As an entrepreneur in the medical field, Brian Wardynski understands that the stakes are high. Wardynski, 34, owns Vanguard Clinical Research in Fort Myers, a research lab that tests medications before they come onto the market. “A site can make a huge difference in how
quickly a medication gets approved or is determined to not be effective,” Wardynski says. For conditions with no cure, including narcolepsy and Tourette’s syndrome, clinical research trials are hugely important. “Even though research isn’t a treatment, it’s some patients’ only hope,” Wardynski says.
From a business perspective, the stakes are equally high. Medical research work is contractual, and it’s often feast or famine. “We can have a lot of protocols and studies starting at once— then we can have nothing for a long period of time,” Wardynski says. This can be problematic for a business owner trying to make payroll, especially one who employs a highly skilled workforce.
This puts medical labs in a Catch-22 position. The sites that receive the most contracts from pharmaceutical companies are often the bigger labs, such as the one Wardynski used to manage, which had 40 employees. But when those sites catch a drought, the company has to deal with 40 highly paid staff on the payroll.
When the nation went into lockdown with the pandemic in the middle of March 2020, medical research took a big hit. Contracts at labs across
the country were cancelled, and Vanguard lost all of its projects. “It was terrifying for me as a business owner,” Wardynski says. While COVID-19 almost killed his business, the virus also resurrected it. In the fall of 2020, Vanguard was contracted to begin clinical trials of an oral therapeutic to treat the virus.
Ultimately, the pandemic provided Wardynski with a good lesson in entrepreneurship. “You have to try not to be so scared that you’re paralyzed,” he says. “If you’re paralyzed, you’re not going to take the chances you need to achieve the next level of success.”
Wardynski’s route to entrepreneurship reads like a roadmap for aspiring business owners. He began working in a medical laboratory in an entry-level position, and within two years he had risen to manager. It wasn’t long before he knew he wanted to own his own lab. Along the way, he discovered an important quality of leadership that would serve him well in his own business: learning to be comfortable with being alone when stress was at its highest. “I realized the people around me weren’t feeling the same risk I was,” he says. “They ultimately didn’t have to pay for their decisions in the same way that I did.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Wardynski suggests taking a step back from the opinions of others. Successful business owners have to be able to self-isolate and think about what they really want to accomplish, he says. “Otherwise, people without skin in the game will walk you right off the pier.”