Mission statement, the key to success for biotech companies

biotech mission statement

In the biotech industry, having a strong company culture is essential for success. It helps attract top talent, keeps employees motivated, and fosters an environment where innovation can flourish. Tom Froggatt, CEO and founder of Singular, a recruitment and company culture consultancy firm in the biotech space, highlights the importance of the mission statement in biotech companies. According to him, three critical elements are required to build a coherent company culture: mission, purpose, and vision. These elements provide direction and motivation for employees, aligning their values with the company’s goals.

Companies like Genentech are known for their strong culture, which encourages innovation and supports employees, resulting in high satisfaction and retention rates​​. Similarly, Sabine Dandiguian of Jeito Capital notes that a positive culture, shaped by inclusive and supportive leadership, is crucial for retaining top talent and driving success​​.

In this article, we will explore how biotech companies can define their mission, purpose, and vision, and how these elements impact company culture, leading to better employee engagement and organizational success.

Table of contents

    Defining mission, purpose, and vision

    In the biotech industry, the reasons behind any business can seem obvious. After all, the people who work in it are generally motivated by a desire to contribute to improving human health and society. While the “why” seems evident, Froggatt believes the mission statement and company culture lie in being specific about the difference your biotech will make, why you care, and then, communicating this message to people both inside and outside the organization.

    Mission statement: What your biotech aims to achieve

    According to Froggatt, a clear mission lays the foundation for everything a company does: “Everything starts with a mission. A good mission statement should outline what your biotech company aims to accomplish, the positive difference it seeks to make, and the real-world impact it will have if successful. Notably, it should have longevity and be broad enough to persist beyond current programs and objectives in place.”

    A well-defined mission helps guide strategic decisions and operational focus. When everyone in the organization understands and aligns with the mission, it creates a unified direction that drives every action and decision. To illustrate, Froggatt gives the example of his own company: “Singular’s mission includes helping biotech companies build their ideal teams, allowing them to focus on developing medicines and treating patients, which ultimately supports saving lives.”

    Purpose: Why your biotech does what it does

    The purpose is closely related to the mission statement but focuses on why the biotech company does what it does. It explains the importance of the work and why it matters. 

    “Purpose is the driving force behind your company’s actions. It explains why your mission matters, why individuals within your biotech should care, and who will benefit from its success,” said Froggatt.

    Purpose fuels passion and commitment within the team. When employees understand and resonate with the biotech company’s purpose, they are more likely to go the extra mile. This sense of purpose can enhance job satisfaction and foster a sense of belonging and value among employees.

    Vision: What the future looks like for your biotech

    Vision identifies what the biotech business will look like when it achieves its mission. It encompasses the atmosphere within the company, the sentiments people express, and the memorable aspects of the journey. Froggatt provides insights on crafting a compelling vision: 

    “Whilst mission is what you do and purpose is why you do it, vision identifies what your biotech business will look like when you achieve your mission. Your vision needs to illustrate a compelling future by highlighting what success means, looks like, sounds like, and feels like for your biotech.”

    A compelling vision inspires and excites people both inside and outside the company. It helps employees see themselves as part of the bigger picture and motivates them to work towards the common goal. In biotech, where not all projects will reach the market, having a strong vision ensures that the journey remains meaningful and motivates the team to persevere despite challenges​​.

    The vital role of mission, purpose, vision, and culture in biotechs

    But why is all this so important? Froggatt told us that the mission statement, purpose, vision, and company culture are where he always starts, with his own company, the businesses he advises, and even the associations he is a board member of. “If you figure out where you are going, why you are going there, and what it’s going to look like, the rest of it becomes easier and it’s simply a good place to start from.”

    Mission statement, a driver for team efficiency

    Froggatt identifies several positive impacts of building a biotech company culture around the mission statement, purpose, and vision. The first is the efficiency of the company’s workforce.

    “It provides a greater direction and allows to align objectives, as the work everyone does individually is contributing to this greater direction, which ultimately makes a team more effective.”

