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Featured Business: Carysfort Healthcare
Name: Fintan Smith, Managing Director and co-founder of Carysfort Healthcare; main focus is licensing and marketing innovative medicines primarily for the Irish market.
Employees: Four contract positions, which the company plans to make full-time
In an industry dominated by large multinational brand names, it might be hard to imagine how a new indigenous player could enter the market.
Undaunted by the big names they would be up against, however, husband-and-wife team Fintan Smith and Michelle Tracey co-founded pharmaceutical company Carysfort Healthcare to bring innovative pain and fever relievers to the Irish market.
Though established in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that the first range of innovative medicines from Carysfort Healthcare reached pharmacy shelves. The high level of regulation in the pharmaceutical industry means there can be a time lapse of one to three years between submitting a clinical dossier to the Irish Medicines Board and actually getting to market.
With more than 25 years' experience in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, Fintan is familiar with the detailed process involved from the time a dossier is submitted to the Irish Medicines Board to when a licence and approval are granted. He also recognised the gaps that existed in the market.
Carysfort Healthcare plans to launch 12-14 innovative medicines under the brand names Tipol, Tantum Verde and Tefin. Getting these products to the market is very rewarding for the company founders – as this is normally done by large multinationals.
What is new to the Irish consumer is the administration format of some of these medicines; Carysfort Healthcare is the first pharma company to launch painkillers on the Irish market in the form of paracetamol granules (for oral use without water) and benzydamine lozenges.
Tipol paracetamol granules are available in strawberry vanilla and cappuccino flavours, and are simply tipped onto the tongue and swallowed without water.
Tantum Verde is the first mouth and throat lozenge on the market containing benzydamine hydrochloride 3mg, which has anti-inflammatory, anaesthetic and analgesic properties.
Tefin ibuprofen suppositories 75mg and 150mg are for the relief of pain and fever in children from eight months to nine years.
Interview with Fintan Smith
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
I’ve worked all my life in the pharmaceutical industry. Because I was dealing with the medical and pharmacy professions on an ongoing basis, it was clear that there were many gaps in the market that were not being addressed by the larger pharma companies. Following research, we identified a range of niche products. Carysfort Healthcare was founded to exploit all the opportunities resulting from our research.
What have been the highlights to date?
The highlights were setting up the company itself, and the approval and licensing of the medicines to date. It’s quite a difficult, expensive and detailed process; every licence granted and approved for a product is a key milestone for the business and you can then focus on the planned launch of that medicine, assuming the required approval is in place.
How did you initially fund your business?
Primarily through myself and my wife – we’re both co-founders and directors of the company – along with the assistance of AIB. No other shareholders are involved.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
No, our primary focus remains very much the same. It’s very defined. We have another 12-14 products coming to the market over the next two years. We’re very clearly focused on our original plan, i.e. to launch innovative medicines.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
It’s difficult at the moment because we’re still very much in the start-up phase. Most of my time is devoted to the business. I plan to work on a balance, however, because for instance I think exercise is very important and I try to get out for a 10k run as often as I possibly can. As we are still in the start-up phase, very often you’re working 16 hours a day. Hopefully when our products are more established in the marketplace, that will be one of my main targets – to get the balance right.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
The people I admire most are Michael Smurfit, Dermot Desmond and JP McManus. I would describe all three as leaders in their industries.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or that make running your business easier or more profitable?
We use smartphones to keep in touch by email, especially if attending off-site meetings. It’s important that people have access to you in case of urgency.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We’re constantly assessing the market and any opportunities that may exist. We keep a very sharp eye on our competitors. Obviously our focus is to always work towards achieving and maintaining competitive advantage at every opportunity.
Our key marketing strategy is to always differentiate our products from those of our competitors, which are focused on patients’ needs. We very much keep in touch with many in the medical and pharmacy professions, also the dental profession. We constantly liaise and get feedback from them on where other opportunities may exist in the market.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Within the pharmaceutical sector, there are very substantial frontloaded costs, particularly when in a start-up phase. You have regulatory consultants on board to continually work with the Irish Medicines Board to get your licence and approval through to the end of the process. Licence costs also have to be paid upfront when submitting your dossier, pharmacovigilance and quality systems must be in place, and then there are legal, packaging and design costs. There’s a whole array of costs that have to be covered at the beginning rather than spread through the business. More substantial costs occur when launching products – marketing, advertising, PR.
What do you think the biggest challenge to businesses in Ireland is at the moment?
The reduction in spending power is a key challenge to all businesses. I think interest rates and negativity are also a challenge. We need more positivity; I think people are afraid to spend.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I would see myself as a very good communicator. I think that’s essential in terms of getting on with people and opening up channels with many pharma companies within the EU, as many company operations are outsourced in today’s business world. I would describe myself as an innovator.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
For me, it’s seeing the business grow and seeing more of our products recognised and purchased by the pharmacies and, more importantly, consumers repeatedly purchasing them. The best reward for me is seeing our products on the market.
What was the main catalyst for growth?
Our product range, thus far, is in the pain management area. This is where we see the growth for the future. Many people suffer from pain, for one reason or another. Our medicines are focused on the mild to moderate to severe pain areas.
How did you scale/grow your business?
The pain management area is, to some degree, recession proof. The products are innovative but they are still very much focused on the analgesic and pain management market.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
Being in regular contact and researching with the pharmacy, medical and dental professions is, I believe, key to planning future products.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
Because it’s highly regulated, getting from concept to market takes a long time. We have a range of applications currently with the Irish Medicines Board. That in itself motivates you to continually focus on products in the market and also products that will receive licences and approvals in the future.
What’s your vision for the future?
Our vision statement is: “As our future beckons we encourage and recognise innovative ideas, take competitive advantage, be dynamic and always exceed expectations.” The way we look at this is: we needed to have the vision in place before we started our strategic planning. Equally, we must know where our destination is because we cannot, for instance, give directions unless we know our destination. We’re very firmly focused on our destination; we know where we want to go with our products, we know the products we want to bring to market.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
I think it’s to stay focused and always work towards your goal. Everybody should have clear goals in business and you must always keep them in sight. Never take your eye off the ball.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
Peter F Drucker, the management guru, has always claimed “If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.”
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
Know the market you are entering very well, and be fully aware how it’s performing in the current business environment. That’s crucial because, if you don’t know the market you’re going to operate in, you could very soon run into difficulties. Also, I recommend “feedback analysis”. Often we are very surprised that things don’t work out the way we expect them to. Set a key action into place, write down what you expect the results to be, and nine to 12 months later compare the results to the expectation. This will show very interesting results!
What, if anything, would you do differently?
We cannot honestly say there was any major decision we shouldn’t have taken. We continually assess and evaluate every business decision we make.
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