People need a higher purpose. It is so important to help your team link their work to their why. At Xcenda, “we are united in our responsibility to create healthier futures.” This rings true whether our associates are assisting pharmaceutical manufacturers with their product’s commercialization strategy, helping providers and patients navigate complex reimbursement issues, or collaborating with each other to develop the best work for our clients. All of our work is grounded in our purpose. There’s a patient being impacted by our work every single day.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristine Flemister, President at Xcenda. Kristine is a senior executive with over 22 years’ leadership and management experience in healthcare consulting helping pharmaceutical manufacturers prove value and maximize access to life-changing therapies. As President of Xcenda I lead almost 600 associates with a purpose of being united in our responsibility to create healthier futures for patients and our associates. The organizational foundation we set 20+ years ago — with an intentional focus on company culture, our people, and an exceptionally customer experience — has allowed us to grow into the successful and innovative commercialization company we are today where pharmaceutical manufacturers count on us for strategic guidance to achieve brand goals in the support of patient health worldwide.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My father was a pharmacist and entrepreneur who owned independent and long-term care pharmacies. A pharmacist’s impact on a patient’s overall health is what inspired my family to get into the industry; so by the time I was in 6th grade I knew exactly what I wanted to do — help people feel better and enhance their knowledge of medication to reduce their risk of hospitalization and other negative health outcomes.
During my time at pharmacy school and my post-doctoral residency, I was fascinated with the research that demonstrated the outcomes of medications or specific disease management programs. My first project was to start an anticoagulation clinic and assess the outcomes of medication adherence, patient knowledge of medication and side effects, and patient satisfaction. Through the research we found that patients in the clinic, versus those who were not, had a higher level of education about their medications and were more adherent, leading to better health outcomes.
I’ve been extremely blessed with the opportunity to build a global company with my family over the past two decades. My brother, a PhD health economist, started Xcenda. I was Xcenda’s second employee, and for the past 24 years I have helped build, lead, and shape the company to what it is today. I am honored to be the President of Xcenda. As a part of AmerisourceBergen, Xcenda is a global health economics and outcomes research consultancy founded on the application of health outcomes and reimbursement. Xcenda’s goal is to help patients get access to life-changing therapies through helping pharmaceutical manufacturers prove their products’ value. Our clinical, educational, and creative experts work with manufacturers of all sizes to use health economics and outcomes research to demonstrate the value of products to insurance companies, help patients navigate through insurance hurdles, and enhance overall brand performance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
A very interesting and rewarding part of leading the company is coaching and mentoring. I am a strong believer that all aspiring leaders need a vision, a plan, and a coach/mentor. I have one female leader who did not believe she was ready for a bigger role, but I knew she was. I coached what I preach to myself in that you have to take big leaps and go for it sometimes even when you don’t think you are ready. She got that role and has transitioned into much larger roles with significant responsibility. Positively impacting associates are always one of the most interesting parts of my role.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, it might not be the funniest mistake I made (mistakes rarely are!), but it was something that really set the foundation for how we conduct business at Xcenda. I was collecting data for a study during pharmacy school and neglected to capture a key data element because I was determined to get to the results quicker. I ultimately had to rework a lot of the data to get it right. While it was not very funny at that moment, it validated the importance of stepping away and coming back with a fresh look before finalizing. This sparked my interest in Consulting Operations which I led at Xcenda for well over a decade. We developed standardized processes, templates, etc., for associates to use so they didn’t have to recreate the wheel every time, and had a quality control team review all deliverables.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
1. One of our guiding principles at Xcenda is, “Put people first. The rest will follow.” Not only do I believe this philosophy has helped Xcenda grow over the years, but I see how living it impacts day-to-day business in such a positive way. We maintain a culture of inclusion and respect for the diverse backgrounds and skills that all associates bring to the table. When associates have a safe environment where they can be their authentic selves — without boundaries of gender, race, sexual orientation, or otherwise — it lets them concentrate on performance and results. We work hard, play hard, have fun, and give back. We’re also extremely passionate about what we do for our clients — and by treating our associates well, we know they will in turn, treat our clients well too. We’ve received so many great testimonials through market research over the years. Our clients shared that we’re not only great at what we do, but that we’re genuinely enjoyable to work with. This feedback truly says a lot about who we are as a company!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
Our Field Services offering has grown exponentially in recent years. This offering is fueled by the complexity of reimbursement associated with new therapies that are coming to market. For example, a product can have a strong clinical profile and value proposition, great access, and good formulary positioning, but many new treatments today are the result of scientific breakthroughs, and some doctors may need specialized education about how to store, administer, and be reimbursed for them. That’s where our Field Services Representatives come in. The team works with doctors across the country to make sure they’re educated on the latest treatments so their patients can access them faster.
