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US Business Too Impatient According To Bayer CEO

Dr. Marijn Dekkers

Marijn Dekkers, CEO of German drugmaker Bayer, knows that pushing himself and his company is sometimes necessary in order to stay competitive in the pharmaceutical developer space. According to Dekkers, he knows when to slow down – a lesson he believes US-based pharmaceutical companies should learn.

“I’m very aware of the strain and stresses on my body, both physically and mentally, and put a lot of measures in place to manage that,” Dekkers told the Financial Times, when talking about his role as CEO. Dekkers once had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player, before he got into the pharmaceutical business.

“I know from my tennis days what it is to manage your energy. On the day of a match you need to peak at, say, 2 p.m., not 5 p.m.” Dekkers is quick to point out that constant pressure is not only taxing on the executives in a company – big companies with long histories like Bayer, can also feel the strain.

“You can stretch it, but when does it snap?” said Dekkers. “[If] you force people along at a faster pace than they are capable of, you end up out there on your own and no one knows what you are talking about.”

This is where Dekkers says the German business culture has a distinct advantage over the US, particularly when running a company in an industry “with a very long time frame.” According to Dekkers, in the US, “pressure comes too quickly–particularly when things go awry.

“People start knocking on your door saying, ‘Why don’t you sell this’ or ‘I want to be on your board as an activist’,” he said. Despite his slow-and-steady philosophy surrounding pharmaceutical development, Dekkers has certainly made some changes since joining Bayer as CEO.

He has shifted the focus of the company from its previous establishment as a chemicals conglomerate, to a major player in the life sciences industry. Bayer’s most recent move towards that goal was the decision to separate Covestro – the company’s plastics unit – from Bayer in an initial public offering (IPO).

Last summer, Dekkers announced that he would be requesting that his contract with Bayer only be extended until the end of 2016, at which time he plans to retire from CEO life. Dekkers told the Financial Times that the decision was largely influenced by his children who are preparing to go to college in the US.

“I need flexibility to spend more time in the U.S. and not have to be at a meeting here on Monday morning that I cannot miss,” said Dekkers. It looks like the CEO will be leaving Bayer in good standing; the company’s eye drug Eylea showed a 69 percent increase in sales in the company’s Q3 report. The positive growth has driven the Bayer to set a 50 percent increase in growth guidance for the drug in 2015.