Adrienne Williams is Founder, CEO and President of Scarritt Group Inc., Source 360 Inc., and Scarritt China. Adrienne started Scarritt Group out of her home 21 years ago. In 2019 the company organized and operated over 300 meetings, employing 65 people worldwide. Scarritt Group, Scarritt China and Source 360’s primary mission is supporting clinical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies through Investigator Meetings, Patient Concierge Services, Patient Recruitment, Virtual Site Initiation Visits, and Patient Education Videos.
Coming from the hotel business, Adrienne was inspired to launch a meeting planning company - Scarritt Group. After seeing the lifesaving results her Dad experienced having been enrolled in a trial for Parkinson’s Disease, she wanted to support clinical trials. Adrienne decided to use her education and expertise to contribute to the clinical trial space by supporting investigator and advisory board meetings which are integral to developing new medications.
Adrienne’s vision has been to surround herself with experts and mentors who helped lead her to develop one of the best virtual platforms in the business four years ago. With COVID 19, Adrienne quickly pivoted the companies to virtual services, repurposing Scarritt team members to market and prospect new clients. Many of Scarritt’s competitors have either closed or paused their businesses while Scarritt has created a large back log of business on its books. Existing clients who are restarting research have turned to Scarritt for virtual solutions based on the trust and confidence Scarritt has earned over the years for being innovative, trustworthy and capable. Adrienne’s vision is to come out of the pandemic stronger with a wider base of clients and a full suite of virtual services that will compliment face to face services as the “new normal” takes shape.
Q: What inspired you to found Scarritt Group and what were the main challenges you faced?
Working in Sales in the hotel business and helping companies book their business, I identified a specific need in helping clients book hotels and I decided to start my own company. I made my niche working with pharmaceutical companies, booking meetings for clinical trials after seeing my father improve drastically by enrolling in a clinical trial for Parkinson’s Disease. I witnessed first-hand the positive impact clinical trials, and I was inspired to become involved and make a difference in my own small way through the assistance of organizing investigator meetings.
In terms of challenges – Wow! Many challenges come to mind throughout my more than twenty years with Scarritt Group. From being a female and facing the glass ceiling in my industry to the ongoing balancing of my professional and personal life, as a spouse, mom, and daughter; while providing an evolving organizational vision and direction to a team of amazing professionals that have trusted their careers and livelihoods to me.
Q: Can you tell us about your leadership at Starwood Hotels and some of the initiatives you led?
I held various senior positions at Starwood Hotels, including operations at the Five Star/Five Diamond Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, AZ where I championed the critical elements of these prestigious ratings.
I think the most significant initiative followed the Phoenician. I was asked by Starwood’s Regional VP to work at the El Conquistador in Tucson on a sales mission to improve the resorts overall revenue. When I got there, I realized that the lagging revenue was due in part to deficiencies in the quality of the hotel services. The resort had the lowest JP Power score in the company. So if I was to succeed I would need a solution to the quality issue since selling the hotel usually meant bringing prospective guests to the property for them to experience the operation; and good word of mouth was critical in booking group business. I knew the person I needed to help me implement the needed improvements in operations, so I asked the Regional VP to transfer him from the Phoenician to the El Conquistador as Director of Operations.
We worked tirelessly together to address the service quality issues our clients were experiencing. In one year the El Conquistador had the number one JD Powers rating in the company! We did it by embracing the southwest theme the resort emulated, empowering and engaging the staff, and making them a part of the solutions across the board to improve product, service and revenue. I became the number one salesperson in the company encouraging the staff around the resort to awe and exceed the expectations of my prospective clients. The staff was motivated and had tremendous ownership with each and every customer because we were enrolled as a team to make the resort successful and profitable. The staff made it a big success story! I follow the same basic approach with my company now.
Q: In your opinion, what are some key opportunities in meeting planning and logistics management going forward?
Being a meeting planning company, where 75% of our meetings were face to face, COVID19 had a massive impact on our work and business model. We are redesigning and revamping our organization to focus on Scarritt’s Virtual Conference Center and hybrid delivery. We have an opportunity to improve gamification in the virtual world as a tool to engage our audiences. In addition, with a hybrid environment, there are two attendee populations, in-person and virtual. We are striving to develop new methods designing engaging environments to merge these groups together in order to create networking opportunities.
