Eric Jean - Former SVP & General Manager, Global Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Philips
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Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.
Welcome to the boardroom.
Michael Murray 0:51
Eric, thank you very much for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom.
Eric Jean 0:54
Michael Murray 0:55
Very interested to understand your career up to date. So can you talk me through the last 10 or 15 years of where you’ve been and where you are today?
Eric Jean 1:02
Sure. No, it’s it’s it’s a fairly straightforward career. At the end of the day, I started differently. I studied in the engineering side, okay, but really wanting to make a switch to the healthcare. So I took advantage of doing my MBA in the US, and at that point, use that to transition to healthcare which is where I always wanted to be at the beginning. I initially chose engineering because I wanted to have a global career. And I was looking for education that would allow me to work anywhere in the world. And I thought healthcare would not allow me to do that. But then I realised I could if I was on the business side. So this is what I did, joined Philips in 2002. And then just got up the ranks all the way to the most recent job when I was running the MRI business, globally.
Michael Murray 1:58
Very interesting what you said about moving through the ranks. How do you think you did that so quickly?
Eric Jean 2:06
It’s interesting, because I actually, if I take the example of the last job, I didn’t, did not even go for it. In that case, the entire team of the business got promote and I was on vacation. And I got a call saying, Eric, we want you to be the CEO, essentially, of the MRI business and you have four days to take it off. And I was in San Francisco and somewhere somehow had to fly back to the Netherlands and make an at that point, a three day transition to take over the business. In that case, he was being in the right place at the right time. The one thing that helped me several times in my career, was to work with really good mentors and you work close to them and they will help you. They helped me tremendously in my career. So I had several key people like this, who, I guess saw potentials and gave me, you know, when you look back crazy opportunities. I mean, I went from running a $100 million business to a billion dollar business in with the three days transition.
Michael Murray 3:23
Yeah. Unbelievable. Do you remember what you were doing at that time in San Francisco when you got the call?
Eric Jean 3:27
Absolutely. I actually I was visiting, we were going down Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA and they were calling me, it’s it’s interesting they were calling me on a Saturday. And I said, Look, I’m in vacation. It’s a weekend.
Michael Murray 3:44
Yeah, what are you doing?
Eric Jean 3:44
Can we wait till Monday? And they said no, it’s important. You need to take the call.
Michael Murray 3:49
What was the biggest difference between a $10 million business to a $1.5 billion business? And what what is the key differentiators in running that business? Or you keep the same methodology and you just expand it out?
Eric Jean 4:04
Yeah, it’s actually interesting. It’s, I find little difference. The reality is you when you’re running 10 million 100 million , 1 billion. The truth is you you’re dealing with 10-15 people, which is you spend most of your time with your direct reports. You’re always dealing with 10-15 people’s The big difference is, when you’re in the small business, that’s about it. That’s the organization when you’re in a large business, there is five, six layers behind them. I guess the biggest difference I would say is around communication. When you run a big organisation with many layers, you want to make sure that you touch every layer because this is what’s going to drive people’s decision on a day to day basis. So communication becomes a lot more critical that point it has to be more structured more consistent and repeated more often. You know, I remember one time where I was talking to an engineer and one of the engineers said, we have to go in that direction. And I’d like to play devil’s advocate sometime and say, Well, why don’t understand. And, and he was able to tell me all the priorities in the right orders and why he was making the trade off. And this was somebody who was probably three, four levels under the leadership team. And at that point, I knew, okay, the message has gone to the organisation, people know, on a day to day basis, what choice they have to make.
Michael Murray 5:34
Can you talk to me about a time as an executive where you had a decision to make and you weren’t entirely sure whether it’s ethically, personally professionally in that decision making process? Was there something in your career that that was quite memorable?
Eric Jean 5:49
Yeah, I can think about one, one in particular. And this was a few years back, where I was asked by the very senior management of the organisation to fund a key project. And that was a product that I had talked to many customers about, I’ve seen what our competitors were doing. I’ve seen, you know, the big criteria that I had is, does he have an impact on medical outcomes, this was a machine that was extremely expensive to develop, very expensive, as a as a system. And I felt, we simply should not spend the money doing that. I remember receiving an email from senior management saying, Eric, I want you to fund that project. And then there was a three word so forward, this is not a democracy. Okay, so I’m not asking you if you agree or not, I want you to start that project. And I knew if I do it, I felt in my heart if I did it, I was destroying value from the, from the company. And I was, I would have to starve all the project that had big impact on patient to fund the project that I did simply did not deliver. And I almost got fired a couple of times because of that. This is a very difficult decision, you have to look and you say, Okay, what do I put first? Do I put my career first, I’ll do what I believe is right for the team and the patients. Now, what saved me the second time that I almost got fired is the gentleman who was above me decided to leave the company before. Okay, so he left and at that point it, it allowed me to continue on my path. But had he decided to stay, I probably would have been fired. This was something that I had to think about. You have to think about your family, you have to think about your career. And then you have to think about what is my job? What do I, what am I supposed to do? And I view that as doing the right thing for the patient first.
Michael Murray 7:55
Eric, thank you very much for your time.
Eric Jean 7:56