Downsized from a Large Medical Device Company?


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Have you recently been downsized from a large medtech, biotech, or pharma company?  If so, perhaps it’s time to change your paradigm. That’s what Paula Norbom thinks.  She is the Founder and President of Talencio, a Minneapolis-based staffing company that places contract professionals in various roles within the medtech and and biotech industries.

Medical Device Layoff

Paula is a senior executive with over 24 years of broad operational and financial management experience. Before founding Talencio, Paula served as the VP Operations and Finance for ThreeWire Inc., a clinical trial patient recruitment firm. Prior to ThreeWire, Paula played a key roll in successful liquidity events at three distinct medical device companies: Restore Medical (acquired by Medtronic), Spine-Tech, and IntraTherapeutics. Paula served as Vice President Finance and Treasurer for Restore Medical, Inc., an emerging growth medical device company. She also served as Vice President Controller for two Centerpulse-owned medical device companies: Spine-Tech and IntraTherapeutics.

Paula began her career as an independent auditor with Ernst and Young in Milwaukee, WI. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse and is a certified public accountant.

Interview Highlights with Paula Norbom

  • The role of contract services in the med-tech, lifescience, and healthcare arenas.
  • Why Paula believes networking is so important.  Clue: the wake-up call may come sooner than you think!
  • 3 hot and in-demand areas that medical device, lifescience, and healthcare companies are looking for.
  • How you can retool if you’ve been laid off from a healthcare company.
  • Why you must know your 3 most marketable skills.
  • And much, much more!

This Is What You Can Do Next

1) You can listen to the interview with Paula Norbom right now:

2) You can also download the mp3 file of the interview by clicking here.

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4) Read the following transcripts from my interview with Paula Norbom.  Also, feel free to download the transcripts by clicking here.

Read the Interview with Paula Norbom

Scott Nelson:    Just one message before we get started. Did you know that over the last 10 years pharma companies have been forced to lay off over 300,000 sales reps? We can all agree, that’s a lot of reps. Well, there’s no doubt you need to learn how to differentiate yourself. Since 2005, my friend Ryan Gray has been helping thousands of sales professionals get and keep an edge on the competition. He gathered a team of sales managers and top sales representatives to discover the best ideas and practices that drive more business and yield the most commissions. Their findings are highlighted in the number one medical sales book of all time, the Medical Sales Desk Reference. You can find the Medical Sales Desk Reference at Amazon.com or wherever fine books are sold. For more information, go to Vendesigroup.com. That’s V-E-N-D-E-S-I-G-R-O-U-P dot com. Now here’s your program.

Hello everyone, it’s Scott Nelson. I am the founder of Medsider.com, where ambitious medical device upstarts come to learn, teach and discover. And for those of you who are new to the program, this is a show where I interview interesting and awesome people within the medical device space, and of those folks, on the call today, is Paula Norbom. She is the president and founder of Talencio, which is a staffing company. I’m going to let Paula describe that in a little bit more detail soon, but Talencio’s a staffing company that specializes in the medical device and life sciences arena, and she was recently featured in a piece in MedCity News titled Jobs Advice: Go Retool If Laid Off From Medtronic, Boston Sci Marketing Departments. And it was a rather interesting piece, and like I said Paula was featured in it, so I decided Paula would be a great person to have on the program. And so without further ado, welcome to the call, Paula.

Paula Norbom: Thanks, Scott. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Scott Nelson:    And let’s get started first by giving the people who are listening an idea of what Talencio is as a company, what you do, what you specialize in, and then we’ll get into the MedCity piece because there’s definitely some interesting concepts that you outline in that piece. So tell us a little bit more about Talencio.

Paula Norbom: Okay. Well, Talencio is a three-and-a-half-year-old company that I founded and we provide experienced contract professionals for the life science community. Basically, all of our contract professionals are accomplished and vetted individuals who have a deep experience in every aspect of either medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, biotech, and even healthcare. And so what we do is have clients call us or we visit and found out that they have a need for contractors. It could be that there is a project that they have that needs to be completed or they have an opening in their staff and they need an experienced person to come in that understands the industry and get a project done or fill an interim need.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. And I see on your website—and for those of you who are listening we’ll mention this website a little bit more later, but Talencio is TA-L-E-N-C-I-O dot com—there’s a list of services that you have listed there. It looks like there’s a wide variety of sort of specialties within the healthcare/life sciences/medical devices arena that you work kind of within. Are there certain services are specialties that you find where your time is vestly interested in versus others?

