An IMDiversity interview with Frank Griffith, Brand Director

by Martha Ture

IMDiversity asked the question, how does someone who starts in sales advance?  Here is one career story, from pharmaceuticals giant Roche.

Frank Griffith is Brand Director for Multicultural Health Care Marketing at Roche.  (  Originally from East Orange, New Jersey, Griffith began his career at Roche 20 years ago as a pharmaceutical sales representative in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Initially, he had to choose between working in Atlantic City, New Jersey or to Lawrence, because two division managers wanted him.  “I went to Lawrence because of the housing market, which enabled me to save enough money to buy a home for my family,” Griffith said.

The Importance of Mentoring

Griffith’s first manager in nearby Boston was one of the best training managers at Roche, Francis Quinn.  With more than 20 years’ experience, Quinn taught Griffith the basics of sales, a foundation which has served him well during his career.  Many people who started in Quinn’s division later went on to become executives within the company — a testament to his leadership and training abilities.

“A lot of people don’t have that type of insight,” Griffith said. “But when you have a manager that provocative, who points you in the right direction, you start developing yourself.  I received from Quinn a very strong foundation in sales, training, and business development skill sets to be able to move through the organization, as well as a very valuable understanding of the pharmaceuticals business.”

Loyal Customers, Strong Sales, Promotion

Griffith found that when people in the Boston area got to know him, they became loyal customers.  “I had never been in the Boston area,” he said, “and being an African American, I wasn’t sure how they’d respond  to me, but I found out that once they befriend you, they become loyal.  As a result, I rose up through the sales ranks quickly and was promoted to medical center rep (MCR) and moved to Brooklyn, New York where I was responsible for sales to large teaching institutions, which have residents.”

Training and Development

Following his term as an MCR, Griffith moved into Career Training and Development at Roche.  Having learned from Quinn, he now had the ability to teach leadership and mastery of basic sales skills, and was able to help those he trained become teachers in turn.  The job demanded people with a strong knowledge of particular Roche products, because they had to work closely with product teams.  During the time, Griffith had three key products, Rocephin® (ceftriaxone) a broad-spectrum antibiotic, Zantac® (ranitidine)1 an anti-ulcer medication and Ceftin® (cefuroxime) 1 another antibiotic.

Work Hard, Play Hard Together

Griffith then took on a development project, which involved implementing a territory management program for the sales force.  “We had to take a concept of a need expressed by the field reps, and come up with a program that would be implemented by 3,000 people in the Roche sales force,” he said.  His program was very successful, and as a result, he was again promoted.

“It was fun in being in sales,” Griffith says. “We worked hard and played hard together, sharing insights from our client calls to improve our overall customer service.”

Increased Responsibilities; Listen and Learn

In his next position, Griffith became a medical center representative manager.  This position operated at a higher level of management with more revenue responsibilities.  Griffith had managerial responsibility for all the teaching hospitals in New York and northern New Jersey.

“I learned a lot in that position,” Griffith said.  “As a leader, it’s important to listen to your people and to follow direction from experienced people who have been in that marketplace and been successful for some time.” Griffith had 15 MCRs reporting to him and soon had the number two territory in the nation.

Industrial Challenges

No surprise, Griffith was promoted again to regional sales director where he was responsible for the mid-Western region.  It was then that Roche acquired another company, Syntex, and eliminated the regional sales director position, replacing it with business unit directors.

While mergers can be tenuous, Griffith persevered. “Fortunately, I was able to parlay my experience into a new position as Regional Account Manager. I was also able to return to school to get an MBA during this time.”  He already had a masters in science from Seton Hall University; now he pursued his MBA at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Rapid Change, Specialization

In 2000, Griffith became a product promotion manager, and in 2001, a product director.  Then in 2002, he was tapped for a newly created position within the company — brand director, Multicultural Health Care Marketing, designed to raise awareness in communities of color.  In particular, his work focuses on hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS products.

“In Multicultural Health Care Marketing, we bring brand awareness, brand names, and brand messaging to communities of color,” Griffith said.  “We are presently focusing on the African-American and Hispanic communities to educate them on the rates of prevalence  for certain diseases and help get people tested.  Ultimately, for those with need, we want to get them into treatment,” he added.

“I enjoy my work a great deal and have been very fortunate to have benefited from having a good mentor and receiving a solid foundation of skills early on in my career. Clearly, this has helped me accomplish much throughout the years leading up to my current position,” noted Griffith. “The key for me through the years has been to maintain a focus and enthusiasm and to be able to blend personal and career goals.”

In addition to his position in Multicultural Health Care Marketing, Frank is also President of an employee network within the company – Roche Employees of African Descent – an organization for like-minded individuals who advocate networking and educational opportunities for all employees at Roche, particularly those of African descent.

1 Registered trademarks of GlaxoSmithKline