Global Clinical Connections
Anyone who has started their own business has it…that entrepreneurial spirit that burns inside them. It is the motivation for entrepreneurs to work harder and persevere. For Global Clinical Connections (GCC) founder and owner, Loretta Dubray, that entrepreneurial spirit was just waiting to get out. After years of preparation and hard work, Dubray turned an entrepreneurial idea into a successful small business.
Like many entrepreneurs, Dubray's small business started out as merely an idea. It was an idea she got after working for over 25 years in the pharmaceutical business. In the pharmaceutical industry, once a drug passes preliminary testing, it must go through clinical trials with human volunteers before it can move further along in the process. For many pharmaceutical companies, clinical trials are expensive and require large capital investment to cover the costs of doctors, testing, volunteers, etc. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies want to avoid costs resulting from failed trials. During her time in the pharmaceutical industry, Dubray noticed that many of the failed trials were the result of the issues specific to the "drug" such as labeling, processing, impurities, etc versus other trial related problems such as testing. While the costs related to the drug are often only 15% of the total for clinical trials, drug problems can result in much larger costs if these problems lead to failed trails.
In 2005, Dubray had the idea to start a consulting business helping pharmaceutical companies prepare their drugs for clinical trials. She called the Region 11 office of the Michigan Small Business and Development Center (MI-SBTDC) to get some help on her idea. She got in contact with Steven Dobbs, a regional director at the MI-SBTDC at the time, who worked with her creating a business plan. "The idea had always been on the back burner," admitted Dubray, "But Steven was really great about talking about the idea with me and forcing me to think about the business plan. Working on a business plan was really important because it made me think through all of the parts of my business that would be important to our success."
Dubray knew that the idea needed more work and decided to continue to develop the business plan. She started attending MI-SBTDC classes regularly. "The classes are a great resource for people starting a business. They are nominally priced and they can be a valuable part of starting your small business," replied Dubray.
She continued to formulate the business plan, working, and attending classes from 2005 until 2008. Dubray spent much of her time identifying possible strengths and weaknesses of the business. In October 2008, Dubray launched GCC with 2 full-time employees and a small number of clients. Soon, the number of clients grew and so did the business. Subsequently in 2009, Dubray signed up to attend the MI-SBTDC’s "Fiscal Fitness” class taught in Region 11 by MI-SBTDC consultant John Schmitt. Like many small business owners, Dubray had some questions about her financial information. Knowing the importance of this information, she was proactive in taking the class. “I did not want to wait to find out something was wrong," said Dubray.
After the class, Dubray started to meet with Schmitt on a regular basis to ask for help with various parts of the business. "John has been really helpful in asking the tough questions about our finances. He really emphasized good sound accounting practices for us." In addition, Schmitt helped Dubray with creating a budget for the year, monitoring the income and expenses and projecting cash flows. As many of the MI-SBTDC clients have found, Dubray appreciates being able to bounce other ideas to John when she needs some honest feedback. "He even came to the company's annual meeting to answer questions from our staff members," Dubray responded.
GCC has been able to grow steadily since it was started just over a year and half ago. GCC now offers a variety of services to pharmaceutical clients who want to make sure their drugs are high quality and compliant with regulations. GCC pays close attention to the details to help prevent any risk of trial failures from drug problems. As the business has grown, Dubray has been able to assemble a multi-disciplinary team to help in mitigating all the different risks faced by their clients. An unexpected benefit has been the development of their internship program. "It has been really great to develop this program because our internship team is an important part of this company," exclaimed Dubray. "Our interns work right in the field with us contributing their great talents while they are able to gain some valuable experience."
Dubray is a self-proclaimed "big fan" of the MI-SBTDC and their programs especially their classes. She would know…she has even started to take classes twice. "Revisiting classes is really helpful because you can learn something new depending on what phase of the business you are in," said Dubray. "Taking advantage of this great asset we have in the state of Michigan is important." She also has some advice for people looking to start a small business. "Never give up on your idea or be afraid to ask for help. And think everything through carefully."