Linda Matthews is the president of BioCare, a leading specialty distributor of life-saving therapies, and a trailblazer in the healthcare and specialty distribution space. Under her direction, BioCare expanded from a small regional organization and division of a nonprofit blood services provider to a national leader which encompasses BioCareSD, CanyonCareRx and LogiCare3PL and competes with multi-billion dollar corporations. Matthews built a team that has transformed the company with a focus on saving lives and supporting customers’ unmet and urgent needs across ultra-rare, rare and orphan diseases. Key leadership highlights include cultivating a culture steeped in patient care and highly responsive customer service, diversifying the business, driving its expansion, and increasing sales by nearly 1500 percent. Matthews was recognized by PM360, a top journal in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, with a Transformational Leader Award. She brings an inspiring leadership philosophy with decades of experience in the C-suite, actively driving meaningful change and always putting people first. Matthews received her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her master’s degree in business administration from Emory University. A former college athlete and professional guard in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, Matthews is a lifelong sports fan who continues to cheer on her favorite teams.
Where did the idea for BioCare come from?
I joined BioCare nearly 20 years ago, at which time it was a $17 million organization struggling to grow. I inherited the name as it was created by the company’s parent organization, Vitalant, the nation’s largest independent, nonprofit blood services provider. BioCare’s name came from a combination of the services we provide, with “bio” being derived from our products made from human plasma, and “care” referring to our high-touch model and emphasis on the patient and customer experience.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start each day by spending time with my “rolling” to-do list and reprioritizing as need be, depending on what’s more pressing or what needs more attention. I find it important to provide myself with a little breathing room to handle any “fires” that may come up and ensure I have time with my team. Every day looks different for me, and I need to be sure my routine can stay nimble and flexible. Additionally, staying focused on the big picture and not getting distracted by small details helps me keep my days productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s with the help of my team that I’m able to bring ideas to life. My senior management team and I brainstorm and discuss pros and cons, costs and benefits, and processes to meet our business goals. We bring the ideas that we agree upon to other departments and stakeholders to gain further insight. From there, we begin implementing the idea into a reality.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One of the most notable trends right now is the move towards customized medicine, with treatments that are tailored to the specific patients’ needs. Throughout the industry, the lines are blurring across classes of trade. The customized nature of medicine will require new approaches and partnerships, from manufacturing to distribution to sites of care. We are all looking for closer collaboration, agility and flexibility in figuring out new paths. Separately, I’m incredibly excited about the emergence of cell therapy and the possibilities it holds.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
In my line of work, you’re often approaching problems that many people have attempted to solve before. You must be able to look at these problems with creativity and a clear head. Working out every day allows me to relieve stress and improve my focus, paving the way for stronger ideas. I pair daily movement with robust mindfulness meditation practices to keep me even-keeled throughout the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell her to be honest, authentic and completely herself. If you’re able to stay true to yourself and approach the world with honesty, the rest will follow. In my opinion, living in an authentic way is the only guaranteed method of ensuring you’re living a life that will make you happy.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You must stretch your comfort zone to reach your individual or company potential. It often seems like a scary concept to people because they know that outside of their comfort zone is where they may fail, but it’s important to change the way you think about failure. Failure is sometimes where some of the most successful ideas are discovered for an organization. While these setbacks can be discouraging in the moment, they provide lessons and experiences that are invaluable and often lead to highly successful outcomes. A great example of this is Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba (the biggest and most profitable online retailer in China). Ma has experienced many failures—including being rejected from jobs and universities he wanted to attend. He had his pitch rejected by everyone but one person in a room full of friends. He continued to persevere and founded Alibaba, learned from his mistakes as he forged ahead, and today runs China’s largest online retailer with roughly $24B in revenue. No small feat.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly make the time to take a step back and review my “approach” with the goal of seeking more efficient and productive ways to conduct business. If you keep your head down while steamrolling forward, you might look back at the end and realize you weren’t hitting half of your intended targets.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I strive to always make customer service my highest priority. It is all about putting the customer and the patient first. If you’re able to do that, everything else will work out. For example, a customer approached us three times requesting we build out a specialty pharmacy to handle their specific needs, as they were unhappy with their current provider. After continuous conversations over several years, we opened our specialty pharmacy and have been contracted with that customer ever since.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As BioCare was growing rapidly and looking to expand our portfolio of products, we contracted a manufacturer with a new class of drugs. I was very excited to have access to this drug for the acute market, but we later found that the reimbursement had not been properly calculated. As such, I discovered we would lose money on every single distribution of the drug. Fortunately, we had only committed to a very small inventory, and we were able to recalibrate our approach and move the drug with very little impact. It taught me that it will always pay off to do the extra research and go the extra mile – even if we believe we already know all there is to know about a partnership or contract opportunity.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I currently have a puppy – who really feels more like a horse sometimes – and she tends to have incredibly high anxiety about specific things. We’ve been having some terrible thunderstorms in Arizona, and once she hears the thunder, she won’t leave my lap for the rest of the night. I also must be careful about what I’m watching on TV because if the show involves other animals, she’ll try to attack the TV! I’ve tried everything on the market right now and nothing is doing the trick, so I’d love to see some sort of sensory deprivation tank for dogs. A time-out house for her would be extremely effective, so she doesn’t have to suffer from anxiety – and I don’t have to suffer from a broken TV!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I had dinner with a good friend who loved to cook. We discussed a specific brand of olive oil that he said was the best he ever had, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. A year or so later, I happened to see a bottle of olive oil made by that specific brand! When I sent it to my friend, he was absolutely thrilled. I love to see things come full circle when you remember those seemingly small details. Money spent on a friend is money well spent.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I utilize Microsoft Power BI to manage our data and function as a reporting portal. Nothing else provides quite the same interactive analytics, and I find it helps me visualize my business progress.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“My Own Words,” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This book left me with an overwhelming feeling of empowerment. I find it more important than ever that we remember her legacy and the important trail she blazed for women.
What is your favorite quote?
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
- People will respond to you as a leader if you are honest and treat them with respect. Creating pillars of authenticity and transparency will pave the way for mutual respect and, as a leader, you owe your team clarity and rationale for your decisions.
- Your personal success, as well as your company’s success, is determined by how you recover from setbacks and failure. You must be able to stand right back up and do it again, stronger, and wiser thanks to the lessons your failures have taught you.
- You must remember what truly matters when it comes to the work you’re doing. Your priority must be the people you serve. You won’t be able to recover from prioritizing profit over your patients or customers.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.