Paula Norbom: Well, we find that our clients have a lot of need for the tough-to-find—so to speak—physicians, and that would be in the areas of clinical research, reimbursement, regulatory, quality assurance, and many of the engineering areas as well.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: There are other areas that frankly in the three-and-a-half years that we’ve been in business we’ve done very little in that area. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have great resources that can help clients but there just hasn’t been much of a demand.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So I think it’s the nature of where we are in the economy, in the market, at this point in time.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. And so most of the audience for Medsider probably falls within the sales and marketing capacities at various medical device companies, and I think most of us are familiar with recruiting and staffing firms kind of more on the sales side, and this is a little bit different and this is what I think is unique. So your typical R and D engineer or reimbursement specialist or quality assurance person at a Medtronic or a Boston Scientific or some ABC medical device company, are they typically using companies like Talencio to find their next physician then? Explain that in a little bit more detail.

Paula Norbom: So, in other words, as I understand your question, you’re asking if the employee uses Talencio to find their next gig?

Scott Nelson:    Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Paula Norbom: Yes, sometimes. What you need to remember about Talencio is that we’re focused on contract staffing.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay.

Paula Norbom: So we’re not necessarily putting employees in full-time positions. We’re putting people in contracts that can run anywhere from maybe a 20- to 40-hour contract all the way up to we’ve had one individual working in a client for over three years…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …and it’s a [00:05:34] but it’s over a three-year time period. So there’s a wide range of basically contracts or needs that our clients have that our colleagues go in and help with.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha. Okay. Okay. So if you take an example of ABC medical device company, they need help kind of in the area of reimbursement, instead of hiring out a full-time employee they’re going to a firm like yours for that certain need for a specific period of time.

Paula Norbom: That’s exactly right.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay, very good. That’s interesting. Do you have any idea what percentage of companies is going this route versus hiring on like a full-time employee then?

Paula Norbom: Well, I would say that you probably would be surprised that the vast majority of companies use contractors to some degree in their business.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: I think that just a lot of us don’t understand that or realize that…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …but they are out there. And part of it is that in today’s world, technology and just the speed at which knowledge is just coming at all of us because of the Internet and the access to knowledge and the increasing regulatory environment, there’s more and more that every person needs to know but it’s just not possible for one person to know everything.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: And I’ll just share an example with you. So my background is I’m a licensed CPA and I have a current license, but I’m not a practicing CPA. But when I was a CFO for organizations, I really didn’t know everything about accounting that there was to know. For instance, I am not a tax guru, but I was real strong on the cost accounting side. So I might need to go out and find a tax person that can help me for a specific project.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: It’s the same with—I’ll give you another example of a colleague that we placed about a year ago. We had a client that was looking for a nonwoven thin film polymer expert with heat seal experience. This is a bigger company. [Laughs] I know. Crazy.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah. Yeah.

Paula Norbom: A bigger company and they just didn’t have that unique set of skills. So we had talked with them; they described what they needed. We had that person in our database—we’ve got about 1200 contractors in our database, and then we present that person to the client—and he actually went in and solved a huge problem that they had and they ended up coming out with a better material for their product, cheaper material, and their process was more efficient so they had less scrap, so they ended up being far more competitive with their closest competitors as a result of hiring our contractor.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. And it’s funny that you mention that story because that’s one of the questions I had. I have that exact quote, I think, that nonwoven polymer expert with heat seal experience. I have that down as a question to ask you. I’m curious, is it just from your database of people that you know from being in the industry so long? Is that how you find someone like that? Because that’s obviously a very unique skill set. I found that really interesting that you were able to track down someone with that sort of skill set and matched that with your client.

