From Entry Level To CEO, Owner: Cara Brant’s Trial To The Top
How many people do you know that in 18 years move from an entry level spot into the CEO position at the same company?
A more apt question: how many women do you know who do this when it is not a family company? And how many buy the company too?
Cara Brant, the first female C-level executive of Clinical Trial Media, a global clinical trial patient recruitment and retention company, has made the remarkable move from an entry level position to owning and running the firm that finds eligible volunteers for all kinds of research trials.
“We’re not talking about Stage IV cancer trials every day, we are talking about back pain and acne, as well as trials for jet lag or Botox for migraines,” Brant explains. The company also works on recruiting for trials on everything from baldness to wrinkles as well.
After graduating from Ithaca College in 2000 with a degree in marketing and advertising, Brant became administrative assistant to the CEO of a marketing and public relations firm in Manhattan. It was not at all what she wanted to do. After 10 months, she interviewed at Clinical Trial Media, and now occupies the top spot.
“I went to a woman at the company who said I should leave because there is nowhere for women to go here,” Brant recalls. “But I said I would stay as long as I am learning every day. If not, I will go. I have stayed my whole career.”
Her path and climb to the top is highly unusual.
“Of the CEOs who lead the companies that make up the 2018 Fortune 500 list, out today, just 24 are women,” according to CNBC. “That number is down 25 percent from last year’s record-breaking 32 female CEOs, the highest share of women since the Fortune’s first 500 list in 1955. While women were at the helm of 6.4 percent of the companies on 2017’s list, that number is now down to 4.8 percent.”
When she began, Brant says the staff was small, with one sales person and two assistants, no project manager and no separate departments. Now the company has 25 employees, she says.
When she first began, Brant says women were “put in the bracket of administrative and every man that came in was in the first month asked if he was interested in sales.”
Brant adds, “I found I was going to have to work harder and prove what I could do. There were lots of opportunities to step in and fill gaps. I saw all the areas where I could add value.”
Straddling two positions of program manager and sales, Brant says she had no training and no mentorship, deciding she “had to show my value.” She adds, “You have to make yourself invaluable to the organization.”
Working then with owners who Brant says were amicable but “risk averse,” she says her plan to take the company in a different direction on tech platforms was not well-received.
“I’m confident, not afraid of mistakes,” Brant says. “I felt like I was holding myself back and there was nothing else to learn.” So she left Clinical Trial Media for a hiatus from 2016- 2018 after serving as vice president of operations and then chief operating officer.
“I discovered yoga, looked at my life and was wrestling with starting my own company. I kept coming back to this industry.” Brant adds, “I love what we are trying to do, help people who are suffering and I recognized that.”
The clinical trial industry is under the healthcare umbrella and it matches patients and individuals with clinical research. Brant says 80 percent of clinical trials “never get finished or are delayed.” Clinical Trial Media says it is the industry leading vendor in patient recruitment providers.
“The global clinical trials market size was valued at $40 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at a growth rate of 5.7 period over the forecast period,” according to Grand View Research. “Key drivers impacting the market growth are globalization of clinical trials, development of new treatments such as personalized medicine, augmenting evolution in technology, and boosting demand for CROs to conduct clinical trials,” according to the report.
It is an industry where Brant saw and continues to see enormous potential.
Coming back to Clinical Trial Media in 2018, Brant bought the company and became CEO.
“Most people do not know clinical research is happening everywhere around them every day,” Brant says.
And the failure to complete the research is based on fears and lack of information on clinical trials. “My new mission is to break down those myths,” Brant says. “Then we can increase the number of people and bring new medications and treatments to market faster.“
Some of the fears about clinical research are connected to a deep mistrust of large pharmaceutical companies. Brant says, “This side is science, research and people who spend their lives focused on diseases. This research happens long before the commercial side of things.”
The urgency of the work Brant does with Clinical Trial Media is about the future of many fields in health, from genetics to neuroscience and more.
“We have a job here to change the way people take medications,” Brant says. “The people participating in these studies are heroes. It takes their times and every little thing they are doing helps. It is for a greater good.”
So what advice does Brant offer for women in the entry level or mid-career points of their paths, aiming for the C-suite, as she has accomplished?
Drown out the noise of everyone around you. “Even the loved ones who want to protect you need to know that as a woman if you are going for it, you are going to get hurt. If you decide to go for it, you can’t do it just a little bit.”
Ask a lot of questions. “The more you roll your sleeves up and understand nothing will be handed to you, you can stay the course.”
3. Don’t try to be like the men. “You have special, natural instincts and skillsets. Maybe the way you do things is different for a man in your office, but do not try to copy a style that is not normal for you. And do not apologize for it.”
4. There’s no right or wrong answer in business. “It’s about coming up with solutions to solve a problem. Do it your way.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com