He assures that with this crisis he has learned that the proverb “if you walk alone you will go faster, but if you walk accompanied you will go further” is a great truth.
Eric Ducournau (Agen, France, 1967) has directed the French pharmaceutical and cosmetic group Pierre Fabre for two years, which he joined in 2000 and where he has assumed different positions, including the management of Fabre Dermo-Cosmetics. The laboratories obtained in 2019 a turnover of 2,400 million euros.
How do you manage an unexpected crisis? Since the beginning of the crisis, our two priorities have been the safety of our collaborators and the continuity of the production and distribution of our essential medicines, especially in oncology, hygiene and care products necessary for the application of barrier gestures.
Strict health protection measures have been implemented in all our centers, especially in the factories, which have not stopped operating at any time. During the confinement, our distribution circuit, pharmacies, parapharmacies and e-retailers have remained open, and this has been a great advantage.
When will the light begin to be seen? Since summer, we have recovered a global level of activity comparable to that of 2019 and even higher in some countries such as China, our second market after French.
Our factories have returned to practically normal activity, even where their production was reduced by 40% during the peak of the crisis.
In Spain, we have maintained all our activities thanks to teleworking and we have delivered strategic projects, such as the launch of an innovative treatment for metastatic melanoma or the start of an international clinical study on a new solid monoclonal antibody at the University Clinic of Navarra.
Have they had to stop a project? We have had to postpone certain launches of dermocosmetic innovations. For example, a high sun protection cream from the brand A-Derma, whose clinical studies had to be interrupted during confinement.
What are the priorities right now? For a year, we have started a group transformation plan. Despite the crisis, we maintain the objectives of the plan: a business volume of 2,700 million euros by the end of 2022, 70% of the activity carried out internationally and a 50/50 rebalancing between the medical and dermocosmetic levels , which currently represents 60% of our income.
We focus our investments in three areas: oncology, dermatology and dermocosmetics, guaranteeing the management of the life cycle of our mature products, such as urology, women’s and family health … In dermocosmetics, we invest in brands in tune with our unique strategic positioning , which combines the medical and the natural.
This is the reason why we have just transferred the Elancyl anti-cellulite product brand to Cantabria Labs and the Galénic facial care brand to the Chinese group Yatsen. These two brands no longer corresponded to this strategic positioning, contrary to Eau Thermale Avène, Ducray and Klorane, which are our top three brands in Spain.
What is your expected turnover for this year? Are you seeing a drop in sales? We will limit the damage thanks to the sales rebound observed since the summer and the success of our launches in oncology. We should end the year with a 5% drop compared to 2019. Our savings plan put in place since the beginning of the crisis will allow us to maintain our level of profitability.
In this pandemic, decisions had to be made in a short time, with no room for reflection; How does all this uncertainty affect the workforce?
To reassure the workers and give them access to information in real time, I would address them every Friday at a scheduled time, give them information on the health and economic measures adopted by the company, on the health status of the employees and on the evolution of sales.
I am still doing it today with an intervention every two weeks. We have also organized e-coffee with all the members of the steering committee, co-creation meetings with the leadership team, in addition to carrying out more than 300 online trainings, from remote management to data programs, e-commerce …
How do you cope with the competition in times of uncertainty? Without deviating from our strategy. We have always claimed a double experience, medical and natural, which differentiates us from the competition and which is in line with consumer expectations.
The health crisis has reinforced these expectations for more effective, safer and natural products. I am thinking of sterile cosmetics, a technology that we have invented and that allows the formulas to be simplified to the maximum to preserve the components useful for the protection and health of the skin. It is a perfect answer to this need for simplification and security.
What kind of companies will this health crisis leave, will they be more humane? It is necessary to preserve this human bond within the company, with workers and with customers and collaborators. As a consequence of this crisis and its periods of confinement, we realize that such contact cannot be solely virtual.