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Archive for September, 2007

Interview with Steve Sherrill and Michael Mitrano

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Are you a research executive? Have you ever thought about acquiring a company? Have you thought about the exit strategy for your company? If you answered yes, you will want to read on for sure.

Steve Sherrill and Michael Mitrano are specialists in this area. They help executives and companies guide their way through mergers and acquisitions. Both of them have a great thought process and are able to easily explain and simplify complicated issues.

MD
Not all acquisitions are perfect fits – based on your experience when does it really work out?

SS/MM
We believe the key to victory is when there is solid chemistry between the people who will be working together. This would include “research” chemistry (mutual understanding and respect about what research talent each side brings to the table) as well as “personal” chemistry.

MD
In your opinion how long does it usually take to integrate an acquired company?

SS/MM
We think it usually takes two years for a smooth and complete integration.

MD
How long does it take for a company to be sold?

SS/MM
The entire process from inception to closing often takes about a year.

MD
Are most companies able to keep key staff after a company is acquired?

SS/MM
In our experience, one of the key drivers behind acquisition is to get a new cache of talented researchers. Quality staff is very short in this industry, and in most cases all or nearly all of the key people stay on. If buyers don’t think the people are going to stay, they generally won’t buy.

MD
What advice would you give owners of companies who are thinking about selling their companies?

SS/MM
Begin planning for the process 4-5 years from when you think you would like to be out of the business, since there are often employment requirements for 2-3 years following a sale. When the time comes, get professional support from advisors with transactional experience. They can help you navigate the process and obtain the most leverage in a sale.

MD
What is the current trend with mergers and acquisitions?

SS/MM
We see an increase in the types of interested buyers recently. The research industry has been attractive to various investors including private equity firms and newly formed public companies. In addition, other types of public companies have recently acquired marketing research companies. (For example, McGraw Hill purchased J.D. Power and infoUSA purchased both ORC/MACRO and Guideline).

MD
Other than calling Transition Strategies are there any books or websites that you feel that would be good resources for executives wanting to learn a little bit more about mergers and acquisitions?

SS/MM
We had one client who liked Robert Bergeth’s “12 Secrets to Cashing Out.” It takes a DYI approach and does not focus on the special needs of professional services firms, but it’s a good read.

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About my guests:

Steve Sherrill founded Transition Strategies Corporation in 1993. Since its inception, Transition Strategies has represented more than 50 companies. Mr. Sherrill has worked with over 300 research companies. Before forming his own firm, Mr. Sherrill spent 10 years as Chief Financial Officer of Market Measures, a full-service healthcare research firm in Livingston, NJ. In that capacity, Mr. Sherrill engineered the sale of two Market Measures subsidiaries, as well as the sale and IPO of Market Measures itself to the U.K.-based MIL Research Group. In his subsequent role of M&A specialist for MIL Research, he managed the acquisition of Goldring Research and the merger of RH Bruskin Research with Goldring. Mr. Sherrill served for two years on the Financial and Compensation Committee of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO), the trade association of the U.S. full-service survey research industry. He has been an Adjunct Accounting Department Faculty member at William Patterson College, served on several tax committees of the NJ Society of CPAs, and served on the board of the NJ Chapter of Accountants for the Public Interest. Mr. Sherrill is a CPA licensed in New Jersey and a member of the AICPA. He holds an MS in Taxation from Pace University and a BS in Accounting from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Mitrano joined Transition Strategies in 1999. He has served as an M&A advisor or management consultant to over thirty research companies. Before joining Transition Strategies, Mr. Mitrano was Executive Vice President and a principal at Response Analysis Corporation in Princeton, NJ, where he worked for 14 years. He directed finance, operations, technology, and human resources at the company, which is now part of GfK. He also handled two of the company’s largest accounts. In 1988, he was part of the leadership group that negotiated an ESOP-based leveraged buyout of Response Analysis from its founders. He obtained financing and oversaw legal work for the transaction. After leaving Response Analysis and before joining Transition Strategies, Mr. Mitrano served as CFO for The Chauncey Group International, Ltd. He restructured the corporation’s debt, established subsidiaries in the Netherlands and France, and acquired a French business. Mr. Mitrano has been Treasurer and served on the Board of Directors of CASRO. He has spoken at CASRO, MRA, MRIA, and ESOMAR events. Mr. Mitrano holds an MBA from New York University, and a BA cum laude and with General Honors from the University of Pennsylvania.

Most People Love To Read, But Do They Love To Write?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
  • Are you getting tired of reading my blog?
  • Are you bored with my style?
  • Am I not as creative as I used to be?
  • Do you have something to say?
  • Are you opinionated?
  • Have you thought about starting a blog?
  • Do you think you are a good writer?

Did you answer yes to any of the questions? Chances are you answered yes to many of the questions. If that is the case now is your chance to pick a subject. Be creative, be opinionated and become a writer…for a blog…for this blog…

We are looking for guest writers on the blog. You can pick the subject. We will work with you on the graphics. The process is very easy. All you need to do is post a comment that you would like to be a guest writer and the subject you might want to write about. We will work with you to make sure the experience is fun.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Do You Shop Where America Shops?

