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Reflections on the CEO Sleep Out

Posted by Brook White on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 01:34 PM

Rho CEO Laura Helms ReeceThe following article comes from Rho CEO Laura Helms Reece who would like to share her thoughts on participating in the recent CEO Sleep Out hosted by the Triangle United Way.

Two weeks ago my friend Josh told me about the CEO Sleep Out: a United Way event designed to raise money for and bring attention to the issue of homelessness in our community. I looked at Josh and laughed. “I don’t camp out for fun! That’s crazy.” The next day, I read about people near Moore Square who were threatened with arrest if they continued to hand out biscuits to the hungry. I realized I hadn’t spent much time lately considering the hungry and the homeless in our area.

Despite North Carolina’s recent economic recovery, over the last decade our state has moved from 26th to 12th in the country in terms of the percentage of people living in poverty. In Durham, twenty-six percent of children go to bed hungry regularly. I’m not forced to look at that very often. I turn my gaze away.

I decided that it was time to look carefully and to see.

Laura at the CEO sleep outLast Thursday, I joined 36 other executives at the CEO Sleep Out in downtown Durham. We had a discussion on shelters, transitional housing, and behavior changes needed to help marginalized people transition into mainstream society. We talked Friday morning about economic inequality and why we’re losing the battle against poverty in North Carolina. The most powerful discussion was a 2 hour panel of young people who spent their teenage years in foster care. I’d never given much thought to what happens when a child is transitioned out of foster care at 18 years of age. One of these poised, articulate, successful young women had been in 20 placements between 8 and 18. How did she ever manage to learn anything at school? I was so impressed by these panelists.

describe the imageThe United Way encouraged the participants in the CEO Sleep Out to raise money from our friends and family to support the most vulnerable members of our community. The fundraiser also allowed the participants to gain “luxury” items to enhance their overnight experience based on the dollar amount of the contributions they garnered. My friends and family raised enough money to provide me with a refrigerator box, a pillow, and a sleeping bag. The box was big enough for me to fit into, and along with the pillow and the sleeping bag, it was surprisingly cozy.

I knew we were safe. We had a security guard keeping watch. I didn’t keep any valuables with me and I was tucked away in my box. Still, sleep was difficult. I was surrounded by other people I really didn’t know. There were strange noises. The stadium lights at the nearby Durham Bulls Athletic Park didn’t get turned off until sometime after 1 in the morning. The occasional post-baseball game drunk continued to wander by until a little after 2. A train roared along the train tracks, complete with safety whistle, next to our sleeping spot at about 2:30. At best, I was able to sleep in one hour stretches. I can’t imagine how someone pulls it together after multiple nights like that. I don’t see how sleeping in your car is any better – it’s more cramped and less comfortable.

The CEO Sleep Out was a powerful experience. Through it I walked a few steps in someone else’s shoes. I turned my gaze back to some of the most vulnerable members of our community and took the time to actually see them. The Sleep Out reminded me how blessed I am. It reignited my commitment to make our community better. I am grateful for the experience and I am thankful to everyone who supported me.

On Coffee Machines and Clinical Research

Posted by Brook White on Tue, Jun 04, 2013 @ 12:17 PM

If you know anything about Rho, you know that clinical research is our life. Strong science is the underpinning of everything we do here—from designing your clinical trial to integrating your data for submission to FDA…to evaluating our coffee machines. Yes, you heard us correctly. One of our statisticians used a bit of scientific experimentation to test whether or not the cream in a coffee machine was spoiled. Taking science too far? We think not. 

Recently, we’ve been trying out some new coffee machine options. Following his use of one of the new coffee machines, Senior Biostatistician Henry “Tee” Bahnson posted the following in the employee announcement section of our internal website:

“After hearing reports that the cream [in the new coffee machine] was bad, I did a quick experiment to test some hypotheses.  The results are attached (see image below) but the conclusions are that the coffee is probably fine to drink if you don't mind it being acidic.  Also, the cream is not spoiled; the acidic coffee is what is causing it to curdle . . .  so please don't throw out the perfectly good cream or acidic coffee.

factorial coffee experiment

  • In the above factorial experiment you can see that the new coffee machine appears to be causing the cream to curdle
  • The rows and columns represent the two factors in this experiment (type of coffee maker and type of cream)
  • The first row is from the new coffee machine and has the curdled cream. The second row is from the coffee maker in the 3rd floor break room. The coffee curdles regardless of type of cream in the new coffee machine but not in the regular machine; therefore, the cream is probably fine and the new coffee machine is likely causing the cream to curdle. This is probably happening because the coffee is too acidic. A quick Google search turned up this explanation

Disclaimer: The experiment was under powered, the p-value is not significant, but I still believe the results.”

