A Matter of Trust
As is often the case, Brown had challenges in the startup phase. Denied capital from banks, she used her severance pay and personal savings, and took out a second mortgage on her home to launch her venture. It took nearly 18 months of marketing her business and trying to meet with the right people before A10 landed its first piece of business—doing clinical study documentation for Talecris Biotherapeutics. “I was basically at my last dime and telling my children, ‘We’re going to be on a park bench soon.’ Because I had mortgaged everything.”
While those first contracts helped propel steady revenue growth for A10, scaling up was not entirely without its share of pain, as Brown will admit. “It took me too long to hire top management executives to the team,” she confesses. “So I was managing a lot of the business, and I was down in the weeds where I should not have been. My talents, which I soon realized, were not being in the weeds, but really being the strategist, the vision for the company, and the face of the company.” As the company was growing, Brown was handling functions herself such as accounting—which can be time-consuming with a company that routinely puts together large teams to handle clinical trials.
When a company doesn’t have the financial infrastructure and proper accounting processes in place, it’s a problem—even when revenues are increasing. Brown thought about hiring a team, but her fears crept in. “I’m growing a business, and now I have to turn over my accounts receivable, my money, to somebody I don’t know. That was hard. I had to give someone power to look into my bank account,” Brown recalls. “It was like, ‘OK, they’re going to come up, and they’re going to mess it up.’ They don’t care because it’s only a job.”