This Unstoppable Entrepreneur Ran a Business From His Hospital Bed
A cycling accident broke Robert Wessman's spine, but not his spirit.
In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what's your business?
Robert Wessman, entrepreneur and creator of three global life science companies. Currently the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Alvogen, one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical generics companies in the world. Icelandic by birth, international in scope.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
Courage and persistence. Courage to dare to see and act when others do not; persistence to never quit or give up.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
A cycling accident in 2014, which resulted in a broken spine, multiple herniated discs in my back, and more than 150 stitches in my face and hands. I overcame with the support of my family and close colleagues, and the fact that I saw the recovery process as a challenge where there was only one option: to get back to where I was before the accident. I refused to dwell on it or feel sorry for myself. I went to extraordinary lengths to rebuild my body's functionality and strength. I kept my focus and I stayed positive -- remaining fully engaged in the business via an iPad that was attached above my hospital bed.
What did you learn from that experience?
The power of positive thinking and clear focus. Never dwell on things that go wrong in your life. The past is the past. Everyone has their own challenges in life; our success is based on how we deal with them and move on. The key is to stay focused on what propels us forward -- concentrate only on that. Don't waste time or energy on the past or things you cannot change. Know where you are headed and identify ways to get there. Then simply get going and put all you've got into your journey. No doubt. No fear. No hesitation.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions?
Knowing your industry, your company and your people are critical for fast and effective decision-making. To achieve that, I rely on clarity of data, transparency of performance and close collaboration with colleagues, customers and strategic partners. In other words: keep things simple. Keep data and performance transparent and rely on your team.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
How has your leadership style evolved?
As a competitive athlete and CEO, I have always stressed the importance of selecting the most talented and hardworking individuals, but more importantly the ones who strive to make the team more successful than themselves. This unleashes the enormous power of collaborative, performance-driven culture. Acting fast, keeping it simple and clear, making sure everyone understands how they contribute -- vigorously tracking and rewarding performance -- and focusing on a few select areas has become my mantra as my leadership style has evolved.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
I am a very ambitious person and I rarely need any external motivation. I wake up each morning full of excitement to continue on the path I left the night before. I'm driven by the challenge to show our competitors and myself that we can again build a leading global pharma company from a very small base. I like to compete and raise the bar every time.
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