Don’t look at failure as an end. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn. Most people give up right before they succeed. If you stick with something long enough and become more knowledgeable, you’ll find success.
Inthis interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Maguire, the founder, president and CEO of BioLab Sciences, an innovative regenerative medicine company focused on developing new ways to regenerate the body to optimal performance. With more than 30 years’ experience in leadership, operations, and sales management, Bob oversees the product strategy and vision for the company.
Thank you so much for joining us Bob! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Today, I’m the CEO and co-founder of BioLab Sciences, a regenerative medicine company focused on creating new ways to heal the body. However, before starting a biotech company, I had a long and successful career in the telecommunications industry — including positions in information technology and software.
When I turned 50, I decided to get my executive MBA to sharpen my skills and fill any knowledge gaps I had. It proved very impactful, as it allowed me to see other people at different stages in their careers, and what some of them were achieving or not achieving. It made me reflect internally at what I was doing and how I was using my skills.
On my last day of grad school, I had a life-altering moment — a rollover car accident from which I miraculously walked away without a scratch. The next day I was on a plane to Rochester, New York to start a new position and couldn’t help but wonder, “Am I really doing anything to help improve lives or to help others?” And the answer — painfully — was no. I was helping businesses become more efficient, but I really wasn’t changing lives.
I wanted to create value for other human beings. So, I made a career shift from software sales to regenerative medicine. Yes, it was a big transition, but we are so fortunate today to have a wealth of information at our fingertips and you can learn to do anything new, if you want to.
It’s been a great journey to where I am now. Regenerative medicine has come a long way in five years, and I think it’s going to keep progressing tremendously as we learn more about how the body can help heal itself. This path is enabling me to help people who are suffering from hard-to-heal wounds. We’re helping save people’s limbs. We’re absolutely changing lives and improving quality of life. For me, this line of work definitely feels much better than saving a company money or helping a company achieve a better business plan.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Before launching BioLab Sciences, I had started another biotech company with a business partner. It turned out this individual was a wolf in sheep’s clothing — he was a manipulator, and everything was a scheme. I learned that all people don’t have the same good intentions. Some people operate transparently, other people have hidden agendas. It can be hard to get to the truth of what’s happening and what’s really going on.
My lesson learned is to trust people but do your due diligence. This was a hard lesson to learn as the co-founder of the company. You want to trust in the goodness of people, particularly a partner, but you really have to spend the time digging into the background of any individual who joins the company, particularly early on because your success will be geared around the people you surround yourself with.
Today, at BioLab Sciences, we have a great team. As the old saying goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in trouble,” especially if you’re the CEO. It’s critical to surround yourself with great people who are smarter than you. For example, I think Ronald Reagan exemplified that trait. He was an actor, he was a spokesperson for GE, he was not a career politician. Yet, he was effective in communicating and delegating because he realized that there were areas that he was not proficient in and so he let others with those strengths step in. Learning to trust people, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and surrounding yourself with good people, is the key to success.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
BioLab Sciences is just under two years old and in that time we have built a phenomenal team. There’s strong alignment in terms of our approach to the work we do — we’re all personally vested in doing good for other humans. When it comes to our products, our biologics and our wound healing treatment, MyOwn Skin™, we always ask, “how would you feel if it was your family member being treated”?
I am also very proud of our biotechnology product, MyOwn Skin™ which is transforming care for patients with burns, diabetic ulcers, and other chronic skin wounds. The innovative solution leverages a very small sample (the size of a pencil eraser) of a patient’s own skin taken through a non-surgical procedure. From this sample, we produce three 4-inch x 4-inch skin grafts within a week in the lab. This eliminates the need to surgically remove, or harvest, large areas of healthy skin from other parts of the patient’s body to produce skin grafts, an operation that often creates a wound more painful than the original wound and increases the potential of infection.
With this treatment, physicians have been able to heal wounds that haven’t been able to close for years on their own. We are really improving patients’ quality of life and their course of care. I love when we can show before-and-after pictures to our dedicated staff who work in our labs and they can see first-hand the difference their work is making. They often get emotional because they realize the work that we do is truly helping people and affecting change in patients’ lives.
Sharing in our success as a team is key to building a strong company. I think we have been successful because we stay focused on patient outcomes rather than profit. We all feel that way. We’re truly a customer-first company.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve always learned best by watching people from afar. People who have succeeded. People who have courageously tried and failed. I take note of how they responded. While we can always learn a lot from others, I’ve learned we also have to trust ourselves. I’ve come to realize that I know myself better than anyone, and that has helped me to gain and maintain confidence and not listen to naysayers, which there are plenty of.
We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is the ability to get up when you get knocked down. I’m that one guy that will keep getting up. I keep in mind the old adage, “If you can look up, you can get up.” We’re all going to have failures. We’re all going to experience defeat. We’re all going to get beat, but the key is learning from it and coming back better and stronger. Don’t listen to negative people who say, “You can’t do this,” or “You failed.” Ignore it and learn from your failure (and your successes).
