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Archive for November, 2006

Numbers That Matter

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

So it’s a Sunday morning during the fall and I am getting the boys dressed for the day. Of course there is little or no chance their outfits look good or match, but to me that matters little on a Sunday when there is football to be watched.

Like most little boys they have a number of different player jerseys that their Dad has gotten them over the years.

For some reason today, I paused when I was getting them dressed. My initial thought was: “Would it be a Drew Bledsoe, Adam Vinatieri or Ty Law shirt?” And then I thought about it and realized that all of those players are still in the NFL but don’t play for the team we have the shirt for!

Welcome to the reality of sports where the almighty dollar wins out 99% of the time.

  • What happened to the old days when players ONLY played for one team in their career?
  • What happened to the name on the front of the shirt meaning more than the name on the back?
  • What happened to the days where you could spend $75 on a shirt and you could keep it for more than two seasons without the player leaving the team?

Well the holidays are right around the corner and I thought it would be interesting to identify a handful of players that SHOULD be playing with their current team for at least the next five years. This way it may help you in not making the same foolish mistake I have made and waste money on shirts that have little or no meaning.

  1. Peyton Manning – (18) QB for the Indianapolis Colts. Yes he will be 35 in five more years but I believe he is a loyal guy and will retire a Colt. Not that this matters in football but his current contract goes until 2011.
  2. Albert Pujols – (5) First Base for the St Louis Cardinals. He is the real deal and will be with the Cardinals for many years to come
  3. Dirk Nowitzki – (41) Forward for the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk is 28 and a 9 year veteran of the NBA. Mark Cuban is way too smart to let this guy get away anytime soon.
  4. Dwyane Wade – (3) Guard for the Miami Heat. The best is yet to come from him. This is a great market for this soft spoken star.
  5. Rick DiPietro – (39) Goalie for the New York Islanders. Yes, Rick is solid; yes, Rick is only 25; and yes he signed a massive contract that won’t allow the team to trade him.

Does it bother you that so many players jump teams so often?

What are your thoughts? What players do you think will be with their current team in 5 years?

Global Outsourcing Friend or Foe?

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Recently I have noticed that the number of emails and calls I received involving companies looking to start a relationship with M/A/R/C have increased. The interesting thing is that a large percentage of those requests are coming from companies based overseas.

I will admit I am NOT a huge fan of global outsourcing and don’t understand all of the benefits. Yes I have tried, but I still come back to these top three benefits:

  1. Costs
  2. Costs
  3. Costs

I have attended and listened to capability presentations and I am hard pressed to think that the communication, quality, trust and timing are better than companies based in the United States. To me, communication, quality, trust, timing and costs are what most people base their decision making process on when looking to subcontract work out. So for me, the only benefit is saving money. And frankly that isn’t a compelling enough reason for me right now!

I will say that we have had a few experiences with global outsourcing, and frankly they didn’t go well. Communication was a challenge; expectations were not met. Yes we saved money. BUT when you factor in the extra staff hours to manage the project, the savings was not that great.

We feel we represent our clients and need to deliver the best quality possible. And at this point I don’t believe it is through global outsourcing. I often wonder about how employees who work for major corporations feel about their companies moving operations overseas. Is it a necessary way to compete?

I truly believe companies like MKTG, Inc, Western Wats and other U.S. based companies deliver at a higher quality than phone centers and programming companies overseas. Can I prove it? Maybe. But it would be costly.

I realize that a lot of work is leaving the United States and going to companies based overseas. Some of that work is probably a good fit. All of it? Probably not. I believe that some of that work will return to U.S. based companies in the near future.

I believe global outsourcing is here to stay. Yes, there is a place for it.

I look forward to hearing the stories and experiences:

  • When does it work?
  • When do you have issues?
  • Are you working with companies that have U.S. operations as well?
  • Can you share best practices?
  • Have you done parallel testing?
  • Did you conduct a site visit?
  • How long did it take you to find success?
  • How do clients feel about this issue?

Now is your chance in a public forum to educate myself and other readers.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Seven Things I Do before 7:00 AM

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I guess I would consider myself a creature of habit. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing, but I do tend to get into a routine and it occurred to me that I do a number of things the same way when I am NOT traveling.