    A strong mission and purpose significantly enhance employee engagement and productivity.  “For a great proportion of people working in the sector, having a clear sense of mission and purpose drives a sense of belonging, value, and contribution, whilst a compelling vision allows people to imagine a positive future both for themselves and for their careers,” said Froggatt.

    Research supports these claims. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that purpose-driven companies outperformed non-purpose-driven ones in various areas, such as growth, global expansion, product launches, and success in major transformation efforts​​.

    Company culture, a reason to stay

    Deloitte Insights’ 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report revealed that purpose-driven organizations experience 40% higher levels of workforce retention than other organizations​​.

    “Generally speaking, people want to feel they are working for something bigger than what they can achieve on their own. If you have a really clear mission statement and vision, it is easier to get candidates through the door because they are buying in for the bigger picture. Regarding employee retention, in every job, there are bad days and good days. The difference when contributing to a purpose and vision through a clear mission is that you are not in isolation and you can write off these bad days easier and the good days become even more impactful,” said Froggatt.

    Froggatt also highlights that in his experience and according to Singular’s surveys over the years, the main reason why people leave their jobs in the biotech industry is career development. “If someone is a senior scientist and there is a lack of clarity on how they become principal scientists, they are significantly more likely to leave than if they can clearly see the future of the company and their future within it.”

    Making vision-coherent decisions

    You have to make a lot of decisions when you run a company, and if you make each decision based on its own merits, you might make the best decision at a given time but it might also point in different directions. “If all decisions are made with purpose and vision in mind, you should broadly find your way where you wanted to go in the first place,” said Froggatt.

    Froggatt says some companies are created with a clear sense of mission, purpose, and vision but not all. However, having a clear mission statement at one point does not guarantee it will remain clear over time. As Froggatt puts it, “Even companies that start with a strong sense of mission can lose sight of it if it is not well looked after.” A lot of time in biotech, vision is directed toward patient impact. However, this ultimate goal is so far down the line it is easy to lose it along the way by focusing on short-term objectives. In Froggatt’s opinion, this is where the leadership team plays a key role.

    Leaders as the embodiment of the mission statement

    Leadership plays a crucial role in fostering and maintaining a company culture that aligns with the organization’s mission, purpose, and vision. Froggatt emphasizes that leaders must embody these elements to inspire their teams and ensure consistency across the organization. “Leadership needs to be the living example of the company’s mission, purpose, and vision. If leaders do not embody these values, the culture will not be authentic and will fail to resonate with employees.”

    Creating a purpose-driven culture starts with leaders who authentically understand and live by the company’s purpose. Leaders must not only articulate the company’s purpose but also integrate it into daily operations and decision-making processes. This involves setting clear expectations, providing regular feedback, and celebrating behaviors that align with the company’s values.

    Tom Froggatt offers practical advice for biotech leaders: “Leaders should actively communicate and demonstrate the mission and purpose through their actions. This includes making strategic decisions that align with the company’s values and recognizing employees who embody these principles.”

    A purpose-driven culture also implies getting employees involved in shaping the company’s purpose and values. Leadership should create opportunities for employees to contribute to the company’s mission through initiatives like volunteering and community engagement. This approach not only enhances employee engagement but also reinforces the organization’s commitment to its purpose​​.

    Challenges to building company culture in the biotech industry

    Building a supportive culture in biotech companies comes with its own set of challenges. One common challenge is ensuring that the company’s mission and values are consistently communicated and embodied by employees. This requires ongoing effort and commitment from leadership. 

    Another challenge is maintaining a cohesive culture during periods of rapid growth or change, which can dilute the company’s core values and mission. This is particularly true for biotechs as they are working with long timelines and no certainty that the product they are working on will reach the market.

    It can be challenging to work on short-term missions with objectives that are so far down the road. Froggatt encourages leaders to think beyond the usual stakeholders, meaning patients and investors. 

