Andy Parratt: Operating from a Builder Mindset

What is a builder’s mindset and how does this style of leadership help organizations succeed? How can leaders tap into a builder’s mindset to harness the power of the broad strategic perspective that it offers? Beyond the tactical, having a builder’s mindset requires the ability to see the long term and then connecting the dots to getting there.

Biotech executive Andrew Parratt has worked across the U.S., European, and global markets with the driving goal to bring scientific innovations and healthcare solutions to patients. He has worked with large pharma, as well as early-stage biotech companies, implementing a holistic approach that balances the macro with the micro in order to deliver broad visions with scalability and sustainability. We spoke about the challenges and rewards that go with having a builder’s mindset.

If You Build It…

During the pandemic, when many of us were baking bread (or just eating it), Andy was building a large woodshed. “I filled it with six cords of wood. It was a lot of work,” he adds. As if that wasn’t enough, he also built a fenced-in, raised garden for vegetables. Building is in Andy’s DNA. His favorite class in middle school was Craft, Design, and Technology, where he poured molten aluminum as part of a project to build a trailer for his kayak that he could pull behind his bike and therefore have freedom to get to the river without requiring a ride from his parents. Even though many of us haven’t made aluminum castings, this type of building is not hard to grasp—but what does it mean to be a builder within an organization?

The Broad View

“When people think of building, they often think of things,” says Andy. “But building within an organization is really about building connections.” The connections Andy focuses on are cross-functional and involve the company in its entirety. Essentially, it’s the opposite of siloed thinking.

Throughout Andy’s career in healthcare, he has worked all along the life cycle of a product, which has given him the advantage of seeing that you need to be able to take a broad view of an organization and consider the activities, the people, the culture, and the processes and systems that need to be put into place holistically and synergistically—and do that from the very beginning of brand building. When launches prove difficult, he notes that it is often a lack of agility and connectivity across the various functions in the organization that is the problem.

It’s a Team Sport

Across Andy’s 25 years of being a commercial leader, his passion is being the first one into a small company in order to create the road map for the vision at hand. Within this context, commercial building far surpasses traditional commercial roles in that it also includes regulatory, financial, legal, and IT functions, to name a few—and therefore, a builder’s mindset must be able to communicate cross-functionally so that each team can understand where they are (or should be) at every stage of the game.

Building out the road map for a product or brand means being able to see “a million miles down the road” and then knowing all the steps to getting there and ensuring that the budget and resources are there to support every function along the way. If any questions arise, the answers lie in the map.

“Many companies struggle to budget appropriately for needs far down the line,” says Andy. “They need a long-term road map to help them see what activities, people, and processes they require over time. That sort of cross-functional plan enables budgeting, hiring, and infrastructure plans.” Builders create maps that allow for the long-range planning needed to hit their vision successfully.

Execution Is Strategy

A common mistake companies make is to think that building is merely tactical as opposed to being highly strategic. He points out this is especially true for the commercial function; where they are working with the vision and the execution of that vision, much of the work can appear to be only operational. Yet success is dependent upon honing in on the right strategy and then executing it well. “Execution is a part of strategy and should be thought of as such,” says Andy.

Because of this internal-facing focus, many commercial leaders lack the external-facing profile that comes with other leadership positions. The risk can be that their work, especially if done well, ensures that everything is humming along so well that the person behind the curtain is often forgotten. Organizations that make the most of their commercial builders acknowledge the wide swath of attributes builders bring as being foundational to the organization as a whole.

Inclusive by Default 

A key aspect of cross-functional team building is bridge-building, which means being inclusive “by default.” An essential part of that is aligning diverse teams  not only with each other but also with the patients’ needs and stories. This allows teams to avoid getting lost in the quotidian pressures of getting to the next milestone by giving them time and space to “raise their heads” and remember the vision at hand. This provides the depth of connection that can sustain through the long haul.

The Takeaway

Regardless of role, each of us can utilize a builder’s mindset at work and in our personal lives to map meaning, vision, and success in an ever-changing world. Organizations that recognize the power behind a builder approach will be well on their way to long-term and sustainable success.

Published December 5th, 2021