Baxter CEO Joe Almeida Isn’t Just a Great Dealmaker, He’s a People Person, Too
When José “Joe” Almeida stepped down as CEO of Covidien after its sale to Medtronic in 2015, he didn’t kick back and rest on his laurels. Before the year was out, he was named chairman and CEO of Baxter International.
The motivation to get right back to work, he humbly explains, was very simple: “I was unemployed.”
It speaks to a work ethic and mind-set that has served him well in a career that spans three decades. A native of Brazil, Almeida studied engineering, then landed a position with healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, launching him on a trajectory to become chief executive of Covidien, which he sold to medical-device giant Medtronic for $43 billion.
So what attracted him to take the reins of struggling hospital-products maker Baxter?
In a Q&A with Stacy Enxing Seng, co-chair of this year’s Medtech Conference, Almeida cited Baxter’s strong brand and neglected portfolio. “You can’t have surgery today if you don’t have our products,” he says. He also saw an opportunity to join a company whose previous culture of innovation “may have lost its way.”
The best advice he received came from a longtime colleague who reminded him not to forget the people. So, Almeida stripped down Baxter’s many management layers and put top quartile performers in a better position to succeed.
“Culture will eat your strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and make a milkshake out of it,” Almeida says. “Those are the behaviors that impede a company in moving.”
It’s an attitude that also speaks to his dedication to diversity in the workplace. “It’s your responsibility as a leader,” he explains, not only to your people but to shareholders. “You’re going to have much better results with a diverse group of people who think differently.”
Almeida believes that getting people “out there” is another key to Baxter’s turnaround. Top performers should have “eyes and ears everywhere,” he says. “I can guarantee there’s always somebody as smart or smarter doing something more focused 24/7.”
Another key is Baxter’s push into digital health and data collection, even if it takes time. “Fail. Fail twice. Fail three times,” he says. “Eventually you get it.”
Known as a great dealmaker, Almeida isn’t shying away from making acquisitions, though he warns that it isn’t “a panacea” for lack of growth. “It’s a strategic move that has to be well put together.”
Strategically, Baxter knows exactly where it wants to go. There are four areas Almeida says the company is focused on: surgery, renal, pharmaceuticals (and biosimilars), and critical care.
Ultimately, he says, it comes back to the people. “Because if you don’t focus on culture, you’re done.”
Learn more about Jose “Joe” Almeida here.