For Philip Rielly and Eric Hill, the past five years have been a very different experience compared to most others in the business world during that time. While many companies were hunkering down, cutting back and fighting to stay in business, Rielly and Hill were nurturing the healthy growth of a young company.
In fact, in just the past three years they have seen their company’s employment and revenue double. Rielly and Hill are co-founders of BioRx LLC, a more than 200-employee national provider and distributor of specialty pharmaceuticals they started in 2004.
Hill, who is vice president, is located in North Carolina, while Rielly, who is president, is in Cincinnati where BioRx is headquartered. The company, now nine years old, has been exceeding expectations, and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
“Since 2010 we have continued our strong growth trajectory as we hoped that we would,” Rielly says. “We finished this past year north of $100 million in sales. We’ve been fortunate to launch a number of new semi-exclusive products with some of the different manufacturers.”
Since 2010, BioRx has become a prominent player in the Hereditary Angioedema space and a major player in the Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiencies space.
“Some of the other changes since 2010 are we announced that we were going to be a semi-exclusive distribution partner for a firm out of New Jersey called NPS Pharmaceuticals and we opened three new regional pharmacy and distribution centers,” Hill says. “Those are in Boston, Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif. Those are three large investments for us.”
Needless to say BioRx has been doing the right things to remain on a growth track. Now Rielly and Hill have to keep it going.
Here’s how they have grown the company through strategic planning and developing the right partnerships.
Take advantage of growth drivers
When Rielly and Hill first started BioRx, they had a different idea behind specialty pharmaceuticals than most other national companies. While others were switching to a less personalized mail order model, Rielly and Hill saw an opportunity to offer a higher care model and focus on the patient.
Since seeing that opportunity they have been aggressively pushing the company forward.
“We’ve taken a bullish approach from day one when we set the company up, and we’ve been very aggressive with respect to adding new geographies and new regions,” Rielly says. “We’ve certainly added quite a few new account managers in the field, so we really focus our market on the four P’s in the pharmaceutical space with respect to customers.
“In the physician marketplace, we’ve expanded the number of representatives calling on the physicians across the country to open new geographies to where we’re now truly a national company.”
The biggest driver for BioRx at this point has been developing relationships with the different biotech companies and manufacturers.
“They’ve entrusted us with some of their new therapies,” he says. “In many cases we are just one of a handful of companies in the world who has access to selling these drugs. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to get those relationships.”
When a company is growing at the rate BioRx has, it is often easy to focus on one big area of growth and forget about other areas. That has not been the case with BioRx.
“This hasn’t been a one-trick growth pony,” Hill says. “We’ve purposefully and carefully invested in multiple strategies that have the opportunity to provide us growth. We’ve executed pretty well on all of them, but the key thing to take away is that we haven’t put all of our eggs in one basket in terms of our strategy to provide continued and sustainable growth for the company. It’s been a measured approach across many fronts.”
Over the course of the business as it has scaled, Rielly and Hill have continued to reinvest in it.
“We’ve taken every dime of free cash that we can find and judiciously invested that into both infrastructure to allow us to grow, but most importantly into infrastructure that provides that growth such as opening new markets, hiring sales people, adding new product lines and adding infrastructure,” Hill says.
“At the same time, we have to ensure that we’re not getting ahead of the company’s ability to finance it so we can maintain a robust and strong balance sheet, which is a business killer for a lot of small companies.”
While maintaining a strong balance sheet is one challenge of a growing company, there are many other obstacles that come along with growth. One challenge is hiring.
“Even with the unemployment rate at what it is, I would say that we still have a challenge finding and recruiting some of the very best people,” Rielly says. “We set a very high bar for the quality of folks that we hire. We’ve really had very little turnover, but with the continuous growth we’ve enjoyed, it is a challenge to continue to grab those folks.”
One strategy that BioRx has implemented is hiring people for an associate-level sales position and having them train with more senior employees to learn the ropes.
“It eliminates some of the risk down the road of having a bad hire,” he says. “We’re also working closely with some of the local universities. That way we have an in on recruiting down the road, and it’s a good way for us to give back.”
Another way the company stays on top of hiring challenges is to be on the lookout for great candidates all the time.