Paula Norbom: Right. Well, I’ve been in the industry since 1994…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …and I have been networking in the industry for a long time because so many of the companies I have worked for have been smaller companies and there was a liquidity event at the end of the rainbow, which means that the company was going to be acquired or sold to a buyer…

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: And because of that I knew that my term at a particular company was probably going to be relatively short, and the best way to find a new opportunity, a new job, would be by working the network. So early on, probably in the early 2000s, is when I really started getting serious about building my network. So that is one way that we have been able to build our database of talents.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: The other way is we do have a contract opportunity [00:10:00] for a client. We are always working our network. So it’s, “Do you know so and so?” We just start calling. We get on the phone and we call people we know who may know people that we need to know.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: That’s the second way. Now that we have been in business for three-and-a-half years, people know about us and they hear about us through their network or through an article they read or through if we do a presentation somewhere, if I write an article, or they see us on LinkedIn and then they respond to us.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And we find out about them that way. So within the company we’ve got a talent services arm as a business, and that’s what they manage, is those relationships with the contractors.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. Very good. So a little bit of hustle, a little bit of just your experience in the industry, and a little bit of marketing and PR currently kind of blend those together and allows you to find someone with nonwoven thin film polymer expert. [Laughs]

Paula Norbom: [Laughs] Yes.

Scott Nelson:    Which in that story you share obviously turned out really, really well for your client. I’m sure they were really grateful because not only did they fill a need but it sounds like it saved them quite a bit of money in developing that particular product. So, very cool.

Paula Norbom: Right. So for a minimal investment the return was enormous.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah. Yeah, that’s what it sounds like. So, very cool. I’m sure that gives people a pretty good idea of what you’re doing at Talencio. Sounds really interesting because like I said, I think a lot of the folks that are listening are familiar with recruiting and staff firms more in relation to sales, and they aren’t really aware that this sort of niche exists and that in fact a lot of companies do use this kind of contract-based staffing to make things happen at various stages within their life cycle. So that’s interesting.

So let’s kind of transition here to the piece that was featured in MedCity News. Again, the title, for those listening, was Jobs Advice: Go Retool If Laid Off from Medtronic, Boston Sci Marketing Departments. And so you mentioned in the article three really hot areas that you see working in the field now, and that’s regulatory affairs, quality assurance and reimbursement. Let’s talk a little bit about that. My first question is, why are those areas so hot?

Paula Norbom: Well, I think the pressure that companies are seeing, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies that are seeing from the FDA in terms of getting 510(k) clearance has really, in this increased regulatory environment, it costs companies a lot more money to get their products approved. So just from probably three to five years ago, the staff that companies need to have in clinical research, in reimbursement, in regulatory could be doubled. I don’t know.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Paula Norbom: They’re just much larger than they ever used to be and it takes much longer to get a product approved across the board.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So there’s now this demand for all of this expertise…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …and not necessarily the capacity in the market to fill that demand.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So I thought it was really interesting because just I think two weeks ago or so we put in a more junior regulatory person at a larger company here in the Twin Cities and that person started out as a sales rep. And he is right around 50 years old, is a baby boomer, and he decided a few years ago he was going to retool.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: He went back and he got additional education and was then able to get an internship for a while at a large company here, and he completed that internship and we were able to place him into this contract opportunity. So it’s a great story, successful story for one guy that actually realized, “Hey, those are hot areas. That’s what I’m going to go after.”

Scott Nelson:    Okay. I was going to ask you about that a little bit later, but let’s definitely talk about that because I think that’s fascinating. Because like I said, a lot of the folks on the call I think are within that same sort of sales and marketing capacity but, speaking probably on behalf of the sales reps that maybe are getting up there in their age or in their sales career and don’t want to carry the bag at the age of 55 or 60 or whatever it may be, that’s a great story, and that provides sort of an out for them to stay within the medical device space but in kind of a different segment of it, if you will.

So in that example, how does someone like that that hasn’t been in the reimbursement or quality assurance areas within a Medtronic or a Boston Scientific or some other large medical device company, if they haven’t worked up the rank within that certain company, how do they go and retool? Where do they go and learn? What would be your suggestions for that person?

Paula Norbom: Well, even before finding a place to go learn, I think someone needs to really look inside of themselves and say, “What am I all about? What turns me on? What really gets me excited?”

