For all his professional successes – and there were many, in his tenures at Lederle Laboratories and Euro RSCG Becker as well as in his publishing and speaking endeavors – Flaum was first and foremost one of the industry’s genuinely kindest people.
“He always started conversations with, ‘How are you?’ and you couldn’t just say, ‘Fine.’ He wanted to know how you were really doing,” recalls Deb Stevens, who headed up human resources at Becker under Flaum’s leadership and remained a close friend until his death on December 11 at age 85. “There was no bigger advocate for, and fan of, all the people who worked with him.”
Indeed, there’s a case to be made for Flaum as the medical marketing industry’s foremost mentor. Jay Carter, EVP, director of business development at AbelsonTaylor recalls meeting Flaum in the earliest stages of his own career – when Carter was, in his own words, “a lowly account executive” at a different shop.
“Already a mover and a shaker, Sander made time to mentor a young and impressionable account guy,” Carter says. “Every time our paths crossed he remembered me, and was equally warm and kind.”
That decency was infused in his every interaction and a great deal of his work. It was evident in his extensive service on the boards of The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, The James Cancer Center at the OSU Medical Center and the Fordham University Graduate School of Business. It informed the books he wrote, which included “The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership,” co-authored with his son Jonathon, and “Boost Your Career: How to Make an Impact, Get Recognized and Build the Career You Want,” co-authored with his wife Mechele, who died in 2017. And it certainly played a huge part in his secondary career as an in-demand public speaker, during which he discussed his triumph over stuttering with grace and empathy.
“I wish more people knew how much he actually did for others, because he was not someone who put his name on everything he did,” Stevens says. That extended to colleagues past and present: “If he heard somebody in pharma lost their job, he was the first person to call. I mean, I ended up writing resumes for some of those people.”
A proudly type-A personality who ran five miles a day for much of his adult life, Flaum’s path to the hall of fame started at The Ohio State University (where he dual-majored in journalism and psychology) and in the military. Upon landing at Lederle, Flaum quickly became one of the company’s most respected in-house marketers, launching or restaging 80 products over the course of 18 years.
In 1988, Flaum transitioned to the agency world at Becker, where he rose to assume the role of chairman and CEO. Later, he founded and led Flaum Idea Group and Flaum Navigators. Among numerous other innovations, Flaum is credited with having devised the industry’s first adherence, patient-guarantee and indigent-patient programs.
“Sander embodied the pursuit of greatness in all aspects of his life and career, and this pursuit carried him to success after success,” says Calcium founder and chairman Steven Michaelson. “Even more importantly, Sander’s passion for greatness changed the way the industry markets its brands and inspired legions of individuals to live and work according to similarly high standards.”
Coming so soon after his death, Flaum’s MAHF induction is tinged with bittersweet. Even as his health failed him, Flaum was practicing the speech he planned to give at the organization’s annual gala. By all accounts, the honor meant the world to him.
And yet Stevens feels that the professional honor would have paled beside the personal tributes that came with it.
“Right until Thanksgiving, Sander was talking about people and clients and business,” she says. “I wish he were here to hear how much he meant to so many people across the industry.”