Here is a list of seven things I do before 7:00 AM:

  1. Check the status of the revenue for the month—a few passwords, a click or two, and magically I know the revenue for the month by department. I am sure most companies do this, but if you don’t, this might be something that you look to change early in 2007.
  2. Make sure I have read Daily Research News and the news on Worldopinion.com from the day before. This is a very easy way to know what is going on in the research world. If you would like to receive emails from them daily, you should sign up right away.
  3. Check my Outlook calendar. I like to make sure I am totally prepared for the day and make sure I don’t need to think about any last minute preparation for any meetings.
  4. Check my email and make sure I have less than 44 emails in my inbox. This way I can glance and see all of them as opposed to scrolling down.
  5. Go to excite.com and read the headline news.
  6. Check my office and cell voicemail. My goal here is to ensure that I have returned all calls and also update myself with any information that may have been on my voicemail.
  7. Call my friend Rick “Rooster” Hurwitz and debate the world of sports on my way to work. Yes, this one is done around 6:00am.

Why is this important? For me, I am trying to not only be prepared, but get off to a quick start. I find that I can accomplish a great deal if I get in early, think about the day and make any last minute changes that are needed.

Are you a creature of habit? What do you do? I look forward to reading your comments.

No Matter What, Don’t Laugh!

Monday, November 20th, 2006

In the past 20 or so years I have probably been on thousands of sales calls. During that time:

  • I have made almost every mistake in the book
  • I have had two dogs fall asleep on my feet
  • I have met some very interesting people

And of course I have had some of the funniest experiences ever.

One of my favorites is when I was on a sales call and meeting a prospect for the first time. We were meeting at 10:00 at a Pancake House to discuss our capabilities. Since I had already eaten I, got an English muffin while my prospect had a full breakfast. During the meeting he was drinking tea and ordered pancakes, eggs and bacon. It was almost as though he hadn’t eaten in days. During our discussion he was eating his pancakes and started to pour syrup on them when all of a sudden I noticed he grabbed the hot tea instead and proceeded to pour hot tea all over his pancakes.

At this point, I think I remembered hearing from the pancakes “someone toss me a life jacket.” I obviously didn’t help them out and decided it might be best to think of something else so he didn’t notice me laughing.

I thought he would say something. Nope. He continued with our discussion and actually ate all of the pancakes. Yes, he ate all of them!

The best part of the story is on the way out he actually turned to me and said “you may want to complain—the food today wasn’t that good”.

At least six years have gone by, but I still chuckle when I think of that story!

Everyone has classic stories. I look forward to having you share yours.

Research Industry Suffers a Big Loss

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Unfortunately, I received some very bad news yesterday. Robert S. Shulman, Chairman and CEO of Markitecture, passed away. Robert had a very storied career. Years ago, he was CEO of Yankelovich, Clancy and Shulman and co-founder and CEO of Copernicus. He has over 30 years of consulting experience in new product marketing, strategic market planning and brand development.

Robert was also a Professor of Marketing at the Graduate School of Business, Columbia University. He is the co-author of a number of books including: Simulated Test Marketing, Marketing Myths that are Killing Business and The Marketing Revolution.

I had the privilege of knowing Robert for over 20 years. In fact Yankelovich, Clancy and Shulman was my first client when I worked for Field Facts way back in 1985. Robert without question was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met in my life. I can still recall a number of stimulating discussions with him regarding the research industry, the N.Y. Yankees and of course his family.

Robert was a very giving person and was on the boards of Immokalee Foundation for Children, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Self Development Corp., Smokenders, Save the Sound, Ocean Conservancy, Temple Shalom and the Westport Arts Center.

To the Shulman family, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

To Robert, we miss you already.

Happy Anniversary to me!

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Everyone has a number of dates that are important to them: a birthday, an anniversary or possibly the first time they accomplished a goal. November 8th is one of those days for me…it was the date I started at M/A/R/C.

I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I flew in from Boston, rented a car and got to the office only with the assistance of a GPS system. When I came through the front door and I actually needed to be told where my office was.

For those of you who don’t know me well, yes I came prepared with a PowerPoint Presentation (don’t leave home without them) that I delivered to the entire company 90 minutes into my first day.

Yes, the time has flown by, yes my family is very happy, and yes we are trying hard to be Texans (even have a little girl to prove it).

Over the past two years, there have been many changes. Those changes have included strategy, staff, new systems and having fiscal responsibility to M/A/R/C as well as Omnicom. From my standpoint, progress has been made. In fact, a lot of progress has been made. Last year we made tremendous progress in getting our fixed costs in order and this year our revenue and profit have grown.

In the past few weeks I have been asked about the first two years, “What are you most happy about?” Without question, I am happy with the environment we have created at M/A/R/C. Years ago, morale wasn’t where it needed to be. Today, I truly believe people are happy, enjoying themselves, and actually having fun at work again. I realize that at times some of the things that I do can be looked upon as goofy (like playing croquet in the middle of the summer in the Texas heat.) However, rest assured: all of those things are done with the simple goal of creating teamwork and a positive work environment.

