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‘I want YuYu to be a dream workplace for employees’
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.08.02 11:06
  • Updated 2017.08.02 11:22
  • comments 0

Salespeople are the most stressed group at most business corporations. Nowhere is this truer than in Korea’s pharmaceutical industry, in which drug makers producing similar medicines compete for even a razor-thin market share.

YuYu Pharmaceuticals Inc.유유제약 wants their marketing staffs to do something other than maximizing revenue – to become stage performers.

Responses from sales workers are unexpectedly enthusiastic, however.

Behind this unique idea is Yu Won-sang유원상, YuYu’s senior vice president. “One day I was in a meeting, watching my sales team present and I was thinking to myself, ‘God, this guy is killing me; he’s such a horrible presenter. He needs to go to acting school...’ and it hit me then: I should send my entire sales team to acting school.”

Yu Won-sang, senior-vice president of YuYu Pharmaceuticals, gave his insights on expanding his family business and the changes he made for the better, in a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review

Yu has now eight employees attending a “Performing Arts Adult Education” program at the moment, for four classes every two weeks purely for his team to have fun while working, and to keep them driven with motivation to work better.

“They are learning intonation, proper pronunciation, how to present, and everyone is excited. The whole purpose of this was to provide my employees with the confidence to better communicate with one another,” Yu said. “It doesn’t have to be only the sales team; I want to send my factory team, then my R&D team to compete against one another through a play/musical. That is how I am striving for my company to succeed.”

A third-generation executive, Yu is approaching his ninth year working in the family business, seeking to change the company for the better.

“Most companies are obsessed with a sales goal in a fixed year, and they push their employees to their limit, but I don’t believe in that. I try to find ways to motivate my employees,” Yu said in a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

Yu earned his bachelor’s degree in 1998 from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and his MBA in 2004 from Columbia Business School at Columbia University, New York. He is currently a Ph. D candidate in pharmaceutical science at Sungkyunkwan University.

Yu’s youthful idea and approaches came at the right moment for the 76-year-old company, whose mission for health enhancement and improving humanity’s quality of life has guided the company since its foundation in 1941. The enterprise is relatively small but boasts the world’s first new incrementally modified drug for osteoporosis “Maxmarvil” and antithrombotic “Yuclid,” which elevated YuYu to a reliable business in Korea’s pharmaceutical community.

Instead of staying in safe waters, however, Yu wishes to climb the ladder further, unveiling his plans to discover new business in global markets as well as develop new drugs.

“I thought it was important to gain experience to see how bigger multinational companies operate before I joined YuYu,” Yu said “This is why I joined Novartis in 2004 as a sales representative in New York. I was also the training and Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE) manager at Novartis Korea and Asia-Pacific based in Singapore before I came back to Korea in 2008.”

Yu covered Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Taiwan and through these experiences, he maintained a healthy business network that leads to the birth of YuYu’s first Southeast Asia Office in Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s pharmaceutical market is relatively underdeveloped compared to Thailand and Singapore, but that’s a real incentive to YuYu because it can receive a lot of attention as being one of the first foreign companies,” Yu said. “Rather than being one of many businesses, YuYu won’t be ignored in a small market. You are likely to be overshadowed by other big companies if you go to larger markets, such as China.”

Senior Vice President Yu stressed his desires to modify the company’s image of being stuffy and old-fashioned, which is why he recently declared “shorts day” – male employees wearing shorts -- every Friday for a month. He wishes for future employees to believe they are working for their “dream job” when they apply for YuYu.

Asked about YuYu’s plans, Yu pointed out that companies in South America, Mongolia, and the Middle East are interested in selling YuYu’s products. However, he said, “I’m not in a hurry to expand the offices further. I’m interested in improving our current overseas branches at the moment; with a lot of upfront investments in Malaysia and Vietnam, my job is to make a profit for now.”

Commenting on the company’s ongoing project, Yu said, “We are trying to develop a new benign prostatic hyperplasia treatment for men in Korea. We are combining GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) ‘Dutasteride’ and Lily’s ‘Tadarapil,’ and it is currently in phase 1 clinical trials as we speak.”

Yu added that the company is theorizing on a drug for Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also referred to as dry eye syndrome. Although the proposition is still in the air, he has been suggesting the idea throughout his business network.

“By throwing out suggestions, I can tell if my partners are interested or not. This decreases my risks of making the prototype first and then realizing no one is wants it,” Yu said he is not trying to overuse money because YuYu is relatively small compared to other pharmaceutical companies; by using the exact amount YuYu need, the company can try to make a cash cow from new products.

“I’m not going to say we will be a billion-dollar company; that’s too cheesy for me. But YuYu will be a growing pharmaceutical company with great potentials so keep us on the lookout,” Yu said.


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