help overactive children who cannot focus to have a good night’s sleep and make it more probable for them to have a healthy and functioning life. They can go to school, focus on doing their homework, and really improve their quality of life.
CEOs have to work round the clock. How important do you think it is to maintain a balance in one’s personal and professional life?
I feel work-life balance is extremely important. I know colleagues who work 40 hours per week, who are motivated and engaged, but personally, I tend to work a little bit more. I also try to do some physical workouts, and I am very diligent with my sleep. I try to keep the weekends work-free as much as possible so that I can spend time with my family and be in nature. Recently, I have also started to work on mental strengthening practices like meditation and cognitive exercises.
How crucial is the role of technology and innovation in any organization? Have you taken any steps to innovate at the technological level at EQL Pharma?
We aren’t really about technological innovation but we are about commercial innovation. Innovation is crucial for us, and we always try to be active with our business development team and brainstorm ways of creating new clever business models.
Besides, we look at other countries and see how the pharmaceutical industry performs there. If there is something the industry is doing very well, we try to capture that and expand it into our system of innovation.
If there is one word that would describe you what would be what would it be and why?
Driven. I think so because I have extremely high energy to work and always think that it’s fun to work. I have new ideas and want to push myself and others to grow the business, and find better ways to do things in cost-efficient and smart ways. So, I believe it’s fair to say I have a lot of energy and I’m very driven.
What are your plans for the future? How do you hope to see your organization and team grow?
I am extremely happy where I am, and I am 110% all in on EQL Pharma. I believe so much in what we are doing in our strategic plan and in our team that I want to stay here and build a huge and successful pharmaceutical company together with my colleagues.
Knowing The Man Behind EQL Pharma’s Success
Axel Schörling, President/CEO, EQL Pharma
Axel has double master’s degrees, one in engineering physics and the other in financial economics. He has worked for five years in management consulting focusing mainly on operations and supply chains. Then, he worked for two years in business control, and later he joined EQL as the Chief Operating Officer in 2018. He was promoted to Deputy CEO in 2020, and in 2022, he became the CEO of EQL Pharma.
“Our entire business is based on us delivering the cheapest top-quality medicines to pharmacies and hospitals, in this way daily lowering the cost of high-quality drugs for patients and society at large.”