Smashing A Business Paradigm To Save The World
101st Annual Meeting Luncheon
By Christopher Reardon
At a moment in history when the world was in crisis, international pharmacies not known for speed rallied to quickly deliver a vaccine for the worst pandemic to hit the planet in more than a century. Pfizer, Inc., a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, was one of those heroes.
Fittingly, Kevin Nepveux, vice president, launch excellence, at Pfizer, served as the keynote speaker at the chamber’s 101st Annual Meeting Luncheon, held this spring at the Parsippany Hilton. Nepveux discussed the unprecedented path Pfizer took to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, accomplishing what usually takes five to 10 years in just more than 12 months.
He noted that typically less than 1 percent of potential medicines proceed to the testing phase and only 5 percent of those make it to market.
“I would say it’s somewhat a plan of failure,” he said.
Yet in the case of a vaccine for COVID, years of testing and development was not an option. Nepveux explained Pfizer achieved the impossible by changing its business model wherever feasible.
The company took steps in parallel instead of sequentially and selected a formula quickly.
“We bet everything on this,” Nepveux said. “We believed we had the vaccine.”
They streamlined the government review process and accelerated their manufacturing, including expanding from three sites to 20. This allowed Pfizer to rapidly produce first 200 million doses, then 600 million, then 2.3 billion.
“The light speed approach we used was the first time we used it,” Nepveux said.
Pfizer innovated, such as building an electric substation for power at one site, making their own dry ice, attaching GPS devises to every shipping package and using drones for delivery in Africa. As a result, the company achieved a 99.998 success rate in delivery in 50 countries.
“We took a normal business paradigm and smashed it,” Nepveux said.
The chamber also honored two local community and business leaders at the meeting, Margaret Nordstrom and Jane Kurek.
Nordstrom was honored with the Alex DeCroce Public Leadership Award. She is administrator of the Borough of Chester and immediate past-executive director of the New Jersey Highlands Council. She also served as a Morris County commissioner from 1999 to 2012, including as Commission director 2006-2008. Nordstrom has received numerous awards for her activities in environmental protection, citizenry and government leadership and sits on a number of councils and commissions.
“Alex DeCroce was a tremendous public servant,” Nordstrom said. “He was always gracious to me and for that this award is truly meaningful.”
Nordstrom noted she tried to retire but was drawn back to work after a few months of not being busy enough for her liking.
“This is a life-time achievement award but I’m still working,” she joked. “And I will continue working for as long as God allows it.”
Kurek was honored with the William P. Huber Award for Outstanding Community Leadership. She is the former executive director of The Provident Bank Foundation, where she was responsible for implementing the foundation’s vision and strategies. Throughout her career Kurek focused on providing leadership to nonprofits to help them achieve their missions and continues her involvement in retirement. She is a trustee of CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, board treasurer of The Compassionate Friends Foundation, an advisory board member of First Night Morris County and serves on numerous other nonprofit councils and committees.
Kurek looked back fondly on her time as executive director of The Provident Bank Foundation, with its mission of enhancing the quality of life in the communities The Provident Bank serves, including nonprofits, which she said hold a special place in her heart.
“You have my continued commitment and my heartfelt thanks for all you’ve done over the years,” she said. “Together we can truly make changes in the years ahead.”
In opening the meeting, chamber president Meghan Hunscher shared highlights from the organization’s centennial year, 2021, and discussed the chamber’s vision for the future.
“The pandemic brought us closer together in many ways and the lessons we have learned will endure as we continue to fulfill our mission to connect, convene, facilitate, inform, collaborate and advocate for our members,” she said. “At the chamber we are committed to providing opportunities for members to raise their visibility.”
Tayfun Selen, director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners, spoke of the county’s Small Business Grant Program, which is providing $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to county small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic.
“It is all of our responsibility to spread the word about this grant program,” he said.
The program remains open and Selen encouraged small businesses in need of COVID-relief funds to visit morriscountysmallbusinessgrant.com.