For those of you who have started new jobs in the past year or so, take a little time to reflect:

  • How much progress did you make?
  • When should you have zigged instead of zagged?
  • Why did it take you so long to make a certain decision?
  • Why didn’t you hire that person?
  • Are you being all you can be?

For me this is very important to do. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and also can shed additional light on areas of improvement.

To the staff at M/A/R/C, thank you for working together and embracing this Bostonian for the past two years.

I believe the best is yet to come!

Wow! This Has Become One of my Favorite Teams!

Monday, November 13th, 2006

What do the words passion, energy, creativity, enthusiasm, trust, working together, professional, goal oriented, intelligence and 25 people all have in common?

Read below and you will find out!

The good news is, this last week I was in beautiful, sunny Phoenix. The bad news is, I spent very little time outside. In most situations that probably would have bothered me—but not this time.

Starting Tuesday morning bright and early, I participated in the Marketing Research Association (MRA) board meeting. I have participated on a number of boards over the years and attended perhaps a 100 board meetings. For those of you who haven’t experienced one of these, they are typically close to 16 hours of meetings and a dinner over a 28 hour period.

For some reason this meeting felt different. Perhaps it was the location or maybe the food. As I was sitting in the meeting it occurred to me that it wasn’t that at all—even though I love to eat and the food was great.

  • It was the energy in the room!
  • It was the relevancy of the agenda!
  • It was the leadership (your leadership) of the MRA working together and accomplishing common goals
  • It was thinking about the future of research and how to best position the organization to be there for our members

And most of all it was 25 people who are all working together, committed to the greatest industry in the world and creating a very special TEAM!

I am truly honored to be part of this team and am looking forward to our next meeting in sunny Florida in February (and spending very little time outside).

A special thanks to Merrill “I love the name” Shugoll—President of the MRA who engineered a terrific meeting. You were able to keep us on point and on schedule. All of us saw first hand why all of your clients love you as a moderator. You are simply the best!

I look forward to hearing if other members of the team felt the same way.

Are You or Do You Work for a Great Boss?

Friday, November 10th, 2006

During my career I have reported to almost 15 different people. Some of my bosses have been fantastic while others fell short on what I needed at that time.

As a boss I try to be three things at all times:

  1. Fair
  2. Firm
  3. Consistent

Do I achieve those goals all the time? I would love to say emphatically yes, but in reality—probably not. I will let you in on a little secret: being a boss is very, very hard! Making critical business decisions that impact the lives of many people is challenging to say the least.

Everyone has different needs and expectations of their boss. For me, I believe that a good boss:

  1. Shows appreciation of subordinates’ efforts. Appreciation should be shown verbally, in writing, and monetarily.
  2. Is willing to listen to subordinates’ ideas and new ways to do things.
  3. Has realistic expectations that are clearly expressed.
  4. Shares credit for a job well done, but also accepts blame when appropriate.
  5. Is good at setting priorities and sticking to them.
  6. Has a good sense of humor. Doesn’t mind occasional joking around in the office and isn’t too serious about everything.

As I was thinking about writing this blog, I thought it would be cool to see what others thought. So here are a few comments from people in the research community regarding what they look for in a boss:

  • Open to discussion, disagreement and respect for your experience and opinions (even if they did not always agree),” Betty Champion GFK.
  • I look for someone who empowers me and my team to be successful…someone who can inspire us to action, who listens well, welcomes me in as a partner in crafting our strategic vision and recognizes and acknowledges our contributions to the enterprise. Most importantly, I look for someone who gives us the autonomy and resources to reach our potential and exceed clearly articulated, reasonable and well thought out expectations and goals. I look for a straight shooter who is apolitical, candid and frank, and aligned with my objectives.” Jon Last Golf Digest
  • Someone who is rational, can show up in the big meeting, can provide wisdom, has a plan that I can buy into, is considered important in the company for the right reasons, works as hard as me, but can also understand family,” Adam Weinstein Authentic Response.
  • Someone who is willing to work with you as a partner – good communication skills, attentive, a sense of humor and someone who has a family (so they are not a workaholic.) Must be intelligent and knowledgeable about the business – know the external market – who is a threat, who is an ally, etc.,” Sharon Gautschy American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST).
  • Someone who is honest, fair and has the ability to listen. Someone who has a good business mind, can look at the big picture. Someone who doesn’t “ride the fence” and willing to look at all angles before a decision is made/implemented,” Lucy Haydu MRA.
  • Honesty, fairness, and commitment to the growth of the company and its employees, not self,” John Heakin North American Insights.
  • I look for my boss to be engaged in the business, to be passionate about being successful, understanding what it truly takes for the research team to be successful. I want someone to have some personal involvement, understanding and commitment.” Pam Galley Sabre.
  • Patience and tolerance is also nice, but really isn’t as important as someone who gives you the tools you need not only to succeed, but to surpass expectations. They must be available – very important. You cannot tap a resource that isn’t accessible,” Lance Hoffman Opinion Access Corporation.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I look forward to hearing other thoughts and comments

