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7 Questions with Don Anderson
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7 Questions with Don Anderson
Name: Don Anderson, MBA, PhD
Current title: CEO/President
Current organisation: Cytolytics Life Science
Dr. Anderson attended Cornell University for both undergraduate and doctoral degrees. Dr. Anderson studied Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology with a concentration in Biophysics and Chemical Biology. He also received an MBA in Strategic Management from University of North Texas. He did his postdoctoral work in the Nobel Prize winning lab of Brown and Goldstein before moving on to Peloton Therapeutics. Peloton Therapeutics sold to Merck and Co., Inc. in 2019 for $2.2 billion. Dr. Anderson worked with Merck as the Clinical, Legal, and Operations Liaison. Dr. Anderson founded Cytolytics in 2019 and focuses on taking Texas based discoveries to market. He has been involved in the creation of several entities including Radiant LifeTech, etiraRX, Rhema LifeScience, Torch Pharma, and Accelsior Therapeutics.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The hardest part of leading a company is picking the right team. It is important to pick people that can fill out areas of deficiency you may have. Don't expect yourself to do everything or know everything. Find the people that do.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I created my own company. It started to become successful because of my previous connections in the field and my opinion being respected.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to wake up early and drink my coffee while reading my emails and current trade news. I will then go for a run with my dog. I usually will have my meetings planned between 9 am and noon if at all possible so that I can use the rest of the day to manage all of my projects. I try to be finished by 7:30 pm at the latest so that I can give my wife and children 100% of my time. If I need to, after my family goes to sleep, I will finish anything nagging me before bed. I attempt to keep my weekends free of work, though that is not always possible.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
In drug development, a decision that I make can completely ruin a project. It can be somewhat anxiety producing. It is important to put smarter people than you in charge of important items. Choose a team that will help you look good and reward them accordingly.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
A book that really helped me to think about business and being a servant leader is called, The Business of Honor: Restoring the Heart of Business by Bob Hasson and Danny Silk. The take away from the book is that business is about relationships.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Lead by example. If you expect people to work long hours, be there too. If you expect people to act with integrity, act with integrity towards employees. Do not ever think you are too good to do anything that any employee is doing.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I was in a Zoom meeting with an investor and gave a pitch regarding pancreatic cancer. The investor got an email during my pitch that his daughter's best friend had pancreatic cancer and had died 10 minutes before our meeting. We were both struck with the tragedy of the situation. It was a connection point that showed the importance of continual research to develop new drugs for tough to treat cancers.