"It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction." — Warren Buffett
Listening to Ironwoodians talk about themselves, the company and the work they do brings to mind a biological analogy. A living, breathing, symbiotic being where both organization and its people are mutually dependent, nurturing while challenging each other.
Ironwood co-founder Brian Cali sums it up best: "Every organization is trying to find that path toward longevity. For us, one key behavior on that journey is the drive and commitment to surround yourself with people who know more than you do, and who think differently. Ironwood's sustainability is built on science and business acumen, yes. But most importantly, it's built on the combined brainpower of a team of 'owners' who are working toward a common goal, and who enable Ironwood and its science to evolve and outlive the individuals."
Ironwoodians are "owners" a nod to Ironwood's practice (influenced by the principles of Warren Buffett) of providing employees with an equity stake in the company. This approach creates a culture where every employee has a vested interest in growing the company. Of course, it takes more than financial equity to sustain passion on a daily basis. At Ironwood, "ownership" also translates to deliberately crafting an environment where each person is encouraged to voice their opinion. It's not just a few people steering the ship; every person has a key role in shaping the company and decisions are smarter because they are made collectively.
At Ironwood, making medicines is not solely the domain of the R&D team, just as marketing them is not only the responsibility of the commercial team. The spirit of "collaboration at every stage" is central to how Ironwood approaches business. Key decisions are planned and coordinated by a cross-functional team.
Cheryl Gault, Ironwood's Vice President of Commercial Strategy and New Product Planning, recalls her transition into her role: "I was upfront about the fact that I was not a scientist. The R&D team welcomed me into meetings, answered my most basic questions and were eager to learn about commercialization. They saw the value of having a broader point-of-view within program development, and what resulted was a healthy relationship between the R&D and commercial teams that continues to evolve as the company furthers its pipeline."
As a case in point, the New Product Planning team has played a key role in decisions around elements of clinical trial design and market entry strategy. During these cross-functional sessions, the teams jointly evaluate factors such as unmet need, time and budget investment to arrive at an option that de-risks the development program from a financial standpoint while meeting the needs of the patient community.
This focus on collaboration is part of a concerted and ongoing effort to avoid the development of silos that could cause short-sighted mistakes.
Says Cali, "Drug making is a long road, sometimes thrilling, often riddled with potholes, and success is not a given. Ironwood's fuel is a passionate team of talented people who constantly push the boundaries in their commitment to a lofty but achievable goal - to develop medicines that change people's lives."
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. As we look back on the past 20 years, these images of both major milestones and small moments capture where we've been, who we are, and where we're going.
At Ironwood, innovation is a way of life. We aren't afraid to ask big questions, follow a contrarian hypothesis, and take bold chances. We let the science lead us to research new therapeutic areas or classes of medicine. And innovation certainly isn't the sole province of R&D; everyone across the company pushes the boundaries of convention and strives for excellence.
Milestones can be a cause for celebration and often provide an important opportunity for reflection. On the occasion of our 20th anniversary, Ironwood co-founder Brian Cali shares four thank you notes addressed to some of the many people who have made getting to this milestone possible.