The Little Company That Can

By Bob Grant

Photo by Catherine Ledner

Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a 20-year-old biopharmaceutical company based in San Diego, broke into our top ten last year and is the only small company to retain its Top Small Company ranking (seventh place) while growing significantly over the last two years. In 2005, Amylin netted $206 million, brought two first-in-class diabetes drugs to market, and has added 721 new employees over the last two years.

So how does this little company grow so much while remaining a great place to work?

The answer is simple: Amylin employees, no matter how large their company gets, take great pride in their work. Christian Weyer,...

Not only do Amylin employees take personal stock in their work, but also they are encouraged to enjoy a well-established culture of openness, humor, and cohesiveness at the company. Jamie Smelser, a manager in the comparative medicine group, says that the absence of stringent corporate hierarchy at Amylin is one key to the company's success. "[Management] maintains an open-door policy," she says. "Not only are they receptive to people's opinions, they actively solicit them."

Of course, a little fun doesn't hurt either. "There are a lot of opportunities to mix and interact with people from all over the company," says Smelser. "I've been very impressed with the efforts to keep morale up."

In true Amylin style, the German-born Weyer was willing to go the extra mile in keeping that morale up, impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger at a recent all-employee meeting. "We don't take ourselves too seriously," says Weyer, "But what really makes a difference is the vision of having grandchildren and being able to tell them, ??I have contributed to two first-in-class diabetes drugs that have helped millions of people.'"

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