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I was reading an article last week that I thought was very interesting. It was entitled WHERE AMERICA SHOPS, BY PRODUCT 2007. The study was completed by AlixPartners.

Basically the piece of research that was completed ranked on where America shops in 9 different categories. Here is the chart by category and I have highlighted where I shop:

WHERE AMERICA SHOPS, BY PRODUCT, 2007

1ST Choice 2nd Choice
Alcoholic beverages Liquor store (44%) Wal-Mart (16%)
Athletic shoes Foot Locker (30%) Wal-Mart (21%)
Casual clothing Wal-Mart (34%) JCPenney (27%)
Home products Wal-Mart (54%) Target (30%)
Home technology Best Buy (61%) Circuit City (44%)
Non-alcoholic beverages Wal-Mart (38%) Target (16%)
Over-the-counter medications Wal-Mart (65%) Walgreens (33%)
Personal hygiene Wal-Mart (62%) Target (24%)
Ready-to-eat/ non-perishable foods Wal-Mart (52%) Target (25%)

SOURCE: AlixPartners (Click here for the full chart)

Clearly I don’t shop where America shops. In fact in the Athletic Shoes category, my choice isn’t even in the top 5. Wal-Mart almost had a clean sweep. How long before they take over the top spot in the other three categories?

Where do you shop?

Do you shop where America shops?

I look forward to your comments.

I Knew My Vacation Was Going To Be A Disaster When…

Friday, September 21st, 2007

With the summer just ending and school about to start, the chance of many people taking a vacation in the past three months was probably pretty great. We all have great memories of vacations and probably have thousands of pictures and videos to prove it.

From time to time, a vacation doesn’t go as expected–something happens that you didn’t like, it puts you in a bad mood and for whatever reason your vacation wasn’t that good. In fact it was a disaster. You had planned for months and saved up for that special vacation and you were disappointed. You were going to spend the weekend or longer with friends or family and you wished you had never made the trip and spent the money.

And of course, I have a story of my own.

I can recall going on vacation over 15 years ago with my girlfriend at the time and within minutes of being on a beautiful Caribbean island she insulted the front desk people, hated the menu of the pool restaurant and told me she had NO money at all. At that point I thought this vacation was in trouble. Over time I thought it would get better…And it didn’t! What a disaster!

So with that said, fill in the blank. I knew my vacation was a disaster when ______________?

I look forward to your comments and stories.

We All Know Who The Number One Rivalry In Sports Is…The Question Is, Who Is Number Two?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Without question the number one rivalry in sports is the NY Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Almost every game has drama. Most fans are on pins and needles either at the stadium or watching the game on TV. They play each other 18 times a year and in the past few years have also met in the playoffs. The ratings are clearly off the chart, and the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the fans is second to none.

The real question is who is number two?

  • Is it the Montreal Canadians vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs?
  • Is it the New England Patriots vs. the Indianapolis Colts?
  • Is it the UCLA Bruins vs. the USC Trojans?
  • Is it the Dallas Mavericks vs. the San Antonio Spurs?

In your opinion who is the second best rivalry in sports?

I look forward to your comments!

Kids Say The Funniest Things! I Mean The Cutest Things! Or Is It The Most Meaningful Things?

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Over the weekend I was chatting with my son Justin and he said something out of the blue that surprised me. I was impressed with the knowledge he had on a particular subject (considering he is 6 years old). I asked him how he knew that and he responded:

“Dad, you learn something new every day!”

At first I chuckled and then I paused for a few seconds and realized he was right. Fundamentally I actually believe that, but was startled–no actually shocked–that my little guy would say that.

To me kids say the funniest things! I mean the cutest things! Or is it the most meaningful things? To me what Justin said was very meaningful. As you get older, time is important, in fact very important. If it was for sale, all of us would buy some and a lot of it.

Yesterday I learned a few things:

I read an article that my parents gave me and I learned the struggles this person had in achieving success. He overcame a tremendous amount including the fact he didn’t speak English when he first came to the country.

I learned a few new shortcuts in Microsoft Excel. I use Excel often and was playing around with a few commands and figured a few things out.

What did you learn yesterday?

Thanks, Justin, for always giving me something to think about.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Interview with Roseanne Luth

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Since 1984 I have met literally thousands of people in this great industry. During that time I have come to admire lots of those people. I love being around people with a strong passion for life, for our industry, who are business executives and are very successful. For me you can check all four boxes for Roseanne Luth and in the “other” category you can add the word classy. I hope you enjoy getting to know Roseanne Luth.

I look forward to your comments.

MD
What advice would you give entry level market researchers?

RL
Get a good range of training. Don’t stick with one skill set. Learn from the perspective of a respondent who participates in market research all the way to the client who uses the data.

MD
What changes would you like the market research industry to make over the next 3 years?

RL
I would like to see the mid-level market research companies be more adept at adding value and information. The information offered by sites like Yahoo and Google will make them more of an information company which will erode or displace the information from the market research industry. Also, more mid-size companies need to be gathering and using data from various sources like the very large companies who are overlapping and merging data sources within their own companies.