I read an article years ago that the average millionaire has failed three times before becoming successful. We must teach the upcoming generations how to face adversity, how to bounce back and learn from their mistakes rather than just quit.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Someone whose resilience I admire is Thomas Alva Edison. Throughout his career he had amassed 1,093 American patents. Yet, it took him hundreds of attempts to find success with the light bulb. His famous quote perfectly describes his resilience, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He learned from every failed attempt.
Today’s generations can learn from him and how he refused to quit. I believe many people give up too easily. As Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When I switched careers from telecom to biotechnology, there were a lot of people saying I couldn’t do it. Despite the fact that I had spent my whole career in a different industry and I don’t hold a Ph.D., I ignored the naysayers and found success. If you put in the time, you can learn anything, whether it’s how to get to the moon and back or how to get into biotech. The information is there if you put the time and effort in to go find it. So that’s what I did. I dove deep into regenerative medicine. It took me about three years to do all the research, navigate the FDA and regulations, and really educate myself on the industry. Then I launched my first biotech company.
Now, I have people tell me, “The reason you’ve had success is because you didn’t have the preconceived notion that you couldn’t do it. And you didn’t have that negative thought process of it can’t be done.”
Unfortunately, so many people take the typical path and when they are told they can’t do something they believe it. The key to achieving the impossible is having the wherewithal to believe in yourself, trust in yourself, and make it happen.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
It was the day I experienced a rollover car accident. It was my last day of grad school to get my executive MBA at Arizona State University. I’ll never forget the day, it was Saturday, April 27, 2013, at 5 p.m. I was driving and I had a sandwich in one hand and was texting with my other hand — like an idiot — driving with my knee. And I look up and I’m headed right toward the guard rail at 70 miles per hour. I dropped the sandwich and the phone. I hit the guard rail, my truck flips over onto the roof and I rolled three times down into the gully. Once my truck came to a stop I got out, nine cars had stopped and some women were screaming because they thought for sure the crash was a fatality. Miraculously, I walked away without a scratch, without a bump or bruise. The police on the scene said they had pulled bodies out of vehicles with much less damage than mine and that I was extremely lucky. Basically, my life should have ended, but it didn’t.
And only 12 hours later I was on a plane at 5 a.m. from Phoenix to Rochester to start a new job.
I just remember thinking that I was given this amazing second chance and I really need to make the most of it from here on out. So that was my defining moment.
I’m grateful I got another chance. Now I feel that I’m helping people. In many ways, I feel like I did die and go to heaven because I couldn’t ask for anything different. I feel like this is what I was meant to do and meant to be.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
As an adolescent, I physically grew up fast. I’m 6’6″ and I grew to this height when I was 12 years old. I think because of that, people looked at me differently — many people assumed that I was an adult male and treated me as such, even though I was a kid. A lot of other people were mean or rude. Because of that experience I developed an affable personality because I wanted people to be comfortable around me. And so, I’m definitely a joker — I love to laugh. I don’t let people’s opinions bother me.
I also learned empathy and compassion. I used to protect the kids that were bullied because I was so much bigger. I remember freshman year in high school, the seniors would pick on the freshmen and then, I would step in and stop it.
Now I love mentoring and coaching people. So many people are talented and they sell themselves short. Everyone is gifted somehow, some way, but they just have to believe in themselves.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are the 4 steps that someone can take to become more resilient?
- Educate yourself and become as knowledgeable as you can. The availability of information today is amazing. You can learn anything you want if you put the time into it.
- Don’t look at failure as an end. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn. Most people give up right before they succeed. If you stick with something long enough and become more knowledgeable, you’ll find success.
- Don’t give up on yourself. Believe in your potential — you know yourself better than anyone. If you get knocked down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, retool yourself, and head back into the fight.
- Don’t listen to the naysayers. No matter what anyone else says, they cannot take you down or bring you down, because they don’t really know the true you. When people have negative opinions, many times they are just projecting their own opinion of themselves onto you. There is a saying, “If someone treats you badly, forgive them, because they’re probably hurting inside themselves.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would want to help give the next generation the skills and resources they need to succeed. I think the underlying education system could be greatly improved to prepare kids and young adults to accept failure and learn how to bounce back from challenges. With those skills, people could pursue what they really want in life and would strive hard to achieve it.
I think teachers can make a huge difference here. When kids have someone who believes in them, someone that coaches them, that student can rise to a greater level. I believe teachers should be some of the highest-paid people in society because they’re preparing the next generation of people. As a child, having that one teacher who believes in you and helps build confidence in you, can change the trajectory of your life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have met Abraham Lincoln, because he was a picture of resilience and supported equality. He believed in helping people. It would be amazing just to sit and talk to him from my 2019 perspective to his 1865 perspective. It is said he often thought he was a horrible president and I would enjoy telling him, “Dude, you rocked it.”
It would also be interesting just to understand how someone like that can be so resilient. And if you learn about him, you’ll see he faced a lot of loss and adversity. He faced a lot of opposition before and during his presidency — yet he persevered and guided our country through the Civil War and emancipated enslaved people. It would be a conversation to remember.