Bob Rhatigan, CEO of Merz North America, is taking on a drug he helped launch: Botox

Bob Rhatigan is going up against Botox with his company's lead drug. (Image: Merz North America)

Bob Rhatigan, CEO of Merz North America, is all about appearances.

Specifically, Rhatigan focuses on medical aesthetics, or medical specialties that improve cosmetic appearance. These treatments are used for everything from reducing frown lines to getting rid of cellulite. The most well-known drug for these conditions is Botox.

In fact, Rhatigan helped launch this injectable treatment when he was a VP at pharmaceutical giant Allergan.

He left Allergan in 2014 for a brief stint in the healthcare start-up field before joining Merz North America in 2017, tasked with accelerating sales for its 10-product portfolio, including its lead treatment, Xeomin, a direct competitor of Botox. Rhatigan told FierceCEO there was no noncompete agreement because California, where Allergen is based, doesn’t have these restraints.

Since taking the CEO position, Merz’s sales have grown “significantly,” said Rhatigan, who didn't give a precise figure.

He said conditions had been in decline before his arrival because of a poor sales structure, a lack of clarity around the company’s goals and an excessively high turnover rate.

Rhatigan said Merz redesigned its sales structure, “very clearly articulated our strategic priorities and brought in a lot of high impact industry talent” to get back on track.

Rhatigan isn't just using the usual methods to build business. He said he is also creating an internal culture as a way of inspiring staff members. The “leadership mantras” he uses to motivate employees include:

Keep the main thing the main thing

  • Steven Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” originated the approach and Rhatigan says he swears by it. “Staying focused on the goal and avoiding the distraction of issues that are insignificant is essential,” Rhatigan said.

Tigers don’t hunt squirrels

  • All organizations should aspire to big goals. For Merz, Rhatigan set a clear and ambitious one: to be the most admired and trusted company in the aesthetics industry. “It’s an audacious goal that becomes achievable when the workforce is empowered to think past incremental gains and toward game-changing growth,” Rhatigan said. “That’s the mindset modeled by the company’s leadership.” In 2017, Merz launched the first direct-to-consumer campaign in the company’s history, featuring former supermodel Christie Brinkley.

Simplify the complex

  • The first step to solving a complicated mathematical equation is to simplify it. At Merz, that means tackling complex plans by focusing on the core essence of the goal, Rhatigan said. To get things done, it’s important to write and speak in simple terms to ensure the people you are trying to reach understand your message. When Rhatigan wanted to cultivate a more customer-centric culture, he started with a simple question: “Have you helped a customer or sales rep today?” That question is now posted across walls throughout the Merz headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. 

Focus and execution beat strategy

  • With a solid core vision and an annual planning process to define goals and objectives, Rhatigan said he inspires staff to execute every day to meet business objectives. “Internal communications play a key role in keeping staff focused on incremental progress and achievement,” Rhatigan said. Monthly leadership team meetings, virtual town halls and a well-developed intranet “serve as the platforms to celebrate progress and communicate ongoing results on business objectives,” Rhatigan said.

Drive versus ride  

  • Don’t let opportunity pass you by.  When a group of female executives approached Rhatigan with the idea of creating a women’s leadership network, he supported the initiative. The network launched on International Women’s Day and now serves as forum to mentor and nurture upcoming female leaders, Rhatigan said. 

Fast Five with Bob Rhatigan

What's the key to finding new opportunities for revenue?

Organic growth.

When have you had to adapt and what did you learn?

I’m adapting all of the time. Our markets are constantly evolving.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 lowest and 10 highest) how much of a priority do you place on the following things at your company: people, process and technology?

  • People—10
  • Process—8
  • Technology—6

What's one tip for motivating employees?

Active communication, transparency and investing in coaching and professional development.

What do you wish you had known five years ago that you know now?

To operate comfortably in ambiguous situations.