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: “Am I an introvert? Am I an extrovert? Do I like the regulatory environment and understanding all the rules and regulations and laws or am I kind of a person that is a dreamer and I need to be a little more creative?” So there are a lot of different types of folks and really need to understand what makes you tick.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And there are a lot of tools out there that can help you do that. There’s Myers Briggs. There’s Insights Discovery. There’s StrengthsFinder. I think they’re all great but helpful. So understand what makes you tick, and then find someone in your network—and by the way, we should all be networking constantly because…we can get into this later, too, Scott, but we’re selling ourselves, right?

Scott Nelson:    Right.

Paula Norbom: [00:16:38] we are all salespeople, we’re going to be out of jobs.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: So it’s our own value. But go find the people in your network that are in jobs comparable to what you think you might want to do and talk to them and get a feel for what that job is all about. If it’s something that you think you would like, then I would go to use the Internet and find schools in the area, there are a lot of online schools but there are also schools, I know we have a few here in Minneapolis St. Paul that focus on these areas, and enroll in classes and get the education.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: Spend the time, get the education, get the internship and then get started.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. So for someone that say is a rep, and say they’re within a certain division of Medtronic, for example, and they get to a point where they realize they don’t want to be carrying a sales bag for the next 10 years. They want to begin to retool. You’re saying first understand kind of if you want to retool, find out which area intrigues, you whether it’s reimbursement or whether it’s regulatory, whether it’s quality assurance or something, and then from there begin the network. Whether it’s inside that company or potentially outside the company, begin the network with other folks and find out is that really an area that they want to pursue. And then, the third step would be—so there are educational programs or certificate programs or whatever it may be that universities are offering specific to kind of some of these different specialties?

Paula Norbom: Yes there are.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: I know for instance the University of Minnesota in St. Cloud, they offer classes on regulatory insurance.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. Yeah, that’s really interesting. That’s good stuff. And that kind of ties into another question I want to ask you, and you mentioned it in the piece in which you were featured in MedCity, is you run into a decent amount of candidates that don’t entirely understand how they are marketable, and I think that’s an interesting point. Explain that or expound on that a little bit more if you can.

Paula Norbom: Now, this is an area that our VP of Talent Services, Kate Richards, spends a lot of time with. She’s interviewing with talents all day, every day, and what she emphasizes is for everyone to understand what their three most marketable skills are.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So what are you selling? You don’t want to be a me-too. We don’t like me-too products as well.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Paula Norbom: We’re constantly looking at you’re selling your services, what is it that you have that I need?

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: We need to understand how we’re marketing ourselves, and if you don’t understand what our three most marketable skills are, how are we then going to go to a group like Talencio and sell ourselves or to an employer and sell ourselves?

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay.

Paula Norbom: So we’re very big on individual branding and marketing and understanding that, being able to articulate it.

Scott Nelson:    Right. It’s funny, it reminds me, there’s a blog that I read where I think kind of the tagline of the blog is “everything is sales,” which to a certain point that’s really true because even for the person that maybe even functions in a sales capacity on a day-by-day basis, they potentially don’t even understand that in order to make their next move whether it be in their sales gig or to retool, per the topic that we’re talking about, they need to sell themselves on what kind of value they bring to their next employer. So that’s a great takeaway, I guess, that concept of individual branding I guess as you put it. That’s a great phrase there.

Paula Norbom: Right, and just FYI, if someone says, “Well, I’m a great collaborator with people,” that’s probably not a marketable skill.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm. Okay.

Paula Norbom: So you get along with people, that’s great. A lot of people do that.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: I’m looking at those unique things you do differently than most people.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. So if someone calls up Talencio interested in retooling or getting involved as kind of, not necessarily, I guess they technically could be a client of yours, but wants to work with you more on kind of the contractor side, you have specific people there at your firm that actually help the contractors identify these marketable values that they bring to the table?

Paula Norbom: We will not necessarily identify them for them…

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Paula Norbom: …but we will help them to understand that they need to identify them for themselves.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay.

Paula Norbom: Does that make sense?

Scott Nelson:    Yeah.

