Within 4 months of her 2019 arrival inside BDSI’s CFO office, Terry Coelho had spearheaded a product acquisition and managed a successful equity raise—two finance milestones that would produce generous sales tailwinds for the specialty pharmaceutical firm.
BDSI would experience 100% net sales growth in 2019, followed by 40% net sales growth in 2020. Such sales momentum recently led BDSI to issue a press release praising its “new commercial team” and at the same time announcing that Coelho’s CFO title would now include the designation “executive vice president.”
For Coelho, a seasoned finance executive who spent more than a decade serving in a variety of senior positions inside Novartis and Sealed Air Corp., the call to leadership at BDSI afforded her a wide berth from which to deliver results that are now arguably visible to all.Read More
Still, even this success chapter must compete for our attention when we hear about a promotion that she received from candy and pet food giant Mars Incorporated early in her career. At the time, when Coelho was in her early 30s, she was asked by John Mars (currently chairman) to relocate to South America and build a plant to start up Mars’s confectionery business in Brazil.
“When the plant concept was coming about, John Mars said to me, ‘You can do this job,’ and I kind of looked at him and thought to myself, ‘Why not?,’” says Coelho, who had first gotten her FP&A acumen noticed inside the corporate planning function of Mars’s McLean, Virginia, headquarters.
Years later, as she prepared to return to the U.S., the Brazilian team presented her with a photo of the former cow pasture that the Mars plant was then occupying. After a number of expansions, the factory and Brazilian business operations under Coelho’s leadership had grown to provide jobs to 200 people.
“I don’t think that most companies would have given someone with my experience—at that point in my career—that kind of an opportunity. It has really shaped whom I’ve become. I have a breadth of experience from having run an entire business, and when you build it, you know it even better,” explains Coelho, who, after returning to the U.S., would hold a number of strategic finance positions, including CFO of Mars Direct, a newly formed direct-to-consumer business unit that would establish itself as one of the company’s future growth engines. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us what you believe has contributed to the turnaround that BDSI has experienced …
Coelho: I would say that the turnaround was starting before I joined, I would say that the company was not doing so well roughly 6 months before I joined. They had brought in a new CEO, somebody who was more commercially focused. What I should say is that the company has been around a long time—15, 20 years. It was mostly what in the pharma world we call a “development stage” organization, which develops products. The people in the business were brilliant scientists. They got three products approved by the FDA, but they didn’t always bring all of the commercial expertise. Even in the finance function, just to touch on that, you had people in a development stage company who were mostly tracking costs instead of looking at revenue and manufacturing and a lot of that complexity.Read More
I think with the new CEO coming in, we were able to build out the sales force more rapidly and for the long term and bring in a stronger market access team—medical affairs team—to really get the company ready to truly be at the commercial stage. They had launched a few years before, but it wasn’t taking off. When I came in, the revenue, for sure, was starting to improve, and this helped a lot. I think that beyond this what I looked at and what I was able to impact the firm pretty quickly with was doing a product acquisition within 3 months of my joining. I focused a lot on our capital allocation, to be honest. To do this, though, I didn’t really have an FP&A person or team. I had to build models to really get a good handle on what was driving the business so that I could confidently speak with investors, lenders, or anyone else to finance that transaction.
I think that we ran a very successful equity raise when I had been there 4 months. I think that this was great. When I came in, our debt and the loan that we were carrying was the type that small start-up bio-pharma companies often get. We were carrying a debt with basically an effective interest rate of over 21%. By 5 months after my joining, we were able to refinance this and pay less than half of that rate. Now I think that obviously I can take this a step further as well.
It was a lot about getting the fundamentals in place and putting in the FP&A that I now have—not just a function or a person—but just building the models and being able to have confidence that they make sense and to be able to convey this confidence to the street and to the financial markets. I think that these have been some of the key things that I’ve been able to drive so far, and then it’s just continued to build from there.
Value Quote: “I have a phrase that I coined that I’ve used over the years, which is to ‘be the bridge.’ By this, I mean to connect functionally across the business. To learn the business. To show curiosity. This is what I think enables you to have that seat at the table.”
BDSI | www.bdsi.com | Raleigh, NC