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Case Study: John Haran, chief executive, Sepha

Sepha is a world leader in the production of medical equipment. John Haran is the firm’s chief executive.

What is your business?
Sepha is a technology company based in Dundonald which produces precision equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. We ship products to over 40 countries. Our customers include the world’s largest drug companies, such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

What projects are you currently engaged in?
Sepha is recognised as the world leader in pharmaceutical product recovery. In the past two years we have increased our product range to provide innovative solutions for product testing and packaging. These products are now gaining a market leadership position and will be a significant engine of growth for us.

What are the greatest challenges you face?
As an international business, the current slowdown in world markets has restricted our growth opportunities as customers defer capital expenditure. There are signs that the market is beginning to recover and we forecast substantial growth this year.

What plans do you have to develop the company?
One of our greatest strengths is our customer base and geographical spread. We recently introduced a new range of testing equipment, which has caused great excitement in the market. Asia is of growing importance, with major opportunities in China and India. We have been very successful in entering new markets and building market share. We work closely with Invest NI, who provide valuable advice and support. We have a strong network of agents and distributors to provide in-market assistance. From a zero base in 2009, we now have distributors in all the major countries in South America, with significant sales in Brazil and Mexico.

How do you market your business?

We have a professional marketing team, which co-ordinates our global activities. We have a direct sales team who visit the market on a regular basis, an interactive website which allows customers to view new products and request web-demos and our products are exhibited at leading international shows.

Is the internet important to you?
It is a valuable part of our marketing mix. We allow customers access to the latest information on products and have a dedicated area for existing customers to post questions and obtain software upgrades. Our website allows Sepha to maintain a high level of contact with customer contacts, wherever they are. We have recently hosted web conferences with customers in India, Korea and Brazil.

Has the recession caused you to adjust pricing?
Sepha has concentrated on finding innovative ways to increase the customer value proposition, rather than reducing prices. We are constantly upgrading equipment with new features and additional services.

What innovations are you currently developing?
Sepha is always looking to identify new opportunities and create additional value for clients. We recently introduced a new blister packing machine, EZBII, targeted at drug discovery and clinical trial companies, in response to changes in the way drugs are developed. We launched this at the end of last year and it has been an immediate success, opening new markets for the company.

What are you doing to improve energy efficiency?
Energy is a significant cost to our industry and we work hard to reduce consumption. We are constantly looking at redesigns that provide better insulation and use lower power components.

How do you keep yourself and your staff motivated?
Sepha is a high technology company providing solutions to a high-growth, global industry. Our engineers are always finding new challenges and opportunities to create innovative products. We currently have engineering teams in Brazil and Belgium installing new machines. From a marketing perspective, the drug industry is constantly evolving and creates a very stimulating environment for the team. Every time a new drug is announced, an opportunity is created for Sepha. In the Sepha world, motivation is not a problem.

Which well-known entrepreneur do you most admire?
Steve Jobs.

What is your favourite gadget?
The iPhone.

If you could do any job, what would it be?
This one — or managing my favourite football club, Arsenal.

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