SmartPeople: Chris Corbin
Chris Corbin is the managing director of Ashfield Commercial & Medical Services and board director of its parent company UDG Healthcare. With 37 years of industry experience, he still sees the fun side of working in healthcare
There is no typical day at work for me – it all depends where I am in the world! Ashfield has 44 offices across the globe and I try to visit as many as I can. In fact, I spend approximately 40% of the year travelling, mostly to the US, Europe and Japan.
When I’m in the UK, I wake up at about 6:30am and go to the gym. If I don’t have an early meeting that day I’ll drop my kids at school before heading to work. I arrive around 8:00 or 9:00 depending on the kids. I live 12 miles away from the office so I only have to drive for 20 minutes in the morning.
When I’m not traveling, I’ll often speak with the team at different offices – whether it’s with Greg who runs our Japanese business (late in the day as that’s his morning) or Mary Anne who runs our US business, or just meeting with colleagues here in the UK or Ireland. I also try to have lunch or dinner with a few clients every month and will often bump into them in our Ashfield restaurant, as we have companies in every day using our training facilities.
I tend to spend time working with the companies we’ve recently acquired. It’s really important to me that we help the people who join us through an acquisition understand our business and that we collectively understand theirs in order to realise synergies.
For me the philosophy is that people who work here enjoy what they do. We work hard at developing talent and cultivating a fun place to work. We started it from scratch so helped to build that environment.
I founded Ashfield with my wife Samantha in 1997, after an 18-year career as a representative, regional manager, national sales manager and then sales director at a number of large organisations. I’ve been in the pharmaceutical industry for exactly 37 years this year.
I’ve worked in the industry at very interesting times – such as the 80s and 90s when many blockbuster drugs launched. Today is different but still exciting. It is hard work, but good fun, and there is a lot of job satisfaction. At the end of the day, we play a crucial role in bringing new treatments to patients, and ultimately saving lives.
If you are young, work hard and are flexible, you can go far. I wouldn’t have spent 37 years in the industry if it wasn’t a good place to work!
In your current role what is the big goal you would like achieve? How are you faring so far?
Our goal is to maintain our position by growing the business internationally. I am keen to ensure that our various businesses, including our strategic consulting and healthcare communications businesses, work together with our market research, commercial, and clinical teams. We have a very broad range of capabilities, and sometimes when companies get bigger they stop talking to each other and stop working together. I am very focused on making sure we don’t miss a trick for our clients and that we leverage all the expertise across Ashfield to build the best solutions.
What do you love and hate about your job the most? Why?
Traveling and travelling – I love to travel and see all the people around the world who work for our business, however, I am also very close to my family and don’t like to be away too long.
What time do you leave work?
When the work is done!
How did you get to where you are today? What would you put it down to?
By working hard, having high standards and trusting the people who work with me to do their jobs. On a personal level I believe I achieved it by enjoying myself and my work. I’ve also been fortunate to have a very smart and supportive wife, who helped me build the business for many years and who now runs her own businesses.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer, and got a place at Manchester University to do a conversion in law. I didn’t take the place, however, and the rest is history. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing – Ashfield is a great place to work. It is hard work but good fun and it’s rewarding to know that we are a part of developing essential treatments that are saving patients’ lives.
Who is your role model?
Mike Jones, one of my previous colleagues and regional manager at May & Baker, taught me all you need to know about being a successful sales rep and how to work hard. My dad, who died when I was 26, was also a great influence in my life.
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
Over my time in the industry, I have had a number of good, and bad bosses. The good taught me what to do, and the bad what not to do!
What is your tip for a good work/life balance?
I have a good work/life balance – I am very close to my family, and love spending lots of time with them. We always try to have Sunday lunch together. I go to the cinema and love to watch football with the kids. I’m an avid supporter of Liverpool FC, and a season ticket holder.