By Wayne Faulkner
Talk about racking up the miles.
Business partners David Rock III and Drew Massey spend a lot of time on the “road” – frequent flyers to Bangalore and Dubai and any number of other locations abroad and in the United States.
It’s part of running what loosely could be called a meeting planning company – Paragon International Inc.
But they say their Wilmington-based company off Oleander Drive is much more than that.
It’s highly specialized for a true niche market – producing clinical investigator meetings for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and the contract research organizations like PPD that partner with them.
“When a drug company or biotech company has a formula that they (want to bring to market), they go through the clinical trial process to get it approved,” Rock explained – “enrolling patients, recording the data, monitoring the patients’ condition.
“There’s typically a meeting at the front end of this where they bring all the doctors and investigators and study coordinators together,” he said.
“They want to train them all the same way at the same time so that the patients are treated almost exactly the same.”
Those meetings are what Paragon produces.
Rock and Massey say “produce” because Paragon does more than set up the meetings – which will total 60 to 70 this year, about 30 percent abroad.
Paragon, which has eight full-time employees and about 35 people as subcontractors, has grown 10 percent to 12 percent every year since 2003, when Rock bought the company that his father started in the mid-1990s in Raleigh.
“What we do is everything else but get up and make the presentations,” Rock said.
Paragon just did a meeting in Bangalore, India, with 50 doctors. There will be almost 300 at a meeting next week in Chicago. They’ve had as many as 450 participants and the average meeting, Rock said, has between 100 and 150 people.
Paragon management is involved on site and in person before the conference begins and throughout the whole meeting, Rock and Massey said.
Rock said that the meetings can cost clients up to several hundred thousand dollars “because of the complexity, because of the difficulty of bringing people from all different parts of the world to one general location.”
As much as Massey and Rock need to know about their clients and what they do, there’s nothing about pharmaceutical firms or clinical trials in either’s background.
Rock said he got his high school diplomas as he graduated from boot camp.
When he got out of the military, the aviation enthusiast “had to bar tend all week and work in construction just to get two hours of flight time.”
He then worked for a marine research center, running a submarine in the Bahamas for about a year.
“I came back to Wilmington, got married and had to find something to do.”
That brought him into the insurance industry, which led into financial services.
“I knew what it was like to be in the service industry.”
So does Massey.
At 17 he was managing 16 movie theaters.
He tended bar at the Port City Chop House as he finished his degree at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business.
After college, Massey went to work as an insurance agent for Rock’s company.
Then Rock came to him with the idea of taking over the meeting-planning business.
“There’s a lot of accountability for a small shop,” Massey said, “but we play with the big pharma companies.”
So every detail is key.
Whether the hotel is a Motel 6 or a Ritz Carlton, Rock said, “what I’m more concerned with is that it is an appropriate venue – it’s comfortable, it’s clean, the food’s good.
You can have the best audio visuals for the meeting, but if the food isn’t good, he said, “it’s not going to go over well.”
Content from Wilmington Star News Online, published June 12, 2012.