Paula Norbom: We’re not writing résumés for people. We’re not necessarily job coaches, career coaches. Certainly, it’s something we could do, but that’s not what we’re in business to do.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: But I will say that every person that comes through our door we want to make sure leaves with something of value.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So we’re very direct and upfront with people so that we want to make sure that they will land their next gig, whether it’s a full-time job or it’s a contract opportunity that they landed, as soon as possible [00:22:21] and are not standing still.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So if there’s something that we see we can help with, we do.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And invariably, it’s [00:22:30] folks have not drilled down on what those three marketable skills are.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. So that’s obviously a missing point that most folks are not catching on to.

Paula Norbom: Yes.

Scott Nelson:    So for those who are listening, identify your three most marketable skills. That’s important.

Paula Norbom: And I think even on, I don’t know if it’s on my LinkedIn page but maybe the LinkedIn page for Kate Richards, she might have some information on that, or you can even go online and get more information on that.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. And for those who are listening, when this interview is posted on Medsider, I will link to Paula’s LinkedIn page as well as the website of Talencio, and then I’ll also give a link to this article that we’re referencing that was featured in MedCity News about retooling. So is there anything else you wanted to add or at least speak to in regard to this piece before we kind of move on?

Paula Norbom: No, I think that’s good.

Scott Nelson:    Okay, because I’m looking through my notes and I think we covered kind of all the questions that I wanted to address. So, definitely good information, and hopefully those who are listening have gotten a lot of value, a lot of good takeaways from that. So before we conclude the call, I did want to dig into your background a little bit because you’ve been with several different medical device companies, you’ve been in kind of the field, the life sciences and medical device field, since I think you said ’94, and I don’t want to go back too far but I want to find out—you mentioned you started your CPA, you started out with Ernst and Young, I think—but how did you kind of weave yourself into the medical device space?

Paula Norbom: Well, it was by accident actually, as most things seem to happen in life.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: I was looking for a new job, and I actually had three job offers at the same time, and the President and CEO of IntraTherapeutics, John Erb, called me on a weekend encouraging me to come work for his company. And it was a small pre-revenue company, the first month I started with them was the first month that they sold their product, and it did sound so exciting and I was impressed that, wow, the president of the company actually called me. So that’s the job I took and absolutely loved it. I loved the technology. I loved that we were doing for people just in general. I loved working with high-caliber talent. It was a lot of fun.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So it’s one of those situations where you land in a job and you just feel like, “Wow, I’ve arrived. This is home. This is where I sit.”

Scott Nelson:    Okay. I was just going to say, as you’ve moved from, that was IntraTherapeutics, to Spine-Tech and then Restore Medical, you’ve had very impressive titles – Vice President Controller, Vice President Finance, etc. Was there kind of a pattern there from Spine-Tech to Restore? I mean, where they all backed by the same venture capitalist or what’s the story there?

Paula Norbom: No. No, and I’ll share a little bit about my progression with you. It is interesting. When I was at IntraTherapeutics, we sold the company to a company, something called Centerpulse.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: Centerpulse also owned Spine-Tech. They had asked me to oversee the accounting departments of both IntraTherapeutics and Spine-Tech at the same time, so I did that. Then, about a year later, maybe not even quite a year later, we decided to divest IntraTherapeutics, and mainly it was to help fund a product recall from another division of the company that was unrelated to it, I was working in.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So I helped in the divestiture and then stayed on full-time at Spine-Tech. Then, about a year later, the entire company, Centerpulse, was sold to Zimmer.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And, as you know, first day the president was let go and the second day I was let go from the company. So that was really a wakeup call for me. I mean, it was a frightening experience at the time but it was a blessing as well—it just opened up new opportunities for me—but it made me acutely aware of the importance of networking at that point in time.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: So then I really started to explode the networking part. So then I found a job at Restore Medical and it was really exciting again. It was early-stage company. We were just starting to sell our product throughout the US and grew that company to about 5 million in revenue at the time that we did an initial public offering, IPO.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And that we completed in early 2006. So we became public company. And I’m not a public company CFO, I’m more of an operation-type person, so I left and I had contracted back with the company, but I had used contractors all my life in all these jobs. I felt like I was the queen of using contractors at one point. I got that world pretty well. And in looking for what was I going to do next, I started doing some contract CFO work for small startup medical device companies.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And I would work about a day a week for a few of these companies, and it was while I was doing that that I met my business partner Doug Ruth, and he said, “Well, Paula, you could do so much more if you were the one placing these contractors into companies versus just trying to do it all because you are going to max out the amount of time you have available.”

