Did you know...the global headquarters of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world is at the bottom of Boston Manor Road.

GSK produces medicines, vaccines and consumer products. It has a strong heritage of innovation in healthcare, and its CEO, Andrew Wittty, was knighted in 2012 for services to the economy and the UK pharmaceutical industry.

I read in the Financial Times recently that the company recently began searching for a replacement CEO. Witty has spent his entire career at GSK and has been CEO for eight years.

Witty is a home-grown talent, and at 51 years old is still relatively young - why would GSK allow him to leave?

This article claimed that under Mr Witty’s leadership, the company has faced challenges, including a bribery scandal in China and financial performance that some people are not impressed with.

But a GSK took a very bold strategic decision that got some strong voices to begin to call for change.

GSK decided to swap its cancer drugs for vaccines and consumer goods. They reasoned that GSK would be in a better place commercially with high-volume, low-price products. Cancer drugs have a higher price per unit, but many obstacles stop them getting approved and sold for profit.

Mr Witty took the company’s ‘eggs’ out of the cancer treatment ‘basket’ and put them in the vaccine/consumer goods ‘basket’, going against the general thinking in the industry and the shareholder community.

Mr Witty remains confident that his strategy will pay off, but he appears to have bet on it with a career of over 30 years and the leadership of the company where he spent his entire career.

Time will tell if he was right or wrong.

Have you ever taken a risk and put all your eggs in one basket?

What was the outcome of your decision?

I once put all my eggs in one basket. As a student, I was involved in a competition where we formed a team, and bid for the opportunity to solve business problems for companies.

We could only bid for a maximum of three projects, and once we accepted an offer we had to exit the entire bidding process. There were six in my team, and two people were responsible for each project that we were bidding for.

We were successful in securing the first two projects that we went for.  

The problem was that our third pitch, to be held the next day, was for the project we really wanted, and I was the leader for that pitch. We had to decide, that day, whether to play safe and keep one of the two projects that we had already secured, or give them up and gamble on getting our first choice.

I had a dream about our first choice project; I woke up, prayed about it and was confident to go for it.

Despite my attempt to persuade the team, the other team members were unsure, so we took a vote. The vote hung on a knife edge at three votes to two. The last member of the team finally cast his vote in favour of taking the gamble; we rejected the two secured projects, and I had two very important jobs to do.

  1. I had to call the bid coordinator and reject the two secured projects.
  2. I had to lead the pitch for our first choice project.

Once I did the first task (not an easy conversation), the second task became easier.

We were all united…the only acceptable outcome for us was to win that bid!

I delivered the pitch, we got the project, and were given £20,000 to do the work. We had put our eggs in the right basket! 

At some point in our lives, we will all be faced with big questions.

To what cause will you devote your life?

In whom will you put your faith?

There will be alternatives to consider and a decision to be made, with each alternative presenting its own set of benefits and consequences. Not making a decision is one of the options, with its own benefits and consequences.

So how will you make your choice?

If you like looking at evidence as a basis for decision-making, look at Jesus.

Like Mr Witty, he was a leader who devoted his entire public ministry to providing health solutions, catering for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the people. Like Mr Witty, he upset the leaders of his community with his recommended strategy for success.

Jesus made a number of bold claims including the suggestion that he can deliver a fulfilled life, give peace, provide hope, and that he is the way to God.

Jesus said that everyone who wants access to God should put their faith in him.

He also said that he would die and be raised from the dead. The leaders of his time finally had enough and put paid to his career by executing him.

Mr Witty’s legacy remains in the uncertain hands of history, but Jesus’ legacy is secure.

True to his word, he died and was raised from the dead after three days, regularly remembered by over a billion people all over the world.

If you are looking for a proven basket in which to put your eggs, choose Jesus.