Paul Perreault has encountered a few surprises while helping grow what was once a small entity owned by the Australian government into the world’s fifth largest biotechnology company. The biggest surprise may be that he finds himself in the CEO’s office at all.
“It was not a journey that I sought out,” he said. “A series of learning experiences and unexpected opportunities led me to where I am today.”
Perreault is the CEO and Managing Director of CSL Limited. Through its two businesses: CSL Behring, a global leader in providing life-saving biotherapies for people stricken with rare and serious diseases, with operational headquarters in King of Prussia, Pa.; and Seqirus, the world’s second largest influenza vaccine provider, CSL’s life-saving medicines now reach patients in more than 60 countries.
The company-wide mission of putting patients first flows from the top down and is one of the reasons Perreault has been recognized as one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs for 2018.
“I have the best job in the world,” Perreault said. “It is a privilege to lead more than 22,000 ‘Chief Patient Officers’ – employees who are dedicated to delivering on the company’s promises every day as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does.”
A Florida native who always envisioned himself as having a long career in sales, Perreault says his career was “catalyzed” by being open to taking on additional responsibilities.
“For example, at one point a manager encouraged me to take on a role in Operations. I questioned his advice. But it turned out that this move helped me broaden my experience and ability to lead in future roles.”
Those roles eventually took him to the Philadelphia-area where he served in a multitude of leadership roles at CSL Behring and its predecessor companies. Among other initiatives, Perreault has led a strategic investment in the region, a well-known biotechnology hub, by growing the company’s presence and fueling innovation.
“Today the Philadelphia region boasts talented people and world-class universities but we must work hard to maintain this,” he said. “Industry, academia and government can and should do more together to make the region an attractive place for innovators.”
To that end, CSL Behring has recently launched collaborations with top universities in the area. A partnership with Philadelphia’s University City Science Center will focus on identifying and commercializing potential new medicines at research and academic institutions across the region. Earlier this year, Perreault cut the ribbon on a new industrial biotech facility on Penn State’s main campus. The laboratory is the result of a $5 million grant from CSL Behring to the university.
These strategic moves will have the effect of creating a strong pipeline of talent to fuel the region’s biotech industry, one that Perreault said he plans to draw from. Over the past five years, CSL Behring has tripled its workforce in the Philadelphia region to more than 1,400 and there are plans for further growth.
“Our region has the opportunity to be a vibrant ecosystem for biotech,” he said.
Despite CSL’s growth in size and scope, Perreault says people remain and will continue to be the company’s greatest asset. His advice to emerging leaders in biotechnology and beyond is to know their people like they know their business. As he put it: “You have to show up, be engaged in the business and be present. You can’t just sit in your office and lead.”
Which, for Perreault, includes routinely interacting with colleagues regardless of their role in the organization. “People in our company know me because I need to understand and see what’s happening,” he added. “You have to be authentic because in leadership, authenticity is vital.”
For more on Paul Perreault, check out his Q and A with the Philadelphia Business Journal included in its special Most Admired CEOs of 2018 edition.