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Research Interview with Larry Gulledge

Two minutes with executive Larry Gulledge, who will be retiring from the marketing research industry after 30+ years.

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to meet Larry over the years, trust me when I say he is a special person. I worked with Larry at Elrick & Lavidge. He has the intelligence, heart and spirit that EVERY company desires. Our industry will be lesser without Larry being part of it.

MD How did you get started in the research industry?
LG I began my career with Equifax who had a small internal unit that handled special data collection assignments for some of their clients. I identified those special assignments as marketing research and began including the capability in my sales calls on both prospects and clients. Over time I began to successfully sell a few projects at the same time that Equifax decided to organize that small unit into a separate profit center. With success comes growth and that small unit, with Equifax funding, purchased Elrick and Lavidge where I spent most of my marketing research career.

Industry Executive Larry Gulledge

MD Do you have any favorite sayings? If so what are they?
LG When feeling pressure my most common saying is “Remove the stressor.” What this really means is address the problem NOW. Don’t let problems linger. Confront them as early as possible in the most positive manner you can, realizing of course that many times there is nothing positive about what is stressing you but you “stick out your third vest button” and keep moving. “Sticking out your third vest button” is a saying that I picked up from my late father-in-law who was a very successful salesman following his Air Force career where he reached the rank of Colonel. In his day you wore vests and the third button was located at your chest level – so “sticking out your third button” to him meant that you were proud and purposeful in all that you did.
MD What does the research industry look like in the year 2016?
LG We’ve seen a lot of change in the previous ten years and I suspect that we will continue to see change. The past brought us mergers and technology. The future will bring more of each. I once wrote an article that included a future scene where a shopper finished paying for a purchase and then placed her hand on an electronic pad that was sensitive to her emotions and was able to measure her level of satisfaction with the transaction. Her “rating” was immediately stored in a database and then reported at the store, district and corporate level in aggregate with other scores. Who knows – by 2016 maybe this will be realized
MD What do you think is your biggest success during your 30+ year research career?
LG Making it 30+ years in research while remaining happily married for 46 years.
MD Monday morning quarterback – was there a time you zigged instead of zagged?
LG Oh, yes. Many times. In this business I suspect we have all “zigged” when we should have “zagged” and probably more than once. But I have no major regrets. I feel blessed.
MD What would you say is the best part of the marketing research industry?
LG The people, of course. What a wonderful, professional, intelligent and handsome group of associates we work with every day and the grand relationships that are forged. But I also have to include the variety and importance of the work that we share ranks high as well.
MD What do you think is the biggest challenge the industry is facing today?
LG Whether working on the client or supplier side, a very big challenge is increasing respondent cooperation/completion rates. Cooperation fees, much like what is paid to qualitative respondents, may be required on quantitative studies if we are to avoid the self-selection bias that we continue to experience on CATI and Web studies. We need to address and ensure that sample validity; confidence levels and reliability are not being compromised. Our clients continue to stress their need for “faster, better and cheaper” performance from their suppliers. Although technology has enabled us to be faster and cheaper I’m not so sure about the “better”.
MD What advice would you give entry-level people entering the research profession?
LG I don’t give advice unless asked but since you did here are a few remarks that I would include in my advice to an entry-level associate. My advice to a more senior/experienced associate would include these as well as several other suggestions:

1. Display a sense of urgency in all that you do.
2. Remove stressors as quickly as possible.
3. Act and dress professionally even when casual.
4. Develop business literacy – understand how your efforts contribute to bottom line results.
5. Listen more – don’t be a know-it-all in meetings.
6. Work to improve your communication skills.
7. Smile more.
MD As you ride off into the sunset and start retirement, how do you plan on spending your free time?
LG My wife and I plan to travel. Initially we have a couple of health issues to resolve that will take up the first 3–4 months of our new life but then we plan to travel. I hope to write but we will see how that develops.

Larry, thank you so much for your thoughts, and thanks for a lifetime of contribution to this great industry.

Not good bye, just so long.

Questions for Larry can be posted in the comment section.

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