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HR Magazine, July 2004 - No Childproof Caps on Communications at ESP Pharma

By Terence F. Shea  7/1/2004
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HR Magazine, July 2004 
Vol. 49, No. 7

ESP Pharma
2035 Lincoln Highway
Edison, NJ 08817

Every morning, HR Vice President Lucille Soper takes a walk through the offices of ESP Pharma, giving employees a chance to discuss what’s on their minds. “I make sure everybody sees me,” she says.

Being visible and communicative goes with the culture of openness and professionalism at the Edison, N.J., firm, which markets specialty pharmaceuticals for seriously ill hospital patients. There are “no communication barriers,” says Karin Kirby, senior manager of medical affairs. Field sales supervisor Nick Visconti says the same. Both note that whether they’re in the office or on the road, they have quick, easy access to top executives.

Visconti, a major in the Marine reserves, was sent to Iraq two months after joining the firm. His loyalty to the company was cemented by “how they treated my wife and kids while I was away” -- phone calls, e-mails, gifts for the family. On his return, he presented the firm with an American flag that he had flown in Iraq; it’s now on display in the lobby.

Though the firm is a busy place, says accounting analyst Camari Tomlin, “it’s a good busy. Everybody knows what they have to do.”

Receptionist Ann Marie Wojciechowski, who was thrilled to be included when Chairman and CEO John Spitznagel took all employees to a company meeting in Orlando last year, says the company is “like a family.”

Part of that family feel may be due to the fact that several of the leaders of this company are seasoned executives and sales professionals who worked with Spitznagel at other pharmaceutical companies.

Such familiarity also may have helped the two-year-old privately held firm become immediately profitable. Mark Janofsky, vice president and treasurer, says the company got a strong start because it was put together by people who had succeeded together in the past and thus “know what to do.”

Janofsky is on his second tour with Spitznagel, as is Greg Stokes, vice president for corporate development. Stokes finds acute-care drugs that ESP Pharma can acquire from other companies and market with stronger focus. “This is a business,” he says with conviction, “that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Spitznagel conveys that same passion when he describes the firm’s products, such as one for severe hypertension and another for bone-marrow-transplant patients. But his passion does not get in the way of his accessibility: Everyone calls him John, and he’s regarded for trusting colleagues and respecting their expertise. He often orders takeout with other employees and joins them in the office lunchroom.

The firm’s “friendly, nonthreatening environment” is central to its performance, he says. “Happy, smart people will create a value in the business.”

—Terence F. Shea

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