WHO IS SHANTAL FELTHAM? MEET STIRIS RESEARCH’S PRESIDENT & CEO
Starting a snow-shoveling business in elementary school and painting rocks to sell to her grade 2 classmates, Shantal Feltham, Founder and CEO of Stiris Research, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t entrepreneurial.
Always drawn to the clinical industry with a mission to make a difference in someone’s life, Shantal gained early-career experience working at a psychiatric hospital, a clinical research organization, and within the pharma/bio tech world. Although renouncing her comfortable employee benefits as her family grew was not on her radar, her stint at a contract research organization would unknowingly be her last time working for someone else.
It was here that Shantal could no longer ignore her entrepreneurial ideas, offering frequent advice to her superior about how to increase efficiency in their services or provide better support for their biotech customers. The advice was not enthusiastically received, creating an opportunity for Shantal to embrace her unique suggestions and create a better business of her own.
In 2004, Stiris was born! An entrepreneurial Clinical Trial Management Company, Stiris provides comprehensive study management solutions for clinical research. With a cause to help get life changing medications to patients, Stiris looks at how to best serve the biotech and pharmaceutical community to best take care of them, their sites, and their patients while being more efficient and moving trials forward more quickly.
As a natural good listener and creative problem solver, her entrepreneurial spirit was harnessed.
Since then, Shantal and Stiris have received:
- The PROFIT Top 50 Emerging Growth Companies award
- Two-time recipient of the PROFIT 500 award for Fastest Growing Companies
- Business of the Year in the Small Business Category from Chamber of Commerce
- Six-time recipient of the PROFIT W100 Top Female Entrepreneur award
- The YWCA Women of Excellence award for entrepreneurship
- Ivey KPMG QuantumShift (Canada’s Top 40 Entrepreneurs) scholarship
- Tuck-WBENC Executive Program scholarship
SHANTAL’S LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE
Interestingly, in terms of business and leadership, it was the period following the chemo that proved most difficult for Shantal and the company.
“I came back to work a different person, and this made it challenging to reforge relationships with my team and regain the trust that I could effectively lead and represent our company,” recalls Shantal. “My senior management team was worried I might take back the things they were empowered to manage during my chemo experience, plus they had to navigate my new communication style and the effects chemo had had on me (I would repeat myself, forget things I had said, etc.)”
In 2014, Shantal was met with a serious setback—a cancer diagnosis. What followed was 18 months of chemo and 7 surgeries, marking the most trying time of her life.
While one might think this period would throw Stiris into complete turmoil, Shantal’s team stepped up and knocked it out of the park. Thrown into the deep end, they polished existing skills, gained new ones, and expanded their comfort zones to ensure Stiris continued on its flourishing trajectory.
Being around oncology doctors and nurses for a year and a half who communicated quite bluntly, Shantal became more direct with her team and asked harder questions, throwing off the dynamic Stiris had been built upon. What’s more? Chemo side effects started to present themselves. Her short-term memory was foggy. She felt off-the-ball at work. She lost her ability to imagine.
“As an entrepreneur, that is catastrophic,” says Shantal. “Going through so much bone pain from chemo, I was conditioned to live life ten seconds at a time, abolishing my ability to ideate and imagine the future.”
EMERGING FROM THE CHALLENGE
In the early 2000’s, Shantal had tried working with a couple of mentorships programs, never finding the right fit. She had strict criteria for joining an executive coaching group—it had to be co-ed and free of egos. Through word of mouth, Shantal heard of TEC Canada. After an initial meeting with David Woodley and his group in 2012, she realized TEC met her criteria with flying colors, making it a welcoming and comfortable environment from day one.
Upon her 2014 diagnosis, she reached out to her TEC Canada Chair, David Woodley, to let him know she would have to leave the group for the time being. His response? Polite refusal.
Accommodating her needs, Woodley kept Shantal in the group to support her and her business through her unprecedented times.
“He didn’t let me fall off the face of the Earth. He checked in to see how my team and I were doing and made sure we knew he and the TEC team were only a phone call away if anyone needed any direction or help. He kept me in the loop about my TEC group—even thought I wasn’t there, I could still feel a part of the team.”
If another group member was facing similar personal challenges, David would set them up with Shantal to chat and share advice about navigating these obstacles.
Having access to these encouraging relationships and interactions supported Shantal as she navigated through the loss and eventual return of her imagination.
Between the moment of diagnosis to returning to work feeling like her old self was almost four years. The company and team were put under a lot of pressure, but with support, trust, and connection, both came out stronger than when they went in.
Shantal breaks down TEC’s impact into several categories:
- “Financial growth. Stiris has seen millions of dollars of difference since joining TEC.”
- “I am a much better leader. I look at things differently, ask different questions, and see things I never would have thought of before.”
- “I am more confident. Having these very successful and experienced people in my group telling me I am on the right path is an encouraging confirmation.”
- “My comfort zone has grown. Prior to TEC, I was very conservative with risk. Even now, almost ten years later, they still push me out of my comfort zone, only I am now less afraid to leave it.”
- “Company development. A host presentation from someone in a diametrically opposite profession was the springboard for how I structure the growth of Stiris.”
To put the value of TEC into perspective, Shantal share’s her technique for calculating the worth of meetings. In her mind, she bills her time at $1000/hour to determine if something is of good value—if she walks away from a 2-hour meeting and doesn’t feel as though she received $2000 out of it, she won’t go back.
“TEC meetings are at least a $10,000 meeting and I don’t think I have ever walked away from one without feeling like I got that value.”
People engaged in the passionate pursuit of business excellence and leadership often wrestle with questions surrounding meaning, value, and potential. To determine their best course of action, leaders like Shantal, are attracted to TEC to learn more about themselves and the world around them.
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