In case you are wondering, Tee isn’t the only Rho employee predisposed to a scientific view of the world. Project Director Brett Gordon responded with:

“I basically conducted a similar experiment at [a local coffee and pastry shop] in Durham last year. Their house blend does not curdle cream, but their Ethiopian coffee does every time, regardless of how fresh the cream is… again, due to acidity of the coffee. So there’s independent confirmation of your hypothesis.”

So, yes, we admit it. We are passionate about science. It’s part of everything we do, and we plan to keep it that way.

Choose Rho as Your Clinical Research Provider

Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Regional Honor Acknowledges the Success of Our Company and Culture

Posted by Brook White on Thu, May 30, 2013 @ 01:31 PM

Ernst and Young Award FinalistsThe dictionary defines an entrepreneur as one who assumes risk. Yet, we’ve thrived on creating a business and culture that removes risks for customers and employees. An innovative approach to navigate through economic turbulence has fostered long-term stability and trust – from the customers we serve (more than 90 percent return for future business) and the employees who benefit from the company being profitable every year since our start almost 30 years ago.

Chief Executive Officers Laura Helms Reece and Russ Helms were tapped as regional finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The internationally recognized award program is one of the world’s most prestigious business awards for entrepreneurs. The award recognizes those who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success based on innovation, financial performance of the business and personal commitment to their business and communities.

“We’re proud of our team’s commitment to our clients and excellent service, enabling us to create a company that fosters stability and planned growth,” Laura said. “This focus has enabled us to provide our clients with the experience, capacities, and capabilities of a larger organization – all without losing touch with our entrepreneurial passion.”

In an industry in which the goal is speed and efficiency to get products to market as rapidly as possible, consistent growth and stability is a winning formula that shapes us and that our customers can trust.

“We are focused on continued organic growth at a pace that guarantees maintaining our great culture, which is valued by our clients,” Russ said. “Our focus will never be driven by short-term results and quarterly earnings reports to investors.”

View press release


Choose Rho as Your Clinical Research Provider

Rho's Annual March of Dimes Activities

Posted by Brook White on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 03:09 PM

Rho March of Dimes Team T-shirtOn April 27, a group of Rho employees along with nearly half a million others participated in the March of Dimes, March for Babies fundraising event. This event supports research investigating premature birth — the leading cause of newborn death and a major cause of many lifelong disabilities.   Rho’s founders having a personal history with the March of Dimes.  As a child, co-founder Mary Helms’s family received assistance from the March of Dimes while her father suffered from polio.  It is important as a company to take time out of our daily routines to not only give back on a personal level, but to contribute to Rho’s primary purpose: research.

March of Dimes Walk for BabiesIn 2012, Rho ranked 5th in fundraising out of all the Triangle March for Babies teams. We’re excited to continue the tradition of being a top team as we are well on our way in surpassing our fundraising goal this year.

In addition to the March of Dimes, March for Babies walk, Rho hosts an annual March of Dimes BBQ at our headquarters in Chapel Hill, featuring a delicious BBQ lunch from Smokey’s Shack, raffle prizes and a water balloon toss. This year, employees purchased raffle tickets for what some say were our best prizes yet, including restaurant gift cards, photography packages, a round of golf, massages and vacation packages, just to name a few. This event provides the bulk of our fundraising efforts and allows us to be such strong contributors year after year.

BBQ Lunch FundraiserWe conclude each year’s BBQ with our infamous water balloon toss. Traditionally, a few members of Rho’s Leadership Team volunteer as targets, including co-CEO’s, Russ Helms and Laura Helms Reece. Employees purchase balloons and take aim at their favorite team members, with occasional balloons making their way back towards the crowd of onlookers.

Check out our Facebook page for more pictures from this year’s March of Dimes, March for Babies event and BBQ lunch. You can also follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on our summer events.


Thoughts from Rho’s CEO: Our Commitment to Outstanding Customer Service in Clinical Trials Services

Posted by Brook White on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 @ 12:59 PM

Russ Helms-Rho CEOThe following article comes from Rho’s CEO Russ Helms who would like to share some thoughts on topics that he sees as important to Rho and our business.

There is a lot of competition in the world of clinical trials services. One way we differentiate ourselves is by providing our clients with an unparalleled customer experience. To make sure that happens consistently, we have developed 6 customer service principles that guide all interactions with our clients. All employees are trained on these principles, and adhering to them is an expectation of employees in all areas and at all levels.

Rho’s Principles of Customer Service:

Everyone at Rho must practice friendly professionalism. 

  • Good customer service must be consistently delivered.
  • Rho hires individuals who express a commitment to customer service in alignment with Rho’s Customer Service Principles.
  • Customer service - good or bad - is contagious.  Consistently practicing friendly professionalism will not only please customers; it will encourage others to practice friendly professionalism.
  • Building relationships, a key element of customer service, requires friendly professionalism. 

