Jeff Yordon thrives under intense scrutiny, and helps his team at Sagent Pharmaceuticals do the same

The Yordon File

NAME: Jeff Yordon
TITLE: chairman and CEO
COMPANY: Sagent Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Born: Chicago

Education: Bachelor’s degree, political science, Northern Illinois University.

What intrigued you about political science? I was almost sure I wanted to be a lawyer. Back in those days, political science was the way to go for law school. I got accepted to a pretty prestigious law school and was offered a job as a pharmaceutical salesman in Chicago. I decided that I would try that and if it didn’t work, I would go to law school. So I’m seriously considering pharmaceuticals now as a career.

Talk about how you got your start as an entrepreneur: When I was a freshman, I went into a lumber store and I saw some guys unloading a freight car of lumber. I asked the one, ‘What’s that all about?’  He says, ‘Oh, these are some guys that come in and we pay them to unload.’ And I said, ‘Well, can I bid on that?’ And they said, ‘Well, we don’t bid on it.’ And I said, ‘Well, can I bid on it?’ He said, ‘Sure, but you have to have your own lift truck.’
So as a freshman in college, I bought my own lift truck, and I bid on it with a little help from a friend. They pay a lot of money to unload these giant freight cars with lumber, so it got to the point where I then offered my fraternity brothers a chance to work. I’d pay them an hourly wage, and I would average about $2,000 profit per car after probably giving 10 of my fraternity brothers hourly pay. Plus I was able to pay off the loan on the lift truck. So that was one way I got through college.