He is a chemist by education, a salesman at heart, but has mostly worked as CEO.
After developing a blockbuster drug for glaucoma as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, he took the leap into sales and management. Jan Wahlström is the new president and CEO of Elos Medtech who is not afraid to handle pressure or take on a challenge. With a preference for numbers and results as well as meeting new people, he is ready to step up the game in the medtech industry.
Hi, Jan! You are the new CEO at Elos Medtech, but also have a degree in chemistry. How did you go from chemistry to medtech?
Yes, I am a chemist and worked as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. One of the most exciting projects I participated in was an ophthalmology project where we developed a drug for treating glaucoma. Previously, the drugs for treating glaucoma were beta blockers, which worked by reducing the pressure in the eye by decreasing the amount of fluid. We developed a drug called Xalatan, which instead of decreasing the amount of fluid increases the amount of fluid. Combining beta blockers and Xalatan gave double effect, which made it the best treatment on the market for patients suffering from glaucoma.
That sounds like a very exciting project that truly paid off?
Yes, it did. Xalatan became a blockbuster, generating more than 1 billion US dollars of revenue in one year. Someone told me that it takes a lifetime of hard work as a scientist in the pharmaceutics industry to be able to develop an original drug. Most researchers get the opportunity to develop one original new drug application in a lifetime, I was lucky to participate in it in only a few years. It really was a fun and exciting project, but then I decided it was time to move on!
Fair enough! So what did you do after your time as a scientist?
As much as I enjoyed chemistry and being a scientist, I was very intrigued by numbers and results and meeting people, so I went into sales. I worked as Sales Manager as well as CEO at a number of companies offering laboratory instruments and analytical solutions.
Based on your experience in the medtech industry, what is the most important thing you have learnt along the way?
The most important thing I have learnt along the way is that business is done by and with people. The well-known phrase “Management by walking around” may sound like a cliché, but I honestly find it to be the best way to support your organisation. My experience is that being present, and truly listening to the people you work with, is a success factor. To me, a good president and CEO is someone who is visible in the organisation and involved in dialogues and discussions, not hiding in an office. That is what I strive for.
What were your expectations for the job as CEO of Elos Medtech?
First and foremost, I wanted to join a company that contributes to human health. This is very important for me. I have mainly worked with companies that do research and development for the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medtech industry, and I am really passionate about working for companies that drive innovation forward and help people to improved health and better lives. Elos Medtech has high technological competence and people with great knowledge and vast experience. It is also a company with very exciting niche areas of expertise and large growth potential.
Which part of your job do you find the most exciting?
Usually, I would say achieving good business results! But the most exciting thing to me is to build a cross-functional team. Our organisation includes a variety of team members that come from different areas and have different skill sets. We have a great strength across our entire organisation that is based on knowledge and experience. The most exciting thing for me, which is also a big challenge, is to make sure that we truly utilise all of that knowledge and skill to deliver the best possible solutions to our customers and build strong relationships. To me, it is also very exciting to go into a large project, where we collaborate over the organisational borders to create a stronger offer.
Can you give me an example of such a project?
Yes, we recently launched a new dental product within the brand Elos Accurate®. The development of our dental products holds many exciting projects where we collaborate over borders and work with manufacturing and sales from three units in our organisation. We have a strong sales team in place with vast experience from the dental industry, and they are working very hard right now to build a global distribution network. This is a project that I am very excited about as I have done this many times before, learning through trial and error, and so hopefully I will be able to support my colleagues throughout the project. I also think that Elos Accurate has great potential because of the unique products that will help dental professionals improve their digital workflow.
Digital dentistry seems to be a strong trend right now. Can you see any other trends on the medtech market?
Yes, digital dentistry is really snowballing its way into the gateways of many dental labs across the world. Another trend is the need among the larger orthopaedics companies for contract manufacturers that take responsibility for all the steps throughout the production process; from development, design, and construction to production and delivery of finished products. Another trend is that smaller local contract manufacturers are struggling with being able to meet customer demands in terms of quality, logistics and delivery, which is also a result of the previously mentioned trend.
So what are your thoughts about Elos Medtech and the future?
My vision is that Elos Medtech shall be, not the largest, but the best and most competent solution partner in development and production of medical device products. We shall also continue to develop our own products and be best-in-class in digital dentistry. We shall continue on the same innovative path within the trauma and spine segment, strengthen our position in the orthopaedics market and in other medical device markets. Due to our establishment of our factory in China and the acquisition of Onyx Medical in the USA, we have become a true global partner. In the future, we will continue to expand in Asia and North America to increase our global footprint.
How should Elos Medtech navigate in the future to meet customers’ needs and expectations?
We should continue to nourish our high technological competence and be passionate about driving our development forward. We should continue to be result-oriented by achieving the targets that create value for our customers, and trustworthy by taking responsibility for our actions and products. Today, we live in a world where quality is key, especially in the medtech industry, where it can actually be a matter of life and death for a patient. Elos Medtech has an extensive quality organization, led by Lotta Ljungberg, and in the future, we will continue to have quality as our guiding star in every part of our production processes.
Another important aspect is to maintain the agility of a small company while at the same time maintain the stability of a large company. We should continue to keep a close and trustful dialogue with our customers; from the collaboration with R&D and all the way throughout the production process to the delivery of the finished product.
What I also consider to be a success factor is the fact that Elos Medtech is focused to the medical device market but has very specific niche areas of expertise. For example our production plant in the USA is specialised in orthopaedics, our production plant in Denmark is specialised in dental implants and one of our production plants in Sweden is specialised in thermoplastic components and injection moulding.
Putting work aside, what do you do when you are not at the office?
When I am not at the office, I spend time with my wife, two kids, and our bearded collie. I
like to run long distance marathons and do multisport races that include kayaking, cycling, running, and climbing. My family and I often combine travelling with my sports interest and visit cities such as New York or Berlin where I can participate in a marathon or race. I work out four times a week and usually run a few marathons per year and do one or two races.
That sounds intense! Do you like to compete?
I used to play volleyball on a national level up to the age of 28 and have won the Swedish Championship. It was a lot of fun, but I actually prefer endurance training and working out at a certain intensity for an extended amount of time, which is the case with marathons. Last summer I took part in a long distance race that took up to eight or nine hours. I find it very fascinating, what happens to your body as well as your mind and how they function for you not to lose steam but keep on going. To me, it is not about winning, but about how you handle pressure and take on the challenge.
Thank you for a really nice chat Jan. We are very glad to have you onboard and hope to reach our goals no matter what challenges we may face along the way!
Would you like to get to know also other Elos Medtech’s employees a bit closer? Visit our Knowledge Blog, where they share their experiences and knowledge.