That was the message from Bob Hugin, executive chair of Celgene Corporation and the keynote speaker at NJBIA’s second annual Innovation Summit yesterday in Princeton.
“It’s important for all of us to be stronger, more forceful advocates for the issues about the innovation ecosystem of New Jersey,” Hugin told a crowd of about 150 at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.
“If we don’t really come together and advocate for the kind of policies that are needed, the future could be very challenging in New Jersey,” Hugin said.
That initiative began over six years ago when NJBIA and the Health Institute of NJ joined forces to create the Innovation NJ coalition.
While innovation policies need the support, Hugin said, he urged policymakers not to ignore the impact that broader business issues like high taxes have on high-tech, innovative companies.
He said organizations like NJBIA and the Health Institute of New Jersey are important, because they advocate for those of use that don’t have the time or the ability to do that. Organizations, however, cannot substitute for individuals speaking up.
“In my experience, individuals matter in this case also,” Hugin said. “State legislators, federal legislators are impacted by individual people who tell them their story.”
Hugin also offered some inspirational ideas for entrepreneurs; inspirational in part because while Celgene is one of the most profitable companies in the world today, it had nearly two decades of just trying to survive.
“Celgene lived through the shadow of death on many, many occasions,” Hugin said.
For 17 years, Celgene lost money. That experience taught Hugin lessons that he passed along to the entrepreneurs in the audience.
First, have a clear mission and vision for your company, one that people will want to believe in, Hugin advised.
Successful entrepreneurs also should look at adversity as an opportunity; a setback for a company could be something that impacts an entire industry and offers that company the chance to distinguish itself.
And a learning culture is critical. Opportunities increase when we embrace a learning culture, he said.
Last but not least: Hugin urged attendees to dream big. “If you want to be a mediocre company, set high goals,” Hugin said. “But if want to do superior things, you have to set aspirational goals.”