C-Suite Partners

Ai Hua Ong - Part 2 - Company Group Chairman – Asia Pacific at The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

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Transcript

Michael Murray  0:47  
Can you talk me through a time when you’ve made a gut decision? And it steered you wrong in the commercial world? 

Ai Hua Ong  0:54  
Yeah, so, I remember days where I was running the Southeast Asia business which is a unique model that has consumer, medical device, and pharmaceutical business under one umbrella. And I was the leader for that business. The Singapore market is very sophisticated consumers and you know, very competitive. So the gut says that you know, we should really when you look at consumer business and that’s the best way to be competitive here so that’s our gut feel. I mean, of course, there’s some market research, right? But a lot more is that because we wanted to turn around that fast. Where it did not turn out to be what it is, is that while the gut is somewhat right, but the means is not exactly the way to win. And there were several years ago, where the when you have the gut feel of a product that can you think can win, you need to think about also the channel to make it win. And that was something that, you know, we did not think of I did not think about it. And that actually did not make the strategy work, we had to end up doing a lot of rethink, and in fact, actually put us to step back because we work, we have larger products, and we missed an opportunity.

Michael Murray  2:10  
Now, I’m very interested how you reacted to that. Did you just quickly move your mind towards how do we fix this? Or did you take a moment to sit and reflect and have some type of emotion about what had happened?

Ai Hua Ong  2:24  
Yeah, I think that’s very important. Because reflection is not just on the emotions of coming, you know, to understand what coming to understand for yourself, but also with the team. Because after you do that, you know, then you when you talk about what’s next how to correct it becomes more objective oriented, and you can pass it through. And we’re all humans, we have emotions. I mean, if we don’t spend, we don’t need to spend a whole lot of time, you know, dwelling on upon it, we just need a conversation, maybe 30 minute, let’s all talk about it even an hour, what do we think went wrong? Because if we don’t have enough time to reflect, we start going to come let’s fix it, then we really missed the opportunity of, you know, which was really a blind spot, you know, and how to make sure that this blind spot does not occur again.

Michael Murray  3:20  
What about China? In general, I’m very interested in your thoughts on that market, because everyone wants to get into it, but very few succeed. What did you do differently to turn it around?

Ai Hua Ong  3:34  
China’s big, I think that is like an obvious statement. And China is not one China. So I think it’s very important to understand that there is a scale but there is a huge diversity of one province to the other from income, state of economy, to culture. And the second thing about China is that because there’s asymmetry of information, there are no reports that give you everything. You have to learn to know how to triage information and arrive at a point where you feel that this is the data that you want to call it and use it to act upon. And therefore you have to be very comfortable with 60% information and 40% just gut feel and sometimes even half and half and to be able to make the decision and execute and always keep the ears to the ground to know what is different from your assumption and tweak along the way. And then the third thing about China here is that you have a team of people who is very hungry to learn. You know, I think that learning desire is very important to identify recognize, and to be able to do understand the desire and know-how to retain. So the thing is that there will never be enough in terms of compensation. You know to do to outdo another company. So how do you build an environment? That brings out the best in people? That, to me, sometimes may not be well understood, because it is the more compensation more salary that we see. Which is true and that’s the that is the ticket to play. But that’s not the ticket to win,

Michael Murray  5:23  
Okay. What’s the difference between managing to say a $10 million business compared to a $1 billion business? Do you still use the same core fundamental principles? And you just amplify that? Or is it a totally different approach?

Ai Hua Ong  5:41  
So scale, it definitely, you know, pushes you to think about how to get the same impact, with high touch to everybody. Right? I think that’s the biggest difference when is a $10 million business, you probably have 100-200 staff and you know, everybody by name, and when there’s 1 billion is more than one market in one country. The question is, how do you create that leadership impact without the opportunity to get to know everybody the same level as you used to when you were running a $10 million business? But what’s cool, and remains the same is the care for people the passion for people in a belief in growing talent for the business.

Michael Murray  6:29  
And what about your career in one word,

Ai Hua Ong  6:32  
Two words.

Michael Murray  6:33  
Two words is fine

Ai Hua Ong  6:34  
Purposeful and rewarding.

Michael Murray  6:36  
Ai Hua, thank you very much for spending time with C-Suite partners in the boardroom.

Ai Hua Ong  6:40  
Thank you, Michael.