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha.

Paula Norbom: So we launched the company training a few years ago, then in [00:28:35] 2005 I bought my business partner out at the end of December this past year…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …because he had started another very successful business. So it was a friendly split, and then we renamed the company at the end of April this year to Talencio.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So that’s a little bit of my background.

Scott Nelson:    And the previous name was Vallon Life Sciences, is that right?

Paula Norbom: It was Vallon Life Science.

Scott Nelson:    Vallon Life Science, okay. Very good. So that’s interesting to hear that story of primarily you’ve operated within kind of the emerging technology startup kind of environment, but you used contractors throughout all of your experience—as you put it, you were the queen of contractors—and basically, you’re outsourcing various needs that you have. I mean, I think a lot of people are maybe more familiar with the term outsourcing and they maybe understand on a surface level the efficiencies and I guess the potential economies of scale with outsourcing. And so in essence you saw the need for that and the benefits of that along the way, and then here you are providing that same sort of service to various medical and life science companies now. That’s a great story. Interesting.

Paula Norbom: Right. You know, I’ve known companies that do contract accounting, let’s say, and they’ll place accounting people at companies.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Paula Norbom: But there’s no company to my knowledge that really provides contract staffing across all functional areas for a company.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So, for instance, we can go in and meet with the CEO of a company or a VP or a director and we can help them, but we can help them across the board and become that partner with them.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: So we understand the company’s strengths, their weaknesses, their challenges, where the pain points are. We also understand what they need as their partner and can provide needs when they need it and where.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm.

Paula Norbom: So it’s a unique model, and the fact that we’ve grown up in the industry, we have a strong understanding for what our clients’ issues could be or are, especially in this highly-regulated environment.

Scott Nelson:    Gotcha. Okay. And this sort of brings to light another question I wanted to ask you. So if you’re working with a startup company that has somewhat of an emerging technology, say their product is related to maybe the spine arena, for example, and they want someone maybe in quality assurance or regulatory, when you’re looking at your database of contractors, does it necessarily matter if you’ve got a regulatory person that spent most of their time, say, in the cardiovascular arena now that you’re a company that’s more focused on the spine? Is that a huge deal or is there a lot of crossover there in regard to the disease state? Does that make sense?

Paula Norbom: It depends. [Laughs]

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: It really depends, and it is something that we’ve looked at to see, does it matter or does it not matter? So yeah, don’t know really what to tell you there.

Scott Nelson:    Sure.

Paula Norbom: From a quality assurance perspective, it probably doesn’t matter quite as much. From a reimbursement perspective, it probably matters a little bit more.

Scott Nelson:    Mm-hmm. Okay. Okay. And that would make sense because, obviously, perhaps the coding is quite a bit different when you [00:32:13] kind of a different disease state if you were in a different arena.

Paula Norbom: Exactly.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah, that’s interesting. One other question about your background was your time at ThreeWire. That’s an interesting business model. Can you explain a little bit about what ThreeWire did and then kind of a little bit more about your time there or your role there?

Paula Norbom: Yeah, sure. ThreeWire is the company that does patient recruitment or helps companies with patient recruitment for clinical studies.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And they typically use kind of marketing, branding, a lot of different techniques, building websites for companies, to drive patients to clinical sites for companies.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And it’s just a very interesting business model, very unique. So I did that for about a year, I forgot what my title was, but mainly managed all the operations for the company internally.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So it was a great opportunity. I’m an actually an owner in that company as well…

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: …but just found that that really wasn’t where my heart was leading me, and that’s when I decided to leave and do the contract CFO work.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. And ThreeWire, just so I understand that better, say I’m a company, I’m sponsoring a clinical trial and the enrolment is somewhat slow, I would then contact ThreeWire to help me out with driving patients or driving enrolment to certain sites? Is that kind of how that worked a little bit?