White glove service takes on a new mission. Conference Registration hand holds all the attendees to make sure their browser settings are optimal for audio and video capabilities. Registration walks through user guidelines with all the attendees to assure they know how to navigate the conference center successfully. Technicians stand by to help attendees log on day of the meeting and troubleshoot any issues. Presenters go through training and coaching to present on the virtual conference center. There are expert moderators to back up presenter during meetings so they can focus on the content. We are creating lots of goodwill that will carry us forward into the future post Covid19. Attendees and clients are so pleased with this level of service.
Expertise in planning a virtual meeting is critical. How do you take an in-person meeting and re-work it into a virtual setting achieving a high level of engagement. We ask ourselves this question continuously through our planning process. We have clients hesitating moving to virtual meetings from a face to face. But by the time we get halfway through the planning process with them they are usually excited about how their meeting will turn out. That is our goal! I think there will be some clients that remain with virtual meetings even as the pandemic comes to an end based on the high success rate of well- planned and immersive virtual meetings.
Q: What are some unique aspects of the meeting planning space?
The meeting planning space is all about having a burning desire to make our clients feel that we are there to anticipate and take care of their needs, make their lives easier, to make sure their guests - the attendees, have a seamless and comfortable experience while they are away from their homes. It takes a non-stoppable commitment to take care of others and meet their overall needs, from a cup of their favorite coffee or tea, to the most sophisticated audio-visual equipment and cutting-edge technology. Organizational skills, project management, ability to juggle multiple items at a time, think quickly on your feet, and being solution oriented are our daily bread and butter.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Structurally, we have had several business models that have evolved with our clients’ needs or business forecast (environment conditions). We are in the process of revamping our business model as a result of the pandemic. The vision is simple; we are committed to providing an unparalleled customer experience.
Our focus is to grow revenue, not through inflated pricing, but by creating volume and diluting customer concentration through referrals. Strong networking and word of mouth has been our biggest marketing strategy through the last two decades.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
The heart and passion of what helps me get out of bed every day and continue this work is that I would like to think that I make a contribution by playing a small part in the clinical trials that help bring new treatments to people around the world.
I plan to continue to embrace change and create opportunities out of challenges which will help grow Scarritt Group, Scarritt China, and Source 360. The goal being to offer jobs that allow team members to be creative and feel empowered; whereby the result is multimillion-dollar enterprises providing rewarding careers at a global level.
Our mission is to create the best experience for our clients by anticipating their needs and being solution oriented; thus, building trust through proven repeated results. We have a saying in our office, “we are only as good as our last meal served.”
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
If I can only mention “one woman” who has impacted by life, it would definitely be my mother. She was a teacher by trade, not a corporate executive. She is a strong and determined woman who was raised on a farm in Iowa ….. honest, hardworking, unstoppable, inspirational …. She drove me. She always told me, “it’s all grist through the mill,” meaning to make something positive out of everything that came my way.
In the professional world, I had the fortunate opportunity of working for and learning from Jennifer Fox. She was the only female General Manager, out of the 700 hotels. She was captivating and had a way of engaging the teams. She inherently understood what needed to be done, was a quick study and had an uncanny ability to enroll her teams to collaborate, strategize and overcome challenges. She had an extremely strong presence. She had a very profound influence on me which helped define my path.
Q: What are your favorite books?
I have many! Here are some favorites …..
I really enjoy reading Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank. “Cold Hard Truth: on Business, Money and Life” is a great read about entrepreneurship, business, and life. It follows the principle of hard work.
When I am looking for a fun read, I follow Robert Ludlum. I love The Bourne Trilogy series. I am fascinated by thriller spy stories!
Another great book that I actually read with my children is “Michael Vey, The Prisoner of Cell 25.” It is just a great story with great lessons for kids, presented in a way that they actually enjoy reading.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts; our recipe for success has been: Hard work, perseverance, willingness to take on the smallest job and do it better than anyone else all with a desire to make your clients and their attendees happy. That sets us apart from the competition. The quote: “People may forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Find mentors, and eventually, become a mentor to others.
Believe in yourself! Be bold! Take chances! Be authentic! Work hard! Make time to network and make others feel special.
One of my mentors in particular stands out – Alan Fuerstman. He taught me the importance of surrounding myself with experts who are better than myself. He gave me the belief in myself as an entrepreneur!