Personal investment is required for great Customer Service.

  • Rho's company culture supports each individual pursuing a career path that is engaging.  Engaged people intrinsically provide great customer service.  It is important for the company to maintain this culture and for the individual to take the responsibility to pursue engagement.  
  • Delivering results is a key part of customer service.  Each individual is responsible for maintaining, seeking, and furthering the technical competence associated not only with his/her current role, but also those roles along the chosen career path.  

The totality of our work and interactions contributes to the quality of the service provided to the customer. 

  • You may never interact with an external client; however, the work you do and the customer service you provide to your colleagues directly affects the customer’s perceived satisfaction.
  • Our customers judge our service based on our results, our relationships, and our impact.  All three of these components of customer service must be excellent in order to be regarded as excellent by our customers.  In other words, our deliverables must be top quality (results), our relationships with customers and colleagues must be built on mutual trust and respect (relationships), and the way we provide our services must be striking and above reproach (impact). 

We must understand the customer’s wants and needs and help them recognize the difference between them.

  • We seize opportunities to exceed the expectations we have negotiated. When we do that we create loyal, more than satisfied, customers.
  • Finding new customers is expensive; repeat customers are good business.
  • A part of recognizing the customer’s needs vs. wants involves a thoughtful assessment of our work processes.
  • Successful client relationships are not one sided, but include partnering by all stakeholders and include a foundation of trust and respect.  

Rho measures, evaluates, and rewards great Customer Service across project, sector, and company lines. 

Leadership at Rho provides the infrastructure that supports efforts to implement Rho’s Customer Service Principles.

  • This includes, but is not limited to: technological infrastructure, vendor selection, and well-defined escalation pathways to eliminate quickly customer service barriers.

Golf, Picnics, and Desserts...Oh My!

Posted by Brook White on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 01:14 PM

September was a busy and fun month for Rho. Employees set aside some time from the hustle and bustle of their daily routines to enjoy some friendly competition on the golf course, an afternoon in the park with coworkers and their families, and wrapped up the month with delicious food truck goodies at Rho’s company-wide celebration marking the end of our fiscal year. 

Rho golf tournamentFriday, September 14th, kicked off a Rho-filled weekend with the 13th Annual RhoGOLF Tournament at Wildwood Green Golf Club in Raleigh. Close to 50 people participated, including employees and their guests, enjoying lunch and an afternoon of golfing with coworkers. The event concluded with prizes for 1st Place, Longest Drive, Closest to the Pin, and a Raffle. 

Anne Hensley at the golf tournament“What a fun day enjoying the outdoors, getting to know co-workers, eating great food, and a marshmallow tee shot contest. Luckily I played with a group that didn’t take the game too seriously and had a much better swing than I do.  I can’t comment on the number of golf balls lost by the group, but we certainly did have fun! Success!” - Anne Hensley, Training Associate at Rho.

The next day, September 15th, employees took a few hours out of their Saturday to bring their families together at William B. Umstead State Park for the annual Rho Company Picnic. Hamburgers and hot dogs, complete with southern fixings, were served preceding a tasty dessert competition. Children were entertained with games, bubbles, and a balloon artist as coworkers enjoyed socializing with each other outside of the day-to-day office environment.

Ron and Mary Helms at the PicnicBalloon Animals








Above left: Ron and Mary Helms, Rho co-founders, enjoy the picnic.  Above right: Children at the picnic wait for balloon animals.

Matt Stutts-Picnic Organizer“I have to say, the picnic was OUTSTANDING!  We could not have asked for better weather, and everyone had a great time – especially the children!”Matt Stutts, Service Leader, Rho Service Desk



Below left: Suzanne Kennedy and family enjoy the picnic.  Center: Rebecca Lakey shows off her entry in the dessert competition.  Below right: Andrea Mospan (left) and Kristel Aman (right) introduce their newest family members to Rho co-workers.

Andrea Mospan and Kristel Aman

Suzanne Kennedy and FamilyRebecca Lakey



The end of September brought Rho’s 2012 fiscal year to a close with a celebration on company grounds Friday, September 28th. Monuts Donuts, Kona Ice, and Daisy Cakes participated in the Food Truck Rho-deo.  Employees celebrated another successful year and went home with bonuses and a new Rho jacket. 

End of the Year EventLeft: Rho employees wait in line at the end of the event to pick up their bonus checks and employee gifts.








Below left: Monuts Donuts provided a tasty selection of donuts for employees.  Below right: Kona Ice serve up delicious frozen treats.


Below left: Employees waiting at the Kona Ice truck.  Below right: Jamie Spencer (left) and Annie McCoy (right) standing in front of the Daisy Cakes truck.

Employees waiting for Kona IceJamie Spence, Annie McCoy, and the Daisy Cakes truck