Belief that business leaders should focus on business, not PR
Gillings describes, in general terms, some of the challenges business leaders face. He concludes that prioritization should be the businessperson's priority, and he focused on building his business rather than building personal relationships. But he has found in recent years that personal contacts are increasingly important, especially considering his role as the public face of Quintiles.
Citing this Excerpt
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.
Full Text of the Excerpt
JM: Tell me about how -- in managing these sorts of processes -- how your daily calendar has evolved over the last ten years, ten to twelve years, when you really started to--. How do you spend your time? How has that changed?
DG: Well, the biggest issue more recently is the pressure for my time. You have to have a group of people helping schedule [your time] because you can't actually even remotely field all the things yourself. You have to have people that are assessing who wants to see you and trying to work out priorities and making suggestions, which you then agree with. That's a relatively recent phenomenon. I would say that's more a phenomenon of the last two to three years. This past year it's gotten quite excessive. Now prior to that, something like half my time was people wanting to see me or events creating the need for me to spend my time that way. The other half was pretty much [what] I determined I would focus on to grow the company.
JM: Strategic thinking.
DG: So that was naturally how it tended to be. I've always been, I think, a reasonably good delegator. I've never tried I think to overly manage the day to day operations of the company. I've been bringing [in] good managers and generally delegate. During the period [of], let's say, '90 through '96, I was first of all learning how to run a public company
JM: I'll have some questions about that too.
DG: And then we took it public and then [I was] learning how to do some acquisitions. I think [I was] getting more skilled at integrating those and managing the growth. More recently, I suppose in general, that was the lesson. You said “How do I manage my time and how do I deal with it?” For those years, was all you had to be good at was prioritization. As long as you were focussed on prioritization--. I tend to be reasonably good at that. I don't waste a lot of time, I don't think, on social chatting or just doing things that won't be productive to the business. The last two to three years, though, has been somewhat different because as a company grows, I think you have a community responsibility to a greater degree. You're also the leader of a larger group of people, and you have to behave a bit “presidential” on occasions. If I'm invited to open a new building in our company somewhere, I think it's only with a fair amount of thought that I would turn that down because otherwise the company would not feel you're the leader. So the numbers of things like that vastly increase as you're in thirty odd countries with 18,000 people. You obviously have a lot more of that. You also have a lot more need to talk to the press and be responsible community-wise. I sit on boards and other entities. I think, in part, because I think it's a good thing to do, but also, in part, you feel you have a community responsibility. Your company would have a bad name and would not show leadership in the broad sense, if you didn’t do that. So these things become much more prevalent, and you have to make much more choices; therefore, the choices get more and more complicated. So that has been a feature, I suppose, of success and growth. That certainly is the situation now. That wasn't true five or ten years ago.