Executive Suite: Mary Lavin, Sartorius Group

Mary Lavin, president and chief executive of the Mary Lavin, president and chief executive of the North America division of Sartorius, a Germany-based supplier of laboratory and filtration products to the biopharmaceutical industry. (July 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Economic uncertainty in Europe hasn't stopped growth plans for Germany-based Sartorius, a supplier of laboratory and filtration products to the biopharmaceutical industry, said Mary Lavin, 50, president and general manager for North America.

Lavin began her 24-year tenure at Sartorius as an accountant, which helped her understand the company's bottom line and responsibility to shareholders on the French and German stock exchanges.

After establishing herself, she returned to Dowling College for a master's degree in business. She also volunteered for multinational projects, which she said allowed her cultural collaboration skills to shine. In March 2002, she became the first woman senior executive in the 140-year-old company.

What's your goal for growth in the United States?

Our overall strategy is to grow the company to 2 billion euros, and North America is a significant part of that growth. So we are looking to substantially grow the business, double the business for the U.S. at least, [since] much of the decision-making for the biopharmaceutical industry is done in the U.S. This is where biotechnology products started, and the largest biotechnology companies are based in the U.S., so innovation comes from the U.S.

What do you watch that most affects the biopharmaceutical industry?

We look closely at how many drugs are being developed in Phase I, Phase II, Phase III [trials]. That is a very, very important indicator for our industry.

When your lease was up in 2008 and your building was sold, you wanted to stay on Long Island and worked hard with Suffolk County, the Industrial Development Agency and the Town of Islip. What made you stay?

We were able to get the sales tax rebates for all the investments we made in the first year in the [new] facility and some property tax rebates on the facility. The most important reason we stayed in New York was because of our people, our employees. I think it's been one of the reasons that we're successful: We're able to bring in new people, but we're also able to retain people who know what's going on, and that helps us grow.

What's your advice to women on building a career?

I would say performance. Just like anything, you have to put in the time and the commitment to be successful, whether you're running a company or you're a staff accountant or running the local basketball league. You have to be present.

What are your tips on building a good management team?

When you make someone responsible for something, let them be responsible. Let them build up their team and give them trust . . . Most people succeed when you give them the confidence -- not that they're not going to make mistakes, because we all make mistakes -- but if you give them the responsibility, most people thrive.

Corporate snapshot

Name: Mary Lavin, president and general manager for North America, Sartorius Group in Bohemia.

What it does: Provide equipment, unit operation and process designs and supplies to the global biopharmaceutical industry.

Employees: 4,000 worldwide, 600 U.S., 115 on Long Island.

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Roles they play: Sales support, customer service, purchasing, quality control, repair technicians, training, marketing, accounting, human resources

Revenue: $200 million

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