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Q+A | Joseph Jimenez

China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-11 07:30
What are your hobbies?

I've been a competitive swimmer my whole life and was the captain of my swimming team at Stanford University. It's still something I enjoy and I try to get in the pool whenever I can. Additionally, I enjoy spending time outdoors and with my family. I'm interested in fly-fishing and like to play soccer with my children.

What is the saying that you like the most?

I've heard a Chinese proverb that said: "Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still." I like this because it reminds me to always keep learning and growing. This is especially important in an industry such as pharmaceuticals, which is experiencing a rapid sea change. We must always keep an eye on the external environment so that we can adapt as necessary.

What are the qualities you most admire in a man?

I admire someone who has humility but at the same time has relentless will. When you are a good listener and have humility, you take in perspectives from all sides when trying to solve a problem. Yet, there comes a time for action and this requires a strong will. I believe this combination makes very effective leaders.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

It is hard to point to one single achievement but I am very proud that Novartis has managed well through the patent expiration of Diovan, our largest drug, in Europe and the United States.

When I first became CEO, one of my highest priorities was to build a strategy to help the company weather revenue losses from products such as Diovan losing patent exclusivity. We have accomplished that and kept our sales in line with previous years despite the loss of sales from patent expirations. This is thanks to a laser focus on innovation, excellent launches of new products and continued expansion in emerging markets.

Name places in China that impressed you most and those you have not visited but want to explore.

I've been to many of the major coastal cities in China and now I'm looking forward to visiting the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in the west and also Chengdu. I'd also like to visit some of the natural wonders China has to offer, such as the Karst mountains in Yangshuo or the Jiuzhaigou valley in Sichuan province. However, the place that impressed me most was the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is a place of so much history.

What's the best way to break the ice with a Chinese businessman you've met for the first time?

I believe it's very important to get to know colleagues in China and spend time building a relationship with them. I always like to ask about the person I'm meeting. What are his or her hobbies? How is his or her family? That comes before getting into business details.

Give three words to describe your impression of Chinese businessmen.

Smart, focused, disciplined.

What kind of experience has shaped your thoughts the most?

A mentor of mine told me not to be afraid of making lateral career moves and it's been those times when I've not taken a linear career path that I've learned the most. For example, there was a time several years ago when I was asked to move from managing a $300 million business to a $10 million new-product startup within the same company. Had I said no to the opportunity of this new assignment, I would have missed out on a significant amount of experience that has helped me tremendously over the years.


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