Balancing business ambitions and ambitions of a day off
A profile interview with Daniel Spasic, CEO of TFS
Daniel Spasic, owner and founder of the clinical research organisation (CRO), TFS, is good at creating work life balance for his 480 employees, and his company was just awarded one of 'Sweden's best workplaces'. But in his own life Daniel Spasic battles the challenges of work and taking time off.
By Anne Høybye
Owner and CEO Daniel Spasic, 39, is proud that his company IFS Trial Form Support (TFS), which of-fers clinical research services for the life science industry, was just awarded one of 'Sweden's best workplaces' by the Swedish busi-ness magazine Veckans Affarer. So proud that he thinks, it was just a matter of time, before TFS would be recognized for its good work environment.
It's not news within TFS. We have always been focused on creating a good workplace for our employees. The only new thing is the recognition. Since the start-up of the company in 1996, we have always told our management and personnel that our true assets in the company are the employees. This is a mantra that we have been living with since then, Daniel Spasic states.
Flexibility and gender equality
TFS was listed as one of ten compa-nies as 'Sweden's best workplaces' in the group of small and midsized corporations after a comprehen-sive survey. The companies received scores based on parameters such as career development opportuni-ties, gender distribution among management and the salary spread between genders.
Flexibility and gender equality is important when, as is the case in TFS, eight out of ten of the em-ployees are women. Daniel Spasic ascribes the honour to the man-agement and the Human Resource department of the Swedish subsidi-ary company, TFS AB:
If we didn't have a workplace, where work life balance existed, we wouldn't have the workforce we have today. We simply had to find ways where this work life balance could be achieved, but where we were still able to deliver great re-sults For the company.
Initiatives in creating work life balance includes flexibility with the possibility to work from home when needed and the possibility to be re-directed to a new assignment, if an employees private life at a certain time doesn't fit the assignment he or she has.
The award in itself is well timed, because our Swedish affiliate (TFS AB) was impacted by cutbacks and job layoffs in 2009. To be recognized as one of Sweden's best workplaces in spite of this unfortunate situation is actually a great achievement, says Daniel Spasic.
Daniel Spasic has reason to be proud. Just after only three years in the life science industry in the Swedish pharmaceutical company Pharmacia, Daniel Spasic spotted a gap between the demand From the industry and the potential supply on the CRO market and took a chance.
During my time at Pharmacia I could see that the pressure we had of delivering studies From the corporate level was so excessive that we would have difficulty doing it in our internal organisation, he explains.
Just 14 years later, it is a business with over 480 employees with repre-sentation in 16 European countries and furthermore in Japan, US and India. In 2010, IFS is expected to make 38 million Euros in net revenue. The largest number of clients is small and midsized biotech compa-nies, but the largest revenue comes from the larger pharmaceuticals companies.
Back in 1996, Daniel Spasic and IFS only had one customer, Pharmacia, the company where Daniel Spasic began his career. No one could have anticipated the global success that IFS would accomplish. Both in life as well as in work, Daniel Spasic is driven by the motto 'Nothing is impossible':
What drives me is to grow the business and to see this small company started in 1996 going from a one man business to almost 500 employee business in 2009. Furthermore its fantastic to see that the services we offer are products and people that are suited for the international research community regardless if the customer is European, American or Asian.
Expanding the business beyond the Nordic countries to the international market in the late 1990's was a milestone for TFS and a strategic decision that Dan-iel Spasic considers to be one of his most successful business judgements to date:
The market is consolidating Fast and if your serv-ices are not placed in many geographical regions, you will have significantly challenges to survive in my opin-ion. That is basically the reason, why TFS is successful today.
Today 90 percent of all the clinical research TFS does is still in Europe. TFS' ambition in the next four years is to become even more global and expand its current in-ternational organisation beyond Europe with predicted net revenue of 100 million Euros.
The pharmaceutical industry is a global industry and the products are going to be sold on most of the markets in the world and in many of the large studies, what customers are looking for, are providers that can support them in many different areas. Our challenge is to keep pace with the internationalization and globali-zation, explains Daniel Spasic.
A day off
Daniel Spasic's own personal ambition this year is to take a little time off and reduce his working week with one day to get more balance in life.
I have been very good at creating balance for my employees, but I have been pretty bad in creating it for myself. TFS has been my first priority for almost 14 years and unfortunately my family has suffered from the success of TFS.
Daniel Spasic is married and has four kids, two girls and two boys in the age of 1-7. Daniel Spasic has already hired a number of senior managers in the company to obtain another infrastructure, which allows him to spend more time with his family.
Asked if he would do it all again, start up the business from scratch although knowing it would be a success, Daniel Spasic declines: - Stepping back and looking on what I have had to sacrifice as an entrepreneur these past 14 years in order to make TFS where it is today, I would reconsider. I would probably still be in the biotech or the pharma-ceutical business, but I would probably lead a life, which would be much more balanced. When you know how much work you have in front of you, you become hesi-tant, but when you are in the middle of it, you feel that going forward is the only thing that matters.
For the same reason Daniel Spasic has no plans of leaving TFS. He would only consider leaving the company partly or completely, if he could see that the company would benefit from this decision. And even then it would be very difficult for him.
Only time will tell, if 2010 will provide workaholic Daniel Spasic with that day off - and the same work life balance TFS' employees benefit from.
Title: CEO and owner of TFS Trial Form Support
Nationality: Swedish. Parents came to Sweden from Serbia in the late 1950s.
Education: Daniel Spasic holds a technical degree in chemical engineering.
Career: Daniel Spasic started his career in the pharmaceutical industry in 1993 by joining Pharmacia 8 Upjohn in Lund, Sweden. He served at the Medical Department in Sweden and Italy working with clinical development in the therapeutic areas of CNS and oncology. In 1996, he founded TFS Trial Form Support a clinical contract research organisation (CRO) with a strong and dedicated focus in the area of clinical trials from early development to pivotal phase. Founders Alliance has chosen Daniel Spasic to be Founder of the Year in Sweden in 2010.
Boards: Daniel Spasic is an active member of the Drug Information Association (DIA), SwedenBio and Medicon Valley Alliance. He is also a member of the Board of Medic on Valley Alliance, a member in the Steering Group for the global Life Science Ambassador Programme as well as a member of the Advisory Board at Alligator Bioscience in Lund, Sweden.
Private: Married wit n four kids from tle age of 1-7
If he had a day off: He would take his kids to swimming school
TFS Trial Form Support International (TFS)
TFS Thal Form Support International (TFS), with headquarters in Lund, Sweden, is the largest non-listed European clinical Contract Research Organi-zation (CEO). Clinical services are provided by three business areas; Early Clinical Development, Project Delivery and Contract Placement Solutions, with annual net revenue greater than C 38 million, global operations in 16 countries, and more than 480 em-ployees worldwide. IFS AS is the Swedish affiliate of IFS, awarded 'Sweden's best workplaces' in 2009 by the Swedish business magazine Veckans Affarer.