TriviumVet is actually the third startup company that serial entrepreneur Louise Grubb has founded in the life sciences sector. The pharmaceutical industry, in which TriviumVet is carving out its place – developing novel veterinary therapeutics for companion animals – is a competitive environment for talent.
Speaking at the Irish Farmers Journal and Ornua “Bridging the Gap” diversity and inclusion event, Louise explained that with startups management have the advantage; “we can embed equality, diversity and inclusion in our culture from the very beginning.”
A challenge for startup companies can be in talent acquisition.
TriviumVet is competing against pharmaceutical multinationals for staff and to secure people that will bring innovation onto her business, Louise explains that culture is really important.
Important to not only attract talent but also to maintain it.
Building a culture of innovation
To build this culture, Louise calls out collaboration, communication, facilitation and managing the hierarchy as key.
“We need to collaborate, externally with our partners but, more importantly, internally. We need to collaborate among diverse skills, so that we can solve the challenges of the business.
“This means allowing people to put their values forward and their voice forward.”
In terms of communications, Louise leads from the top.
We need to collaborate, externally with our partners but, more importantly, internally
“We make sure that all of the organisation is involved and knows what’s going on. We have the informal and the formal.”
It is important, Louise says, that everyone gets to participate.
“It’s wonderful to see new joiners gradually become part of the team.” She cautions that, as companies get bigger, this culture is a function of how team leaders operate – so it’s important they embrace it.
It is the informal communications that Louise feels have really suffered because of COVID-19.
She is looking forward to getting everyone back into the office, to “create that collaboration and energy that comes when you get people together. You’ve got a lot of diverse people, and it’s the informal communications often, that really put inclusivity into practice.”
Louise gives a practical example of “making the tea”.
In one of her companies, all workers were essential and therefore on site all the time.
“We have a big enough facility that we were able to space them all out. But we bought three more kettles. Now it’s a really small thing, but to me, so much of my interaction with people is around the kettle, and we’re standing making tea and coffee and having a chat. You get to talk to people who you wouldn’t normally talk to every day.”
Now it’s a really small thing, but to me, so much of my interaction with people is around the kettle, and we’re standing making tea and coffee and having a chat
Her advice for when we get back: “Make sure that you have a decent canteen. It’s a really practical thing but I think if you want to really embrace diversity and get people who are at very different levels of the organisation, to collaborate, you need to live it. And that’s really important to us.”
Returning to work
Louise encouraged some out of the box-thinking for employers too in terms of attracting more diverse talent, giving people a chance. “I’ve managed to get really good people who were maybe a little bit insecure, going back into work after time out, or they’d like a little bit more flexibility three days, two days.
“I get super people with great experience, by being able to offer them that flexibility, and they tend to be women.”
Confidence, she says, is also an issue. “When interviewing, this lack of confidence comes through. You don’t hear at an interview: ‘You know I was CFO of a company and I didn’t lose that just because I haven’t been working for the last three years.’ You need to pull that out of people [when confidence is low] what’s your experience.”
Careers in STEM
To encourage people of all backgrounds to consider careers in STEM, Louse does a monthly podcast The Science of Business where she meets with some of the people behind the pharma and life-science sectors in Ireland who share their own career paths and interesting business stories in this leading global field.
We have all heard the cliché and Louise calls that out, but the fact that it is true means that it is inescapable, what’s the phrase “‘you can’t be what you can’t see”.
From a TriviumVet perspective, role models are very visible as it’s a female-led company with the gender balance actually 60:40 weighted in favour of women.
Louise says that yes it might be very obvious in some companies and you can see it, but if that visibility is not obvious, it can be unfortunately then just accepted as a normal [that men are in senior positions].
If there was only one thing...
CEOs need to make sure the structures are in place in your organisation from the get-go.
So it’s the communications, it’s that low hierarchy so that people feel that they can approach anybody within the organisation.
And it’s having some formal and informal communication structures so everyone feels included. And you listen to them, and you can do that in real practical, simple ways from the beginning.