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is a Well-oiled Machine

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

A few months ago I looked at the conference calendar and noticed that CASRO, IIR The Market Research Event and an Omnicom meeting were not only back to back to back but also 15 miles away from each other. Even though I didn’t want to spend 10 days away from the family and office I decided to stay out on the west coast and not fly back between conferences.

I was hoping to have a little fun while I was going to be in Los Angeles for what I believe is the longest business trip of my career. I thought long and hard and since the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres didn’t cooperate, I knew I wasn’t going to the World Series. I needed to come up with a plan “B”.

Plan B was trying to get tickets to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. You know the deal a friend of a friend of a friend secured me 4 tickets to the October 20th show. For those of you who haven’t gone before here is what happens:

3:00 Show up to guest relations to pick up our tickets
3:10 Shop in the Tonight Show store
3:45 Get seated in the audience
4:10 Jay Leno comes out in jeans and sets expectations and tells a few jokes
4:20 A comedian comes out and continues to get the audience warmed up and engaged in the show
4:30 Show starts on the dot
5:32 Show ends on the dot
5:34 Jay and his guests shoot a few promo shots
5:40 Attendance exits the show

Since the studio only seats 380 people, industry friends Stacey Weber, Kim White, my college roomate and myself were for of the lucky ones that day. During the break Kevin Eubanks and the band play great music and continue to get you totally engaged in the experience.

All I can say is the Tonight Show is a model for a business that runs smoothly day after day, week after week and month after month. What is amazing is Jay has been doing this since May 25, 1992. That is over 14 years – over 3,100 shows! Actually we went to show 3,238. Wow!

His material is still fresh, he has a permanent smile on his face and appears to be genuinely having a great time. Yes there were a few mistakes, a few jokes that weren’t perfect but Jay is such a professional and so quick it doesn’t matter.

I believe the studio audience leaves the show everyday totally satisfied and amazed at the ease with which this show is produced. Since Jay has already announced his retirement in 2009 you may want to attend a show sooner rather than later.

If you don’t have a friend of a friend of a friend to get you tickets here is a link that will help you out:

Tickets for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Let us know if you have attended this show or others and what your experience was.

PS The guests that day were

Amanda Peet
John Landis
The Spiridellis Brothers

of course I didn’t have any clue who Jo Jo was…

What A Difference A Year Makes

Monday, November 6th, 2006

Ok let me start by saying I am in a Fantasy Football League. For those of you who don’t know what that is I will try to describe it. Picture 10 guys who know very little about football and thinking they know a ton about football, sitting around a conference table and picking players for their team. Fantasy Football uses statistics from the NFL games and every week you play a different team from the league. Whatever team scores the most points wins the game.

So the winner of the league is usually the person who is able to predict:

  • What players aren’t going to get hurt?
  • Who is going to have a career year?
  • Who isn’t going to get benched?
  • Who isn’t going to get suspended for a drug violation?

And of course who isn’t going to get arrested!

Let me take you back in time to October 31st of last year. My fantasy team is 0-8. What that means is I haven’t won a game! It also means that everyone is making fun of me and that my 4 year old might have been able to do better than me.

Now let’s jump ahead to 2006 – I am now 8-0. What that means is I am in 1st place and also feeling pretty good about myself.

A few questions – how did I turn it around the next year? Who cares and why does it matter?

  • Because some companies didn’t have a great 2006.
  • Some companies lost their largest client and couldn’t find another client to make up the revenue.
  • Some companies lost some key staff and it affected their bottom line.
  • Some companies added some additional strategy and frankly it didn’t pan out.

After my fantasy football league was over last year, when I went 1-12, I actually spent sometime thinking about what went wrong:

  • Who should I have picked?
  • Why did I take a Quarterback when I should have taken a Running Back!
  • Why didn’t I pick up a certain player as a free agent?

I believe I learned from some of my mistakes from last year. Fantasy Football clearly has some luck to it – so maybe I can’t draw the connection to having a bad year in business 100% and learning from it. On the other hand, maybe luck does come into play in business as well.

So if you had a bad 2006, for whatever reason things didn’t go your way:

  • Learn from your mistakes, and
  • Replay some of your decisions.

And make 2007 a great year!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts