Three senior managers in a large multinational contract research organization wanted a change in life and work styles. They envisioned a less profit-driven, more people-oriented work environment that included flexible work schedules, a focus on staff training and development, and a generally pleasant atmosphere. So they started their own contract research company, Trident Clinical Research, that organizes and coordinates clinical trials for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device clients. The company provides assistance with study design, regulatory requirements, and quality control and assurance, and trains hospital and investigative staff involved with clinical trials.
Since opening in 1997, Trident has built its reputation on performance, professionalism and cost effectiveness. As word of its stellar work has spread, the company has moved from conducting small projects for local clients to running large projects for international clients that include most of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies, according to Garth Tierney, managing director and cofounder.
Tierney attributes much of the company’s success to its ability to attract and retain experienced staff. Trident has had no staff turnover in six years, and its employees have an average of 8 1/2 years of industry experience, both of which are virtually unheard of in the industry, according to Tierney.
He explains that while many contract research organizations require employees to work full time and are very profit driven, Trident focuses on longer-term profits and the company’s future. Things like flexible part-time schedules for staff and paying overtime to salaried workers help build a dedicated team, Tierney says. "It’s about looking after our staff."
Staff stability helps the company in two major ways. First, it impresses clients: "Clients know our people are skilled and stable and they’ll have the same staff right through [a project] — that helps us greatly," Tierney says. Second, investments made in training and development aren’t lost because the skills stay in house.
Trident has built its client base by tailoring its services to clients’ needs and providing personnel where they are needed. Trident’s regional offices throughout Australia minimize travel time and airfare charges to clients. The result, according to Tierney, is superior service at low cost. In addition, Trident gives clients total control over their research projects. "We come in and work on a project with their project managers," Tierney says. "We represent their company and their best interests. Our early customers are still our customers today."
One of those customers confirmed in a reference letter to a prospective client that Trident provides superior work. "Without a doubt, my first choice of CRO (contract research organization) for conducting clinical research in Australia is TCR," the long-time client said, citing the scientific training, interpersonal skills and common sense of Trident staff.
"We’ve built a fantastic reputation in the local industry," Tierney says. And Todd Street Business Chambers has helped the company expand that reputation. Although the company’s management team now knows it wants to work with more international firms, the team hadn’t yet defined its focus for growth when Trident joined the incubator in June 2001. "We hadn’t done any real business planning," Tierney admits. Incubator Manager Lynette Hay helped the company begin planning right from the start with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and other business planning questions and activities. "Lyn’s support has been very good. We’ve got a strategic plan and a better idea of where we need to go and how to get there," Tierney says.
The incubator also has helped Trident by making facility and service improvements to accommodate the company’s need to meet International Organization for Standardization (ISO) quality assurance standards. Todd Street Business Chambers used ISO benchmarks to offer office accommodations that comply with occupational health and safety standards and that provide archiving facilities and 24-hour building security procedures, Hay says. Other incubator clients also benefit from these improvements, which include improved reception and administrative support.
Todd Street Business Chambers’ assistance is paying off in a big way. Gross revenues increased from $670,233 to more than $1.6 million over the first two years in the incubator, and staff size more than doubled, from nine part-time, one full-time and five casual (intermittent) staff to 31 full- and part-time employees across Australia.
Hay nominated Trident for the Outstanding Incubator Client award because of the company’s growth, Tierney’s task- and people-focused management style, and the company’s commitment to the incubator’s business development and support programs and willingness to share expertise and opportunities with others. "Garth Tierney understood the role that the incubator could perform to support his business plans and accelerate his company growth," she says.
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