    “You can have an impact on both patients and investors but the vast majority of biotech projects don’t ever reach patients, and that doesn’t mean that what the company was doing wasn’t worthwhile. It has had an impact on the people working in your team, on its suppliers, and on anyone involved in the journey. The company’s achievement might also advance science and, in the long run, allow someone else to achieve what you were aiming for.”

    The fact that most biotech companies are venture-backed can also be a difficulty in maintaining a mission statement coherent with the purpose and vision of the company as the stakeholders’ objectives might differ from the company’s.

    “One difficulty I would attribute to any science-driven industry is the skepticism regarding company culture’s value. We have worked with several companies where the initial response to the mission statement discussion has been ‘I need to be in the lab, how long is this going to take?’ So you have to break that resistance a bit and show the evidence that it’s important and not a marketing exercise where the values say one thing and behavior another,” said Froggatt.

    It can also be a challenge to shift from a research-oriented organization to a product-based company, Froggatt pointed out. 

    “When you’re on day one of having spun something out of university, you are not the company you need to be to keep it going forward but you need to ask the question of what company you need to be and what company you are comfortable being.”

    Despite these challenges, the benefits of a purpose-driven culture and mission statement in biotech companies are substantial. Companies with strong cultures often see increased growth and retention. Purpose-driven companies attract top talent who are looking for more than just a paycheck and seek meaningful work that aligns with their personal values and goals.

    How to measure a company culture’s effectiveness

    Assessing the impact of company culture on strategic goals is crucial for understanding how well it supports the overall mission and vision. Tom Froggatt emphasizes the importance of using both qualitative and quantitative measures to evaluate cultural effectiveness.  

    “A comprehensive approach to measuring culture includes employee engagement surveys, performance metrics, and qualitative feedback. Regularly reviewing these metrics helps ensure that the culture remains aligned with the company’s goals and values.”

    A few tools to assess the impact and coherence of company culture include:

    • Regular surveys can provide insights into employee satisfaction, engagement, and alignment with the company’s mission and values. These surveys often include questions about job satisfaction, sense of purpose, and perceived alignment with the company’s vision​​.
    • Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as employee retention rates, productivity levels, and innovation metrics can help quantify the impact of culture on business outcomes. 
    • Conducting focus groups, interviews, and open feedback sessions allows for a deeper understanding of how employees perceive the culture and its alignment with the company’s goals. This data can highlight areas of strength and opportunities for improvement​​.

    “Combining quantitative data from surveys and performance metrics with qualitative insights from employee feedback provides a holistic view of the cultural landscape. This balanced approach helps identify both successes and areas needing attention,” said Froggatt.

    Adapting culture and maintaining vision

    As companies grow, it is essential to ensure that their culture evolves while remaining aligned with their mission and vision. This requires proactive strategies to maintain cultural integrity amid expansion and changing business dynamics:

    • Regularly communicate and reinforce the company’s core values to ensure they remain central to the organizational culture. This can be done through leadership communications, onboarding programs, and ongoing training sessions​.
    • Develop cultural practices and rituals that can scale with the company. This might include regular meetings, recognition programs, and community-building activities that promote a unified culture​​.
    • Invest in leadership development programs to ensure that leaders at all levels embody and promote the company’s mission and values. Leaders play a critical role in fostering a positive culture​.

    Maintaining focus on the company’s mission and vision is challenging during periods of rapid growth. Froggatt advises, “It is essential for leadership to consistently align strategic decisions with the company’s mission and vision. Regularly revisiting these foundational elements during strategy sessions and decision-making processes helps keep the company on track.” 

    The key, according to Froggatt, is to work your way back from the mission statement and vision of the company, and define what kind of business the company needs to be to achieve it and what routes it is comfortable taking along the way. This leads to conversations about the core values of the company that must be kept alive.  

    In Froggatt’s opinion, science and other success factors aside, biotech companies that got the mission statement and culture right, have much higher chances of survival. 

    “The example I often give is Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which had their lead program fail in a clinical trial, which for most companies would be the end of the road. But, because it had a great team aligned with its culture, the company has been able to pivot into a new disease area and change how cystic fibrosis is treated, and they are the huge success story we all know today.”

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