“It may not be today, but it may be three months or six months from now that we’ll need talent,” Hill says. “When the opportunity to hire somebody comes along, we need to already have a portfolio of folks we’ve been talking to. That dialogue helps gets those jobs filled quicker and with better talent.”
Most of BioRx’s growth to this point has been organic growth. However, Rielly and Hill are always looking for the next partnership that will benefit the company and its patients. Last year the company made an acquisition to help it reach new customers.
“Coagulife Pharmacy is the only acquisition that we have done to date,” Rielly says. “Our strategy from day one has always been through internal growth and continuing to reinvest in new talent and organic growth. But Coagulife presented itself. That situation was a unique opportunity for us to add a different skill set.”
Coagulife deals specifically in the hemophilia space. Many hemophilia patients have target joint bleeds and what ends up happening is many of them require an orthopedic procedure down the road. Many of those can be avoided or helped with some type of aggressive physical therapy, which is what Coagulife offers.
“So we’re rolling out a national program that is very specific to physical therapy and exercise regimens,” he says.
A large part of BioRx’s ability to find strategic partners and develop those relationships is because the company makes it a priority to plan for those kinds of things.
“You have to have a plan, but also the wherewithal to follow through on a plan without respect to different challenges that come up,” Rielly says. “Whatever the long-term plan is you have to stick with it and keep going forward even when it doesn’t feel comfortable from time to time.”
BioRx thinks of strategic planning in the two-to-five-year range.
“The easiest thing for us to plan is organic, new market openings and sales infrastructure growth by prioritizing the markets we believe have opportunity in each of our business units,” Hill says. “Then it’s just budgeting out the velocity with which we can deploy capital and money to put those people in place to enter and burst into new markets for us.”
Rielly and Hill constantly talk about the next five markets the company is going to crack into with a new therapy or a sales rep to put an operating unit in place.
“We’ve done a good job of sticking to that,” he says. “We kind of know where our next five, six, seven, or eight investments are going to be and in which business units we want to be plunking those bets down.”
During the strategic planning process you have to be willing to think about some far-fetched goals while also being reasonable about what can be achieved in your plan’s window of time.
“Dream big and shoot for the stars, but be realistic with respect to what it’s going to take to achieve those goals,” Rielly says. “Be realistic with how much capital it’s going to require to get from point A to point B. But don’t be afraid to dream big and swing for the fences.”
The key to achieving goals set forth in a strategic plan is having a great team around you.
“If we have done anything, we have hired a fantastic management team and our bench strength is pretty deep,” Hill says. “I think either one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow and the company wouldn’t have a whole lot of issues. We have managers and operators that we turn loose to let them earn their stripes. Those guys know where our next bets need to be.”
How to reach: BioRx LLC, (866) 442-4679 or www.biorx.net
Determine your growth factors.
Develop strategic partnerships to help expand.
Have a planning process for the future.
The Rielly and Hill File
President and Co-founder
Vice President and Co-founder
Rielly: Born in Cincinnati
Rielly: Education: Graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., with a BS in business communications.
Hill: Born in Bassett, Va.
Hill: Education: Graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in psychology.
How did you first meet each other? And why did you start BioRx?
We both met working for another national company. We saw the trend of many national companies going to a mail order model with less personalized care, and we felt that we could create a market by going with a higher care model.
What has been your favorite thing about growing BioRx?
Rielly: The most rewarding part is building a team and watching the team grow. We’re making a very positive impact on the lives of each of the patients in which we touch and there’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get a patient testimonial about the ways our team members went above and beyond. I find that extraordinarily rewarding.
Hill: It is awfully refreshing to wake up every day knowing that we get to set the direction. It’s a lot of fun being in an entrepreneurial environment and getting to spread that spirit around the organization.
What excites you both about the future of BioRx?
Hill: I’m excited about the fact that sooner than later we are going to be a $200 million company. We also have a new drug launch happening and it has the opportunity to be a significant sea change in both the lives of the patients that we’re treating and the marketplace for one of our operating units in a way that’s transformative.
Rielly: In the last few months, we’ve aggressively hired and opened new geographical territories and I’m excited to see the initial successes. We have the best team in place that we’ve ever had and I’m excited for them to achieve their personal goals.