Continue reading “Interview with Roseanne Luth” »

Is There Anyone Out There Dumber Than Me?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Please keep in mind I am not handy around the house. I really don’t have the experience to fix most things and yes I am very proud when I am able to change light bulbs.

Recently, everyday I would notice that there was a hole in a flower bed. Since I tend to notice everything – this was no different. I noticed it every day and this is exactly what happened:

  • I thought about what kind of animal or snake made the hole
  • I looked around to see if the animal was looking at me – since I noticed it very early in the morning and it was dark
  • I filled in the hole
  • I went to work and told everyone about what happened and I have some kind of anaconda (a little embellishment) living in my front yard

The next day it was the exact same thing – in fact this would probably happen five times a week.

Then one day, I asked our landscaper to change out some bushes and he noticed one area wasn’t getting enough water. He mentioned the reason was we had a broken sprinkler head. Since JM is a nice guy and this is Texas, he said it was no big deal and mentioned he would fix the problem. That night when I went home I noticed he had a red marker in the area of the broken sprinkler head.

Guess where the marker was?

You guessed right – in the exact spot of my friendly and daily hole. There was NO animal, just a broken sprinkler head and my foolishness of not being able to figure it out. I apologize to everyone at work who I told about the “make believe” animal, snake or whatever was living and burrowing into our front lawn.

As I mentioned…I am not handy. Are you?

  • What is the dumbest thing you have done around the house?

I look forward to hearing your stories, comments and seeing how your story compares to mine.

Ding a ling a ling, Ding a ling a ling!

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Do you recall that sound? Do you miss that sound?

Do you remember growing up, living in your first neighborhood and playing with your friends outside?

Do you remember this sound? Ding a ling a ling, Ding a ling a ling? I do. I miss those times and that sound. My friends and I would hear that sound and lose our minds! We would forget what we were doing or playing and sprint to our house and get money. To a seven year old that was the greatest sound of the day – it meant that the ICE CREAM MAN was right around the corner. It meant that I would have a brief but important conversation with my Mom that went something like this:

Merrill – Mom, can I have a dollar?

Mom – No.

Merrill – Mom, can I my allowance for the week?

Mom – I gave it to you yesterday!

Merrill – Mom, how about I promise to be really good for the rest of the week and be your best friend – please, please can I have a dollar?

Mom – Ok here you go. (As I am running off, she says be home in an hour for dinner!)

Sound familiar?

My question is what did you pick? What was your ice cream of choice? Was it the fudge pop? Italian ice? Blow pop? You were on top of the world with money in hand and the biggest decision of the day.

For me I loved the malted milk cup. It was chocolate and great and tasted fantastic every day of the year!

What did you choose?

I look forward to hearing your choices.

Is American Airlines Starting a New Trend?

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Over the past few months I have had very long flights delays, have been diverted to Oklahoma City not once but twice (lucky me), and had three flights cancelled–including one that was Boston-bound for a funeral (sorry A.L.) I was trying to attend.

One of my colleagues (thanks AB) also has had lots of cancelled flights as well as many other delays, and last week received this email from American Airlines:

—-Original Message—– From: AmericanAirlines.wecaare001@aa.com [mailto:AmericanAirlines.wecaare001@aa.com] Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 1:07 PM To: XXXXX@marcresearch.com Subject: R2007/07-23803-00251-004-00

July 18, 2007

Dear XXXXXXXX:

We know how important it is for our customers to rely on the on-time departures and arrivals of our flights. However, there is nothing more frustrating than learning your flight has been delayed – or even canceled – while attempting to get to your destination as planned. Therefore, we hope you will accept our apology for the disruption of your travel plans on July 11.

Although our schedules cannot be guaranteed due to the many variables associated with the operation of an airline, we want to show our concern for your disappointment. As a sincere gesture of goodwill and to encourage you to continue traveling with us, I have added 8,000 Customer Service Bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. You can view this activity soon via our web site at http://www.aa.com/AAdvantage.

While the safety of our passengers and crew members will always take priority over on-time departures and arrivals, we hope that you will give us another opportunity to serve you when your plans call for travel by air. It would be a pleasure to welcome you aboard American Airlines.

Sincerely,

B. J. Russell Customer Relations American Airlines

I give American Airlines a lot of credit. Good for them! They are not only apologizing, but giving frequent flyer points to their valued customers. I also like the email address they used: americanaiirlines.wecaare001@aa.com. I like the “we care” with the extra “a.” Maybe it’s just me.

  • Do other airlines do this?
  • If not, will other airlines follow?

My sense is if they don’t they will. This is a great idea for many reasons.

The question for today is: How many miles should airlines give their valued customers when they experience a delay?

Since these programs are probably in the infancy stages and we have at least 4 readers from airlines, perhaps we can help them in their thinking.

How many miles would you like to get if:

  • Your flight is cancelled?
  • Your flight is delayed two hours or less?
  • Your flight is delayed two hours or more?

I look forward to your answers and your creativity. On behalf of all of the airlines, I thank you for your comments.