Dr. Tae Han Kim, the founding CEO of Samsung Biologics, began his career with Samsung nearly 40 years ago, working from the ground level up to the highest leadership positions throughout the conglomerate. Dr. Kim’s vision and expertise brought Samsung Biologics to the forefront as a world-class contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) committed to being the most trusted partner to its clients as it works to improve lives through biomedicine.
His extensive background in math and science has prepared him to support the mission of Samsung Biologics as a CDMO. He completed his postgraduate education at The University of Texas, earning a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1986 and a doctoral degree in the same field in 1988.
In 1995, Dr. Kim became the Samsung General Chemical department head. He moved up to executive vice president of Samsung Electronics in 2007, where he led the New Business and Bio Business teams. When Samsung diversified into the pharmaceutical business with Samsung Biologics in 2011, Dr. Kim took on the role of president and CEO. In 2018, he helped Samsung Biologics become the first to achieve ISO22301 certification in the biologics CMO industries through the British Standard Institution (BSI) certification body.
His personal drive, loyalty, and dedication has brought excellence to Samsung Biologics’ commitment to development, research, and manufacturing as an end-to-end service with the largest single-site capacity for biopharmaceutical innovation.
What does a typical day as a CEO look like, and how do you make it productive?
My day starts with meditation in an effort to live in the moment. I’m fully aware of how living in the past or future is far from productive and obscures the path forward. Learning from my mistakes is much more important than feeling regret or shame, and preparing for the future is much more important than feeling anxious about it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I analyze the idea for myself, consult with experts about it, and then consider it from multiple angles. If the idea is valuable, I think about how it should best materialize. I evaluate where the idea could be applied and how it relates to the bigger picture. I rely on a team of people to coordinate efforts and bring new insights to the table.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There’s more than one! I’m interested in new biopharma industry developments, particularly as it relates to prescriptions for Alzheimer’s disease. I believe that this sector of the economy has the power to improve the lives of countless people.
I’m also excited about how people achieve happiness in their lives. With more focus being placed on the pursuit of meaning, I’m interested in how that quest translates to consumer spending. How people derive value from both products and experiences will tell us a lot about where the economy is headed.
What is one skill of yours that made you more productive as a CEO?
My ability to stay focused on what matters. I use my experience to bolster my approach without letting fear of failure impede the way to success.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would remind myself that it’s the process that matters far more than the results. I regretted choosing the wrong major in college, but I found that I could still channel what I knew into a wide variety of fields. As long as I had a solid decision-making process, I could succeed in practically any endeavor.
What’s something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
The scale of my goals. One of the first statements I made was that my team and I would build a facility with the largest manufacturing capacity. Despite the pushback, I saw the potential. Ultimately, Samsung was rewarded by plunging in headfirst.
What is one thing that you recommend other CEOs do?
Trust the team you’ve built. If you believe in them enough to hire them, you need to believe that they can take the reins on your vision so you can focus on the next one.
What is one strategy that has helped you improve struggling businesses?
Beginning with the resources I have available to me. Before I try to acquire more employees or spend more money, I take advantage of what I already have. Maybe that means changing the configurations or redirecting people to other tasks. Even businesses that are seriously struggling likely have more to use than they realize.
What is one obstacle that you had as a CEO, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning of my career, I wasn’t completely aware of how important the client would be to the direction of the company. We develop all of our new services based on client feedback, which essentially means being able to pivot as quickly as they do. All the research in the world can only go so far toward anticipating what they need.
How have your business goals changed since you began?
I was once very concerned with the final decisions I made. I judged myself based on whether it was “right” or “wrong.” But the right decision doesn’t always look correct at first, and the same is true of the wrong decision. Today, I’m more concerned with how to perfect the execution of ideas and how I can maintain flexibility without compromising the original goals.
What is your main focus for the future?
Growing Samsung’s position within the industry. My goal is to build more facilities and improve the capabilities of those facilities to fulfill new demands in the industry. From testing to packaging, I want to consolidate client services so they can trust in Samsung for all their needs.