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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Global expansion of Quintiles

Gillings describes the international expansion of his corporation. His way eased by his British roots, he decided against acquiring other businesses.

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Oral History Interview with Dennis Gillings, June 10, 1999. Interview I-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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JM: Tell me some stories about taking the company overseas and finding new markets and building businesses there. No small task. DG: No. That's true. I mean, I was at a bit of an advantage, I should say, in the UK because I came from there. It didn't seem anything other than going home. The objective was to then build the company in continental Europe, so we could have this trans-European capability. That's exactly what I proceeded to do. We first built it in the United Kingdom. After that we set up in Germany, in Ireland, in France, in that order. After that, [we set up] in several other countries and now we're present in every country in Europe. JM: In those early instances, are you opening new business or acquiring [companies]? DG: [We were] always opening new businesses. At that point we didn't acquire. Even to this day -- I think I'm right -- we've always opened up in a country before we've acquired in a country. We've never actually gone to a country through an acquisition. I've had a specific purpose there. I do think multi-national organizations are quite hard to build. I've always had this inclination to understand a little bit more about how business is conducted in a country and learn, if necessary by a few mistakes of hiring people, before thinking about making an acquisition. JM: What was the pattern of experience you had, first in England and then you said in Germany, France, and Ireland? DG: I think in England it was, if anything, a little bit easier than here. Not because it would've been easier absolutely, but because we were backed by a thriving business. That reputation enabled one to get the work that generated the business. I think in the other countries it evolved because of the sorts of businesses we were developing in the United Kingdom. That tended to be trans-European and so we developed business in Germany and therefore needed a German organization. We developed an organization in Ireland in part because of some of the financial incentives that we were given by the Irish government. I don't want to say this in a detrimental sense, but that was almost like an extension of the UK. It's a different country, but English is the language. It's close. It's less different and all the structures were pretty much the same. Starting a business in Germany, though, is entirely different because you do get the continental Europe legal systems rather than the Anglo-American type legal system. A little later we went to France. That was probably the most difficult because we'd never really had a full start. The first head of our French unit didn't work out, so we then had to replace that person. That was an example of an initial mistake and then trying to correct it.