The seed of Bichsel Medical Marketing Group (BMMG) was sowed when founder and CEO Lisa Bichsel – and eventually others on the BMMG team – recognized a challenge faced by medical start-ups: how to staff appropriately. With extensive experience with medical start-ups, the BMMG team understood the need for an interim marketing team was largely unmet. Thus, BMMG began as an outsourced solution to help start-ups tackle their long list of commercial activities without having to hire extensively.
That same year, Lauren Dustman, VP of Service Delivery & Events Service Line Leader, joined BMMG to lead their core service offering, i.e., events. She and her team do everything from tradeshows to cadaver labs, user conferences, and sales meetings. With her help over the last seven years, BMMG has grown from a three-person operation with two clients to a multimillion-dollar company with over 15 clients and 40 teammates across the country.
A Peak into Lauren’s Leadership
So how does she do it? As described in the Arbinger Institute’s Leadership and Self-Deception book, Lauren tries to be an “outside of the box” leader. “This means I view others as people with dreams, hopes, and wants rather than a threat or obstacle. I see others’ needs as legitimate as my own and approach things with the mindset that others will sense my intentions and respond positively,” she adds.
Lauren leads with a service mindset. She spent the first four years of her career on the vendor side of vendor/client relationships. “The mentality that everyone I am working with is my client (whether internal or external) has helped me create a positive reputation in my industry,” she said. “Typically, when someone works with me once, they welcome the opportunity to work with me again.” As someone who has quickly climbed the ranks from mid-level specialist positions to senior management and VP roles, though, she sometimes finds people resist accepting and following such a young female leader. She has made it her mission to understand her colleagues’ concerns and pain points cross-functionally and ensure they feel heard. Then later, she finds solutions and gains their confidence as well as trust in the day-to-day interactions, communications, and process improvements. “This tactic has worked to gain the respect and trust of my colleagues, as well as validate my role as a leader,” asserts Lauren.
“ We need to raise our girls to own their power, know their worth, and not hope for equality in the workplace, but demand it.”
All along the journey, Lauren recalls learning several things, including that woman have a place at the table, even when the table is 90 percent men. “Women deserve to be there, and we should not be afraid to make our voices heard,” says Lauren. She recalls putting into action the advice of one of her mentors: “In every meeting, no matter the size or the makeup of attendees (or how nervous I was to be giving suggestions to business leaders and CEOs), I need to contribute at least one strategic insight or tip. This helped me to establish my voice and realize that I offer a unique and valuable perspective,” shares Lauren.
These traits have been brought down to her by her mother who is a CEO, marketing guru, and inspirational leader. She imparts her wisdom to Lauren daily and encourages her with the ‘You can do anything’ philosophy.
In-depth at BMMG
Founded in the year 2014, BMMG is a virtual business without bricks-and-mortar facilities. The founder is based out of Reed Point, Montana, and its team are all remote, located throughout the U.S., providing them local coverage to clients regardless of their locations. The company is a fully staffed medical marketing department at the disposal of its clients. “We enable medical device and biotech companies to outsource their entire marketing function,” adds Lauren. “For the cost of one full-time equivalent, our clients can access a team of senior-level marketing executives for strategy and leadership, as well as a host of shared services, such as copywriters, graphic designers, web developers, and event managers.” She also mentions that the depth of its knowledge across multiple disease states and care areas allows the company to have an immediate positive impact on its clients’ workloads. She proudly says, “We do it all,” and by that she emphasizes that BMMG's business model allows companies to save money and time by consolidating all their upstream marketing and commercialization needs with one firm.
“We have a saying at BMMG … ‘school’s never out’,” quotes Lauren. The company is constantly learning, rediscovering how to do business in new ways that demonstrate its ability to adapt to new market influences. “You have to be receptive and adaptive,” she says.
Moreover, she mentions that the company strives to be a highly experienced medical marketing department on behalf of its early-stage medtech, as well as biotech, clients. She shares that while the company initially began as an interim solution for various start-ups to leverage without staffing up internally until they reached a point of being acquired, the company has evolved to be a complete outsourced marketing department – in some cases, for the long term. “We find our medtech/biotech clients aren’t racing to staff up internally these days. They prefer to remain lean and supplement their internal resources with the team at BMMG. It makes them more attractive for future acquisition if they don’t carry a large headcount,” says Lauren.
When asked what advice she would give to other female leaders, she exclaimed “NETWORK!” She considers networking an important aspect of any business. Ninety percent of BMMG's business has come from word-of-mouth referral and networking. “Strong professional and personal relationships are so powerful and can propel you forward in your career,” adds Lauren.
“Strong professional and personal relationships are so powerful and can propel you forward in your career,” adds Lauren.
Coping with COVID-19
Lauren states that initially sustaining through COVID-19 was quite a big challenge. Under its leader's direction, the team at BMMG took advantage of this downtime to craft the whitepaper, Reinventing Medical Marketing, and to be at the forefront of identifying solutions and tactics to sell in an age where face-to-face meetings were not an option. “This whitepaper and continued visibility in the market as thought leaders skyrocketed our company and promoted explosive growth over the last 12 months,” shares Lauren.
Focusing on next steps
For Lauren, it’s all about making a difference. Her current goal is to make a positive impact on the people she works with. She says, “If I can improve processes to make a teammate's life easier, find a solution that solves a problem for our client, or think of something innovative that improves our bottom line, I've won.”
When asked about what she does to hone her leadership skills and knowledge, Lauren responds with, “You heard me say it already: school is never out.” Lauren highlights her inclination towards reading books and articles, listening to podcasts and webinars, and attending courses to improve her leadership skills and expand her knowledge. She also tries to be hands-on with her direct reports and walk through their challenges with them. “I cannot effectively manage or help with a situation if I have not experienced it firsthand and overcame the obstacle,” explains Lauren.
Similarly, she encourages up-and-coming women leaders to be lifelong learners. “Don’t be afraid to learn,” says Lauren. “I say 'learn' instead of 'fail,' because if you take the chance, try something new, get out of your comfort zone, and aspire to do more and be more, you are never actually failing. Things might not always work out how we intend, but we learn, grow, and improve,” she says. Lauren believes that regardless of the situation, one must never stop learning since "education never goes to waste."
In the end, she would like her legacy to be of success and hard work, and also of kindness. She wants to be remembered for her leadership skills, professional prowess, and diligence around executing on initiatives, but more importantly, how she treated people along the way. Another area of focus for Lauren is to encourage other women to pursue their careers as successful businesswomen. “Changes are already being made. Positive things are happening,” asserts Lauren as she addresses the paradigm shift and movement to empower women. “Workplaces are starting to make inclusivity and gender equality a priority, which is excellent!” she adds. She highlights how so many women leaders are changing business for the better. Thus, she feels her and everyone’s responsibility towards educating and empowering the female leaders of tomorrow. Lauren says, “We need to raise our girls to own their power, know their worth, and not hope for equality in the workplace, but demand it.”