We’re so excited by the many new advances in medicine and their impact on changing and potentially saving patients’ lives. From new curative cell and gene therapies, to breakthrough immunotherapies, to the advancement of precision medicine — it is a privilege to work alongside the innovators to help them move their products from clinical possibilities to realities in the hands of providers for the good of patients.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
One of my passions is to empower and advance women in the workforce. I make it my mission to support other women, encourage them to actively seek mentors, and participate in employee resource groups or national organizations. I currently serve on the governance committee for AmerisourceBergen’s Women’s Impact Network, which fosters an inclusive environment that inspires women to grow personally and professionally. The Network’s goal is to provide women with the tools, resources, and networking opportunities that support AmerisourceBergen’s business objectives as well as their own career trajectories.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Transparency and frequent communication is key at every level of leadership. Establish team and individual metrics that foster teamwork, reward individuals for their hard work, and hold teams and departments accountable for the overall company growth.
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?
It wasn’t until I started consulting and sharing strategic advice that I encountered some clients that would rather receive the same information from a male counterpart. My brother and father always motivated me to be confident in my expertise and knowledge, and I am grateful for that support and advice. A dear friend I went to pharmacy school with, and work with today, helped me a lot throughout my career. She is a very strong female leader and always encouraged me to be more confident and to take risks. I truly believe that, today, being a woman doesn’t define what you can do and the impact you can make as a professional. You define your own destiny with your actions, intent, and impact.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe in shepherding the younger generation of consultants and pharma professionals. They are the future of the business, the industry, and the healthcare system as a whole. I gladly set aside time to share my personal insights and professional experiences. I’m also an avid supporter of the formal mentoring program set up at Xcenda, allowing tenured associates to mentor their younger counterparts.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. People need a higher purpose. It is so important to help your team link their work to their why. At Xcenda, “we are united in our responsibility to create healthier futures.” This rings true whether our associates are assisting pharmaceutical manufacturers with their product’s commercialization strategy, helping providers and patients navigate complex reimbursement issues, or collaborating with each other to develop the best work for our clients. All of our work is grounded in our purpose. There’s a patient being impacted by our work every single day.
2. Embrace and leverage diversity. Diversity and inclusion is vital to the growth of our company. Diversity is known to fuel innovation, and innovation is a critical driver to our long-term strategic growth and success. One of my favorite quotes by Steven Covey states, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” Diversity in talent, thought, cultural background, sexual orientation, age, and gender creates our strengths and opportunities. As an organization that is currently 65% women, we walk the talk when it comes to diversity.
3. Establish trust through authenticity. Associates are smart — they know when someone is being genuine versus when they’re given the party line. I believe in leading by doing, as that helps establish respect and trust in your abilities as well as your intent. I also think it’s important to ask your team what they think should be done and how you can help support them towards success.
4. Put people first. Place your employees in the right roles to maximize their strengths and align their roles to the overarching company strategy. Treat your associates and customers like you treat family and friends.
5. Trust your gut. Always weigh your pros and cons when looking to make a big decision that’ll impact your organization. But, at the end of the day, be sure to trust your gut! I was burned by not trusting my gut in one business situation and that taught me to always speak my mind and be strong on my position.
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 love to continue giving back to the cancer community and promoting the power that volunteers can have. As a two-time cancer survivor of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I experienced firsthand the valuable impact volunteers can have on a patient while undergoing chemotherapy. As I look back, volunteers who simply asked if I was cold, hungry, or just checked in on how I was feeling, meant the world to me. When I retire, I want to do so much more volunteering at cancer treatment centers. By doing so, I hope to inspire others to volunteer and get involved. Now, I set the example and empower everyone at Xcenda to give back through VTO and support company-wide events during our All Associate Summits.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This taught me to always put myself out there for what I believe in or aspire to be. Get out of your comfort zone!
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” — Walt Disney
At the end of the day, you can’t do it alone. Create an environment for people to strive and do their best work to make the dream come true!
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