As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Albert Berger.
Albert Berger is a hands-on Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with expertise in business development, operational efficiencies, manufacturing, clinical laboratories, medical devices and real estate within the healthcare industry. Through strategic foresight, drive and determination, he has built a strong foundation for a number of successful multi-million dollar companies. Currently, he is guiding Confirm BioSciences.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have been in the laboratory and diagnostic space for nearly 20 years. I was a part of the team that built Redwood Toxicology Laboratory into the largest single-site drug testing laboratory in the world, processing 25k specimens per day. We sold the business to American Capital Strategies for $80M in 2006 and again to Alere for $100M in 2008. It’s been quite a journey however, I am absolutely thrilled to be leading Confirm Biosciences through our period of rapid growth and expansion as CEO.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My first job was in a management training program with United Parcel Service. I was responsible for International Sales and was a part of the first commissioned Salesforce in UPS history. Before one of my first meetings, I purchased a new suit so that I would look like an “executive”. On a budget, the suit was marked down several times with bright red pen on the price tags, as it was deeply discounted on sale. At my first big meeting, I wore the suit however, forgot to remove the price tags sewn on the sleeve. Needless to say, potential customers in the conference room burst out laughing and I turned bright red in embarrassment. The upside was that I got the account however, this was a mistake that I will never forget. I learned that you must be able to laugh at yourself and always check for price tags!
The above story was to add a little color into some of the mistakes we all make early on. Through the years, I have evolved from check for price tags to more streamlined ideologies. I definitely subscribe to the three P’s (people, product and process). Without any of these three, there is no company.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
This book was inspiring to me because it looks at the sacrifices necessary to create a world class company. In the end, it provides an excellent road map to help prioritize your own employees as the most valuable aspect of your company.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I was brought aboard with Confirm BioSciences about a year ago to help guide it through the journey from small business to high functioning corporation. Confirm BioSciences was started with the vision to increase workplace health and safety for employees and the general public.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Confirm BioScience’s trademarked motto is People Over Profit and I’ve adopted that as my top principle for running this business. Money comes and goes, but the relationships you build with people have the potential to last a lifetime. Our employees and customers are the lifeblood of the company and they are always our top priority.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Over the past few weeks, one of my family members has had some serious medical issues and has been hospitalized on multiple occasions. Due to the virus, we have not been able to be in the hospital and/or visit which has created a lot of anxiety and issues for our family. This is one of the many challenges that have made this pandemic so difficult and challenging.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As soon as the pandemic hit, within days, we transitioned our workforce to working entirely remote. This was a huge undertaking however, our amazing team was able to pull this off flawlessly. As a result, we are looking at the ways in which me may alter our long term thinking on remote work. In many ways, we are more productive than ever and we are fortunate to be able to support our clients with the same level of customer service that have come to know from Confirm Biosciences.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Like all people, I am processing the 24 hour news cycle with a keen eye. The COVID-19 situation is evolving and data is continuing to be gathered daily. My recommendation to all people is to trust the science and the talented people performing the research. Using science not politics as our guide should bring confidence and calm to those closest to us.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
One of the opportunities that we are seeing right now is for increased testing when it comes to health and safety, which we are in a position to take advantage of. COVID-19 antibody testing is going to become more common as the tests become more readily available.
There will be an increased focus on sanitation and cleanliness, so companies in that sector will be in a good position.
Businesses that concentrate on shoring up the various supply chains in the country (particularly food supply chains) should see opportunities post-COVID. We’ve seen how fragile these supply chains can be in a pandemic.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
This pandemic is showing us who the real essential workers are in our economy, so I believe there will be a push to make sure people who handle our food and our health and other essential things we need to live get fairer compensation.
I anticipate that workplaces will be designed to be safer for employees in terms of virus transmission, taking into consideration how many people are in a space, which direction they are facing and what the airflow is like in that space.
There is bound to be more remote working where it can be done.
I hope this experience teaches us all to respect the awesome power of nature more and try to live more in harmony with nature than opposed to it. We are learning just how vulnerable we can be as a species now.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We will continue with our vision of making workplaces safer, which in the Post-COVID economy means making COVID-19 antibody testing available to any business that wants to be able to test their workforce. This threat is going to be around for a while and we are in a position to help businesses maintain a healthy workforce by providing them with the tests they need.
In keeping with our People Over Profits principles, we are also going to provide employees with the support they need when they are ill and do everything we can to make them feel safe.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage other businesses to consider the following, many of which we are going to implement at Confirm BioSciences:
- Have a daily self-symptom-check policy.
- Implement flexible, non-punitive sick leave policies.
- Use social-distancing procedures for employees and the public based on available research data.
- Put heightened cleaning/disinfection measures in place.
- Increase building ventilation rates.
- Have procedures for workplace contact tracing after a positive COVID-19 test result in an employee.
- Work in shifts if possible.
- Cluster workers according to positions and segregate them from each other.
- Provide and/or mandate the use of masks.
- Utilize flexible work hours.
- Minimize employee interactions (closing common areas for example).
- Track interactions and exposure of employees.
- Use COVID-19 antibody testing to determine pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic workers who may be carrying the virus.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I strongly believe in the quote below…
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston S. Churchill
How can our readers further follow your work?