As CEO of ExperTrials, a small Contract Research Organization, you have chosen to lead your company by promoting horizontal management. Why is that so?
I worked as a Clinical Research Associate for several years in two big CROs before starting my own business in 2011. I was astounded by how compartmentalized things were there. The division of tasks was pushed to extremes. Big CROs are obsessed with productivity and turn CRAs into robots.
The different tasks CRAs have to accomplish are divided into silos: one Clinical Research Associate is in charge of startup activities, another one takes care of monitoring. And even within monitoring, several CRAs can be appointed to cover just one of the several visits needed within the same research site – from site selection to monitoring and close-out visits. This is not right: it dehumanizes the work CRAs do! And it makes it difficult for the site’s team to keep being enthusiastic about the trial. You have to keep in mind that the results of a clinical trial are strongly connected to how motivated the research site’s team is.
When I started ExperTrials, it was clear I would go with horizontal leadership. It is more team-focused and involves collaboration and connection, which make perfect sense to me. It recognizes the potential and creativity of every team member. We use streamlined communication to be able to communicate more effectively: this kind of agility is greatly appreciated by our clients who are mostly startups with prompt decision-making process.
« Being able to favor horizontal leadership is one of the reasons why I created ExperTrials. » – Aurélie Weiss-Guimet, CEO and Founder of ExperTrials
How do you think a Clinical Research Associate should be able to work?
Asking CRAs to accomplish only one specific task within a trial makes no sense: having a global overview of a clinical trial, on the contrary, is essential to its success. That success is only possible if the same Clinical Research Associate covers all the trial’s steps, starting with the site selection and then going on to the initiation visit, all the way to the close-out. Asking CRAs to stick with just one task within a trial is a waste of their abilities. It makes them lose any kind of motivation.
« CRAs are key players in helping maintain the integrity of a clinical trial by monitoring a site’s practices. » – Aurélie Weiss-Guimet, CEO and Founder of ExperTrials
The working relationship the Clinical Research Associate establishes with the site’s team is essential, too. We are talking about people here – patients and clinical teams who are on the same boat. Easy communication and trust have to be built between the Clinical Research Associate and the site’s team for the trial to run smoothly. Being able to refer to the same Clinical Research Associate from start to finish makes things smoother for the team: they can ask whatever question they need regarding the protocol and build a trust-based working relationship with the Clinical Research Associate. CRAs, in turn, build up their knowledge and confidence by being dedicated to a specific clinical trial.
Your business model is based on valuing your team. Can you tell us more?
People are what is most valuable within a company. I founded ExperTrials with a priority in mind: giving our team members the chance to develop to their full potential. I do not want CRAs, or any team member for that matter, to repeat the same tasks over and over again. I want CRAs to have the chance to follow a clinical trial every step of the way. This is how we ensure the trial’s quality: no information is lost juggling between CRAs. We can rely on the one Clinical Research Associate dedicated to the project. This allows us to cut down on paperwork and reporting, too, which can be a massive waste of time and energy.
Of course, as a CEO, I share my business vision with the team. Each team member can contribute to different aspects of the business (communication, business development, etc.) and is asked to multitask if needed. Each of them has a stake in the company’s sucess. I really cherish this horizontal management, which is the exact opposite of how big CROs function!
« I listen to what every person has to say and the company grows from those contributions. » – Aurélie Weiss-Guimet, CEO and Founder of ExperTrials
Are there any limits to your business model?
Looking at it from the outside, clients with a more traditional perspective might think there is a difference between employees and consultants. But there isn’t really! My team is as dedicated as the next! This is why I recruited each of them: I can rely on their total commitment to our clients and the clinical trials we take on. Our business model is rather new and we might have to educate sponsors about how we work. I do it with pleasure, explaining all the benefits they get from working with a small-sized CRO.