The Vitamin Shoppe’s GC sheds light on some creative methods she uses to get employees excited about regulations, and how to expand career horizons using stretch goals
Jean Frydman serves as the Senior Vice President of Legal, General Counsel (GC), Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) at Vitamin Shoppe Inc. She has steeped in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years, more than 20 of which have been invested as legal counsel for law firms and corporations.
Prior to her career in the legal field, Frydman worked in a laboratory setting, both in regulatory affairs and as a medical technologist. She explained her transition to law: “I love science and I like the medical aspect of it, but as a medical technologist you are on a bench pretty much all day. And, I had learned fairly early on that I was more oriented to be around people.”
Frydman wanted a more active role in policies and regulations, as well to stretch outside of her comfort zone. So, in 1991, she broadened her career and transitioned into the legal space.
Appreciation for Compliance
Frydman has a unique affinity for regulations. “What drew me to the regulatory field was the need for rules around the science and what we put out on the market,” she said. “And there was a tremendous need for somebody who knew how to interpret [the rules] or do things a little bit differently so you could still be within the regulations.”
Rules and creative compliance are Frydman’s forte. It takes a large measure of outside-the-box thinking and tenacity to position a pharmaceutical or nutritional supplement company’s affairs in such a way that they stay compliant with federal regulations yet still meet their organizational goals. Frydman was up for the task. “I found that challenging,” she said. “A little bit of a puzzle to solve.”
As CCO at Vitamin Shoppe, Frydman fully understands the need for complying with legal protocols and regulations. “[Companies] need to have a very robust compliance program in place,” not only for when “they are in trouble,” but also to preempt legal hassles down the road. Having a solid compliance program in place will enable the company to work more prophylactically and be better prepared for any investigations that outside agencies might conduct.
During her pharmaceutical industry tenure, because of the strict laws around pharmaceutical sales and the stiff penalties that ensue for violations, Frydman has deemed it crucial to get the sales team to work within regulations. This can be a challenging task because of the commission-based nature of sales and the often zealous nature of salespersons.
Companies can be slow to embrace a compliance program, but Frydman uses creative measures to get everyone on board. One of the ways she has sparked employees’ interest in regulations is through competition. She created a quarterly compliance newsletter to inform and motivate the team. It worked. “Managers were competing to be featured in the newsletter,” she said. “It was inspirational.”
Knowing that the sales force thrives on competition, she also created an elaborate ‘Jeopardy!’ game that features questions on various areas of compliance, such as clinical trials, kickbacks and false advertising. Sales force teams nationwide compete against each other, which generates excitement while simultaneously encouraging the salespersons to learn, embrace and implement the regulations.
Frydman has applied numerous “stretch goals” to advance and hone her career. Stretch goals are those that cause one to stretch well outside of a personal comfort zone—an uncomfortable but fruitful practice. Although she started in regulatory law, Frydman chose to take on other legal areas to broaden her knowledge base. While some attorneys elect to narrow their niche to increase their value, Frydman opted to widen her scope to better prepare herself to become a GC. She prefers to be a generalist versus a specialist.
To create new stretch goals, Frydman identifies areas in which she is lacking and then focuses on obtaining the knowledge or experience needed to fill in the gaps. She has incrementally and effectively expanded her knowledge and skills, securing her spot in the field of corporate law.
“Believe me, it wasn’t easy,” she acknowledged. “It was painful. There were times and situations that I probably went a little over my head. I had to work harder, but I took the risk and it has landed me where I am today.”
Leading a Lean Legal Team
At Vitamin Shoppe, Frydman leads a legal team that is leaner than she’d like given the hefty set of tasks to accomplish and oversee. How does the leader and her staff manage and succeed? Frydman explained her tried-and-true, no-frills approach to handling the stress and accomplishing her tasks: elbow grease.
“I work very hard,” she said. “I put in the hours that are required to do the job.” Compartmentalizing and prioritizing are key as well, she added.
“The law is a very rewarding field. It’s been quite a ride,” Frydman said. “[My career] has enabled me to have the privilege to work with a tremendous amount of different professionals. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’ve been a very fortunate person.”
This leading legal lady encourages those contemplating law as a career: “The law is something that always seems to enter into just about everything in business and in life. So, if you want to be involved, I think it’s a profession that allows you to do that.” ♦
Changing Times for Women in Corporate America
Frydman has witnessed notable change for women in the professional world over the past 30 years.
- Fashion of choice: “When I started out in Corporate America, we basically had to dress like men to be considered seriously.”
- Few women in management.
- Rigid work schedules.
- Fashion of choice: “Now we certainly don’t have to dress like men. We can be who we are.”
- Women have gone up the ranks in management. “Shareholders and the public don’t look too kindly upon companies who don’t have women at the top.”
- More companies embrace flex time, which benefits women who balance home and career.
Even though the nation as a whole is making progress, corporate culture still has a ways to go until there is a completely level playing ground for men and women, according to Frydman. Changes to come may include more women serving on boards and as Chief Executive Officers, and a more proportionate distribution of family and career responsibilities amongst men and women.
Jean's Key Partners:Litter (Employment Law)
Professional profiles, photojournalism, and legal writing are Sunny's specialties; her personal, creative, edgy approach makes her stand apart in the industry. Her clientele has included over three dozen law firms around the country; international businesses such as LiveStrong and Howcast; American favorites like Family Fun and Natural News; and regional publications such as Rutherford Woman and Conch Color.
As a mom of six, fitness enthusiast, and self-employed business woman, she stays busy in her island home with her middle school sweetheart and husband Michael, and makes time to travel regularly. If she's not jogging on down the islands, shooting an event, or writing up a storm, you can find her at Sunfire Creatives or on Facebook.
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