‘Positive attitude’ the secret of Vigneault

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 3 years ago
Viatris Country Manager Sylvain Vigneault

11 June 2021

Viatris country manager Sylvain Vigneault could be likened to a cat with nine lives given the number of times he has not only survived a business acquisition but also managed to land on his feet.

The local pharma leader, often recognised for his charming French accent and friendly European style of greeting, puts his success in business not down to luck but to one personality trait – attitude.

“I give a lot of credit to attitude,” Vigneault says. “Look forward, give your best, have the right attitude. People appreciate a positive attitude.

“When you go into a merger, people who accept the situation and want to make the best of it are wanted. You need to be solution-driven, but also to enjoy what you are doing.”

The pharma business is known for its many mergers and acquisitions but few people have been through as much as Vigneault and lived to tell the tale. While he has worked for multiple companies, he has not once applied for a job outside of his current employer meaning almost three decades with the same company.

Canadian by birth, Vigneault grew up in a French-speaking household in Montreal, one of the two sons of a mother that came from a family of 17 children and a father who came from 10.

Young Sylvain was mad about all things sport – particularly tennis and ice hockey – but also knew sport was a hobby, not a living. His career, he knew, lay in business although he was unfussed at the time which business sector this would be.

“I like business. I like interacting with people, people’s behaviour. In all honesty, I could have worked in any industry but the healthcare industry was appealing and I’m pleased that this is where I have worked all my life.”

Vigneault left university and started as a sales rep for a small French pharma company called Fournier on the 19 April 1993. In the almost 30 years since, he technically has never changed companies.

He moved to Europe and was working in France when Fournier was acquired by Solvay in 2006. Solvay promoted him to Senior Vice President Neuroscience within the Global Product Strategy Department and moved him to Germany, but in 2010 it was acquired by Abbott.

Abbott made Vigneult its Commercial Director for Russia, China and India, moving him and his young family to Singapore where he lived for two years before being made General Manager of Abbott for Australia and New Zealand. Mylan acquired Abbott’s established products in 2015, with Vigneult again not just surviving the acquisition but thriving, being appointed Country Manager of Australia and ANZ Commercial Head.

He held that role for five years before Mylan merged with Pfizer’s Upjohn in November last year to become Viatris with Vigneault as Country Manager. With the family now firmly settled in Australia (all have residency), they are no longer looking for change and Vigneault is excited about the opportunities offered by Viatris.

“We really look at this as being home. As a family, this is home,” he says of the city that also allows him to pursue his lifelong love of sport, mountain bike riding in a nearby reserve, running, tennis and living near Sydney’s acclaimed beaches.

This pharma life

While Vigneault may not have minded which business sector he entered when he first set out, the pharmaceutical industry is fortunate that he both started in the industry, and that he stayed. His ability to adapt in what others would say is a cutthroat sector is testament to both his commercial strengths, agility in a change environment, and his personality, but he is quick to point out business acumen alone is not enough.

“At the end of the day, a lot of people have the commercial savviness to do the job but how you go about your business. How you convey your message, how much you enjoy your job, all of that is what I believe makes a difference.”

While the newly-minted Viatris is determined to make a difference in the future of Australian healthcare, Vigneault’s vast experience both with change management and all facets of the pipeline is clearly stabilising the company at a local level.

“It’s been six months so Viatris and there is a lot of work to do. Across the world, healthcare has evolved and industry is catching up with that,” he says. “We want to be part of that transformation, to be a voice to make the evolution of healthcare what it should be.

“We definitely want to be more vocal than previously. If you want to make things evolve and change, then you need to be out there, to voice an opinion and get behind your convictions to make healthcare evolve in the direction you want. There is definitely an element of courage and the desire for evolution.”

For Vigneault, while he sees his future now in Australia, the latest change in moving from Mylan to Viatris has also given him renewed vigour.

“We are uniquely positioned to help every patient be healthier at every stage of their life,” he says. “Literally, for every patient in Australia, Viatris can provide a high-quality medication at an affordable price. That’s rewarding both as an employee and as a company.”

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