We talk to former winners of the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards to learn more about how winning the award has impacted on their businesses.
In this post we speak to Alan Armstrong, OBE – Almac Group
Almac Group: Overall Business Achiever Award, 2014
Alan Armstrong, OBE – Almac Group
Headquartered in Craigavon, Almac Group is an established contract development and manufacturing organisation providing an extensive range of integrated services to over 600 companies globally within the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. Services include state-of-the-art drug discovery, world leading cancer diagnostics, research and development, manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients, formulation development and the support of global clinical trials. Today the global organisation employs over 3,500 staff in a diverse range of activities.
What was your start-up day?
My career started when I graduated as a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1981 and joined Galen Research Laboratories (Almac Group’s predecessor organisation) in 1978 in the Quality Control department. I was promoted to Quality Assurance Manager in 1982, taking responsibility for overseeing regulatory compliance throughout the company. From 1982 to 1995 I held a number of Operational and Management roles within the Galen organisation.
In 1995 I was appointed to the Board of Directors of Galen Holdings PLC as Chief Operating Officer and when Sir Allen McClay retired from Galen in 2001 to establish the Almac Group the following week, I was right by his side taking up the privileged position of Chief Executive Officer.
What motivates you?
Keeping Allen McClay’s vision alive motivates me daily. Allen was a father figure to every single Almac employee and we all believe in the vision which he created and shared. He was a highly passionate man, believing that every individual has a responsibility for the community, society and the world they live in.
Though he passed away in January 2010, there is still a strong sense of his presence around the company throughout all our facilities. His vision very much lives on in every decision the Board makes, ensuring his many ideas, philosophies and legacy are evident. I know he would be extremely proud of what we have achieved so far.
What keeps you up at night?
As a farming man, I am up every day at the crack of dawn. After a long working day between the farm and Almac, there is not much that can keep me up at night!
What’s been the most surprising part of running the business?
The staff of Almac surprise me every day. There is a true sense of loyalty and belonging felt not only by me, but all employees regardless of their location and I firmly believe this emanated directly from Allen himself when he used to talk about the Almac “family”.
The rate of expansion has been phenomenal and a true success story over the past 30 years. Our unrivalled range of services, innovative approach and proven quality record makes Almac a major player in drug development both now and we believe for generations to come.
What’s been the most challenging for you?
We firmly believe there will be more emphasis by pharma and biotech companies to use companion diagnostic tests to assist treatment decisions and focus on personalised medicines. This will inevitably impact the services our clients demand. Fortunately we have been working in this space for many years and have considerable expertise to leverage and help inform our clients accordingly.
Changes to international regulatory and compliance guidelines will present many challenges and Almac is planning ahead by ensuring a proactive approach is taken in both the interpretation and implementation of required standards.
And the most rewarding?
Achieving year-on-year growth, development of the global company and knowing that Allen McClay would be proud of our achievement.
What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?
Almac has a strong track record of investing in our people. It is in our Core Values and Vision that, People are Almac’s core asset. Individually and collectively people are critical to the success of our vision. We recognise excellence and acknowledge that to empower our employees, we must invest in their continuous development’.
In addition to continuous employee training and development, we also endeavour to recruit the best talent globally. This is evidenced by the fact that we currently employ 30 different nationalities at our corporate headquarter site in Craigavon. It is also significant to note that we currently employ a high calibre of graduates as well as 5 professors throughout the Group whose expertise and knowledge is both exceptional and indispensable.
We are in a very covetous position at Almac where I am proud to say many of our Directors and Senior Management team have been with the company since graduation. This has added a stability and loyalty few other companies of our size are able to claim, particularly within our industry and means that Allen McClay’s vision to see Northern Ireland remain the firm’s headquarters and engine room has not been altered.
What are you most excited about for the future?
The future of Almac is very exciting! We are continuing to expand and grow our service offerings by investing in our people and innovation. I am particularly excited to see how we will increase our Global Presence having opened our Asia Pacific Headquarters earlier this year.
Any amazing families, partners, friends behind the scenes you’d like to thank – how did they support you in the early days?
We were delighted to be named Overall Business Achiever in these prestigious awards, particularly when pitched against other outstanding companies across all of Ireland. This is a fantastic recognition of the hard work by all our global teams and dedicated employees, without whom this success would not be possible. It is difficult to pinpoint a few people for me to thank, therefore I would like to give a huge congratulations to everyone at Almac who made winning this coveted award possible – it is a true honour for all of us.
What doors has winning the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards opened for you?
Being named Overall Ulster Bank Business Achiever of the Year was a special moment for us. It not only gives our employees a distinguished accolade of which we can be proud but is an endorsement of our work delivered to our clients and partners, building their trust and confidence in what we do. We also believe it helps to motivate our global team to meet business objectives.
What was the biggest benefit for you winning this award?
It’s the fourth successive time that a Northern Ireland company has won this award, and Almac beat off competition from a record number of entries from across Ireland. The judges have recognised the significant international footprint established by the Almac Group, clearly demonstrated by our international growth strategy achieving outstanding levels of sales, profit and market share growth.
Winning the award has enabled us to be recognised for and promote our Unique Selling Points.