Gregory M. C. Orleski speaks at a clip that feels as if thoughts are dueling it out to be the first to be said aloud. “I suppose I’m kind of like the Energizer bunny,” Orleski jokes. “My batteries don’t seem to run down, and I think I’ve got another fifty years of high power in me.” The vice president of legal affairs, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Pharmascience, the largest pharmaceutical employer in Québec and the fourth largest manufacturer of generic products in Canada, is as intellectually curious today as he ever was.
He admits he’s the kind of dad who will politely badger his children’s friends about their interests, their backgrounds, and what makes them unique. He loves learning, and the lessons he’s garnered as a father have translated well to the business world. The lawyer says he’s built a team, first and foremost, of businesspeople who are experts in the law and intellectual property, not just lawyers who know a little something about business.
Creating Business, Not Just Supporting It
The GC came to Pharmascience in 2017 after having established a reputation as a lawyer who not only understood the importance of the business that he was supporting but also helped actively build it. Orleski’s second role in the pharmaceutical industry at Valeant Pharmaceuticals was the perfect proving grounds for what would become the GC’s signature leadership style.
“Legal was almost secondary to that role,” Orleski explains. “My primary role in the business development position was to come up with ideas, products, contracts, concepts, and strategies to grow the sales of the company.”
It was the perfect role for a lawyer looking to get steeped in industry and business acumen. “I had to understand marketing and sales around the world,” Orleski says. “So, when I was looking for products, licensing, and acquisition opportunities, I had to learn, understand, and ask the right questions and be able to translate those back into Canadian business strategies and terms.”
That was only the beginning. Orleski had to understand his business’s manufacturing processes and all other disciplinary functions from product development, clinical trials, regulatory approval, pricing and market access, and marketing and sales. “It was a Pharma 101 class,” Orleski says. “Without that, I would never have been able to have the career that I so much enjoy today.”
“I want creative and passionate businesspeople who are endlessly curious and happen to be well trained in the law and IP.”
Giving Voice to Style
Orleski wouldn’t truly understand what he had become until interviewing for a counsel role at Abbott Laboratories he would eventually take on. “I remember the Canadian president saying, ‘Let me tell you what I’m looking for, Greg,’” Orleski remembers. “‘I’m looking for a businessperson, a good businessperson with good business acumen who is going to use their legal experience to help the business. I’m not looking for a lawyer who wants to dabble in business.’”
It was everything Orleski had ever wanted, and hearing it out loud created an intense and acute focus for the years to come. Orleski says he gives a modified version of that speech to every lawyer he hires at Pharmascience.
“I explain to every potential candidate that the fact that you’re a lawyer or a specialist in IP is just an entry ticket,” the GC explains. “But that’s not going to get you the job. I want creative and passionate businesspeople who are endlessly curious and happen to be well trained in the law and IP.”
In coming to Pharmascience, Orleski was tasked with not only building but also effectively creating a legal department for the business. “I was lucky to come in with a fairly clean slate,” Orleski says. “I could pretty much create from a blank canvas without having to take previous structure into account.”
The GC says it was a learning experience, with expected bumps along the way, for the entire business to become accustomed to working with a new department. “It wasn’t good or bad,” he explains. “It was just getting the business used to having a dialogue with a new department and finding the sweet spots where we could work together effectively.”
Orleski says moving ahead, he’s focused on continuing to build relationships with clients, aka all parts of the business, to make them aware of what the GC has tasked his team with accomplishing. “I want the business to understand that we’re not here just to provide legal services but rather to add value and help them achieve greatness,” the GC explains. “That takes time and a lot of dialogue.”
“I want the business to understand that we’re not here just to provide legal services but rather to add value and help them achieve greatness. That takes time and a lot of dialogue.”
Learning from the Next Generation
As Orleski’s career has continued, he says leadership education has come from an unlikely source: his children. The GC is a proud, proud father. In fact, he’s so proud that he has to preface his comments about his kids. “I’m worried that I might become emotional,” the GC says. “I’m so proud of my children. I’m so proud of them.”
Orleski says having children allowed him to see the world in an entirely different way, almost getting to relive his own childhood and youth while making slight course corrections when it came to his own kids.
“I’ve grown so much for it,” Orleski says. “It’s made me so much more aware of how important it is to try to understand the people you’re working with, whoever they are and whatever position they may be in. My children have made me a better person and, I think, a better people manager.”