MSLs in Start-Up Companies

It’s no mystery – if you want growth and ground-up opportunity to build – then start-up companies and small companies are the way to go.

At least, that is what many MSLs assume.

Many seasoned and tenured MSLs eventually look to the start-up environment to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. They want to get in on a team at the ground level, be one of the first MSLs for the company where they can actively participate in that company’s growth and help educate the company’s stakeholders on the MSL role.

There is also the perception of growth opportunities, where expansion comes with the chance to get into MSL management.

Here’s a reality check.

Unlike the past (i.e. 5 years ago), more and more small companies are becoming M&A targets rather than aiming to become a vertically integrated pharmaceutical companies.

What this means is that the risk of joining a small company has just become riskier for the MSL professional.

Rather than counting on the company growing organically, start-up companies’ MSLs are watching their companies bring in new management. Almost overnight – their companies’ culture seems to change with the new management.

Did the medical director change in the last 3-6 months? Did someone new appear suddenly to replace the mysterious disappearance of the previous director? Did the MSL manager who hired you and whom you love get a sudden promotion to a different department within the company? Did your company’s flat organizational structure get even flatter? Are you getting new pressure to show your activities, account for every line item of your expense report, and asked multiple times a week to show how well you are supporting your commercial colleagues?

Maybe it’s a sign that the company is positioning itself for a merger and/or acquisition.

Usually by this time the venture capitalists (VCs) come in to start directing management on how the company should be run, and to ensure the conservation of cash and an increase in sales numbers.

So is smaller really more beautiful for the experienced MSL? Or has the risk become too risky to be worth the potential growth reward? You tell me.