Paula Norbom: That’s exactly right.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay.

Paula Norbom: Yeah, they’ll use a variety of search engine optimization tools, try to use some directed marketing towards certain types of physicians or certain types of patients.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: They will go through and review clinical records, try to find the right patients.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. That’s interesting. We could probably a whole interview just on that sort of business model. I find that so interesting that there’s a whole market or a whole need that’s kind of centered around the idea of driving patients to clinical sites.

Paula Norbom: Right. And Mark Summers is the CEO of that company, and he would be a great person to interview as well.

Scott Nelson:    Yeah, I might have to take you up on that offer to learn a little bit more about that, because that’s interesting. So, very good. One other last question I had down here in my notes is you have—on LinkedIn anyway it says—a Mini MBA from St. Thomas University, I think that’s there in the Twin Cities, correct?

Paula Norbom: Yes, it is.

Scott Nelson:    I didn’t even realize something like that was available, a Mini MBA. Could you tell me a little bit more about what that is?

Paula Norbom: I will. I think I got that after I left Restore Medical and I was thinking about, well, what’s next, and so I did the Mini MBA. It was basically a semester-long, pretty intense course that covered all areas of medical device. So it looked at funding, it looked at marketing, reimbursement, regulatory, clinical research, quality, and we brought in leaders from within the community to teach each one of the classes.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So you had the real people there teaching and just hands-on. It was wonderful. And class size was [00:35:58] small, I’d say probably about 15 people.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: And at the end of the course we all got a Mini MBA.

Scott Nelson:    Sure. I didn’t even realize until I saw that on your LinkedIn profile. I didn’t realize something like that was even available. I have to think that would bring a lot of value to folks in the medical device space that maybe are interested in doing something different with their career, or at least to get an idea of different areas within the different segments within the life sciences and medical device arenas. So that’s interesting. Do you know, is it offered throughout the country or is it just like St. Thomas is obviously in the Twin Cities, which is a medical kind of a hub for the life science and medical device…

Paula Norbom: You know, all I know right now is that for sure it’s at St. Thomas and I couldn’t tell you if it’s anywhere else in the United States.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. Gotcha. Yeah.

Paula Norbom: Yes. What’s so neat about that course, or group of courses I guess, is it gives you a good overview of what it takes to run a medical device company and be successful.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: So rather than a person pigeonholed their whole life in marketing or their whole life in accounting, you get to see [00:37:13] quite functionally what it takes to put all the pieces together.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. Okay. Yeah. Cool. I think that’s pretty much it that I wanted to cover. Is there anything else that you would like to highlight based on our conversation at all?

Paula Norbom: No, I think we’ve pretty much covered it all, Scott.

Scott Nelson:    Okay. And I always like to end these interviews with the same question, but looking back over the course of your career, is there anything that stands out that maybe early on you wish you know, like maybe one or two things that you wish you knew early on that you know now?

Paula Norbom: Network, network, network.

Scott Nelson:    Okay.

Paula Norbom: I started out as, and I still am, an introvert, but none of my friends or acquaintances would believe that, but even introverts, you need to get out there and network, and come up with standard three questions that you ask everyone just to break the ice. But build that network, keep in touch with that network, and don’t let it drop. Even if you end up in a six- or 12-month contract or you’re a full-time employee, keep that network going because nowadays that’s how jobs and opportunities are found.

Scott Nelson:    That’s great advice. Great advice. Well, thanks a ton, Paula, for coming on to the program. And again, I encourage everyone, if you’re in that spot in your career where you want to retool, more on the contractor side as we spoke about, or if you’re running a medical device/life science company or in some sort of management capacity and you’re interested in the idea of kind of outsourcing some of these needs, I would definitely encourage you to check out Paula’s company, Talencio—that’s T as in Tom-A-L-E-N as in Nancy-C-I-O dot com, Talencio.com—and reach out to Paula for any needs that you may have. So thanks again, Paula, for coming on to the program. Greatly appreciate it.

Paula Norbom: You are very welcome.

Scott Nelson:    Alright, thanks everyone for listening.

 

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