From startup to $1B company, Gordon Vanscoy steers PANTHERx through constant change

He finds that being a virtual CEO, who commutes back and forth to Naples, Florida, is advantageous.

“It gives me the luxury of not developing personal biases because I can see people more objectively,” he says.

Some employees find the rapid growth — and the change that must come with that — challenging.

“You need to accept that when you launch a company, the talent that you have isn’t the same talent that you’ll need, in terms of leadership, a year from now, three years from now, five years from now,” Vanscoy says. “The organization often outgrows the comfort zone of some of our associates as we continue to add structure and continue to add sophistication.”

Vanscoy tries to develop his employees and have them reap the rewards of growing with the company. In fact, because he and his executive team had difficulty recruiting the appropriate talent to match PANTHERx’s growth, he utilized his relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, where he’s been on faculty for more than 35 years.

Five years ago, he helped create and launch a master-level program that blends business and pharmacy. A number of PANTHERx’s and RareMed’s leaders, including Vanscoy’s son, Gannon, have gone through that program.

Panther also created a fellowship program, partnered with schools of pharmacy to provide internship experiences and developed internal programs to train people and get them to focus in areas the business needs. In addition, the company will be opening a fourth location east of Pittsburgh in fall 2020, because some employees have trouble getting to its facility near the airport.

But, Vanscoy says, despite your best efforts, there will be times when employees no longer fit in the organization. He says they may be great people who contributed immensely when they started, and in their first year or two, but if the company changes and they won’t, you’ll need to make some hard decisions.

Sometimes that turnover comes when the employee decides to pursue a different career opportunity; other times, you have to end the relationship, he says.

Keep the culture, maintain the service

With rapid growth comes the need to spend time maintaining your culture, Vanscoy says. If you grow too fast, sometimes the talent you bring in can contradict or dilute your culture.

A campaign called 1PANTHERx helps mitigate this. It refocuses and reminds employees that the business’s mission is caring for people, because if they don’t get that care from the company, they usually don’t get it anywhere.

When Vanscoy started PANTHERx, his primary motivation wasn’t profit, so he finds it easy to put the mission front and center. He also takes quality service very seriously.

PANTHERx serves those living with rare diseases, which means the disease population is fewer than 200,000 people. The company sometimes provides drugs that need to be kept at temperatures that cannot deviate by more than four degrees. Or medication with weight-based dosing could be injectable and targeted toward pediatric patients.

An ability to provide quality service to patients with difficult needs is why PANTHERx exists. Therefore, when it came in at No. 2 on an independent patient satisfaction survey for the first time, Vanscoy and his team reacted. They re-examined the company’s service model to enhance quality.

When you have a dip in customer satisfaction, you need to add structure to try to regain control. It’s hard to find that balance, and Vanscoy admits he probably added too much immediately after — PANTHERx started to act like a large company with too many rules and too much rigidity.

When that began to stifle creativity, he backed off some of that structure.

PANTHERx is also fortunate to have the ability to take on as much business as it can manage in the rare disease market, which is worth north of $60 billion. A natural result of so many business opportunities and an ability to always grow is the need to tighten the filter for the type of business the company accepts.

“We didn’t just slow down,” Vanscoy says. “We increased our focus to our sweet spot.”

The company is continually homing in on the customers it can serve best.

“I’m not talking about turning down one or two opportunities, I’m talking a significant number of opportunities that just weren’t perfect for PANTHERx,” he says.