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A Presidential Point of View (Part One)

The market research industry consists of thousands of companies. Within those companies there is always a president–some type of leader at the top. Each of these people is different. They can be different in style, strategy, background and how they approach different situations.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting some very talented people. Some of which I have served on national boards with and have seen first hand how intelligent, creative and how successful these people are.

Today’s blog is the first of a two-part series that will introduce you to seven market research presidents and will explore their habits, practices and leadership style.

I hope you enjoy getting to know seven presidents and finding out a little bit of what they do and how they do it.

As President of your organization what does an average day look like?

Carl Iseman is President of Assistance in Marketing, Inc
(To see all of Carl Iseman’s responses, click here)

An average day: I start every day with 1 hour of exercise since I truly believe that a healthy body generates a healthy mind. Once getting to the office, I first check on all of my projects in the field and then recruiting productivity of each of my facilities. Next review current receivables and payables…the morning is spent with the numbers. Afternoons are spent working on new revenue generating ideas, business improvements, checking on the competition and following up with those I need to respond to…..a lot of this follow up to insure that we met and hopefully exceeded our clients expectations…many calls to moderators and other clients. In the evening I check on projects in the field just to make sure my clients are getting the service they expect, wherever they are.

Ken Roberts is President of Cooper Roberts
(To see all of Ken Roberts’ responses, click here)Morning: checking mail, voice mail, phone calls, study status, sales activity. Mid-day: client calls, proposal writing, project advise, time at the gym, quick lunch at my desk. Afternoon: mostly client contact, proposals/pricing, any company financials/operations issues, prepping for the next day, out the door around 6:30 or 7:00. Evenings: Check calendar/email, light correspondence right before going to bed.

Morning: checking mail, voice mail, phone calls, study status, sales activity. Mid-day: client calls, proposal writing, project advise, time at the gym, quick lunch at my desk. Afternoon: mostly client contact, proposals/pricing, any company financials/operations issues, prepping for the next day, out the door around 6:30 or 7:00. Evenings: Check calendar/email, light correspondence right before going to bed. Michael Halberstam is President of ISA America
(To see all of Michael Halberstam’s responses, click here)

My average day begins by logging on to the office from home at around 6:15 AM. I respond to clients, work on bids, set up meetings for the day and look at reports. I also check on the sports stories and box score for the previous day.

While I have items on my calendar for each day there are issues that are business related, such as financial, strategic, industry and legal issues, to deal with. Typically, I will meet with our COO daily and touch based 2-3 times a week with our HR director. I also get reports from, and communicate regularly with, each of our office locations around the world.

Peggy O’Connor President of On-Line Communication
(To see all of Peggy O’Connor’s responses, click here)

An average day is like lying on a beautiful tropical beach with barb wire and a hand grenade.

John Heakin is President North American Insights
(To see all of John Heakin’s responses, click here)

I wake at 5:30, make some coffee, look at the paper, check some headlines on CNN, CNBC, and The Weather Channel. At 7:00, I log on and look at email that came in overnight. By 7:15, I know where we stand on every job in every city and start sending remarks to my managers. I get to work at 9, reply to customers and vendors, and phone mailers. Depending on the day of the week, week of the month, and our payroll and mall rental payment cycles, I’m checking our cash flow. Everyday, there are adjustments to be made in billing and clients who are late paying. I approve vendor invoices. Throughout the day I sneak a peak at our job log to see who has been added, how many cities, and the size of the project. I have to remind managers to get invoices in. I am constantly on the lookout for new customers, and more and better employees. At times, I am involved in charitable activities, MRA committees, and Southern Illinois University alumni activities. Since I work most Saturdays, and check into our progress online on Sundays, I have no problem doing outside things in the office. When I get home between 6-7 pm, I check my email first thing, and then again at 10 as I get ready to turn in for the night.

Merrill Shugoll is President of Shugoll Research
(To see all of Merrill Shugoll’s responses, click here)

  • Meeting with appropriate staff regarding one or more of the following:
    • Business strategy
    • Quality practices
    • Facility improvements
    • Business development
    • Staff Development
    • Technology
    • Finance
    • Client feedback
    • Employee feedback
  • In person meetings or conference calls with one or more outside advisors, research partners or job candidates – Accountant
    • Corporate or HR attorney
    • Banker
    • Insurance broker
    • Architect/Interior Designer/Real Estate Agent
    • Travel consultant
    • Research partner
    • Job candidate
  • Lunch and/or meeting with a client, a prospect or other colleague
  • Meeting with Senior Vice President of Field Operations
  • Review of or consult on key deliverables for highly valued clients (e.g., proposals, final reports, etc.)
  • Review of or consult on key documents or contracts from clients and research partners
  • Preparation of study materials on projects I’m directing for highly valued clients
  • Conference calls and completion of tasks related to my professional and community involvement activities (e.g., Board of MRA, Committee involvement for QRCA, Board involvement for Signature Theatre, speaking engagements)

Ann Tancredi-Brown is President of Gazelle Global
(To see all of Ann Tancredi-Brown’s responses, click here)

I leave the house at 7:30; return at 7:30PM. In between I take B to school/ and or pick her up 2-3 times a week. I glance at my email on the train. Once in the office, I read my email including RFP’s. I attend scheduling/status meetings at 11:45. I attend job related meetings/conference calls and business planning meetings, work with our bookkeeper on accounting related issues, sign checks, wire transfer documents, review invoices and billing.

What was the best business decision you ever made?

Carl Iseman

The best business decision I ever made was to purchase my second focus group facility, AIM Columbus. This second facility created much synergy and gave me much more flexibility to insure I always have the capacity to support my clients.

Michael Halberstam

This is tough to answer. I think there were three decisions that have helped ISA grow. First, around 1984, that I was only going to hire and work with individuals whose orientation to quality and work ethic mirrored my own. This has resulted in over 20 people who have been with ISA over 15 years. They have been outstanding to work with and ensure our leadership position in the data collection industry.

Second, was a decision I made in 1983 to do bilingual, multicultural data collection. In the intervening years we have conducted projects in 67 languages. It has been a fantastic learning experience. I have been introduced to many interesting cultures through the years and met some incredibly dedicated and fascinating people. As of today over 25% of our work is done in languages other than English crossing all modes of data collection.

Third, was our decision to invest in diversifying beyond just CATI data collection. In 1990 we added tabulation and coding. In 1995 we added IVR. In 1997 we purchased the assets of a qualitative company today known as Qualitative Insights. We did our first Web based survey in 1999. In 2005 we purchased the assets of Call-Us Info in Canada and the Opinion One software suite. Earlier this year we signed an agreement with Telemundo to manage their new focus group and interviewing facility at Universal City Walk in Hollywood, CA. Our current mix of work is 57% CATI with the rest a combination of IVR, Web, focus groups, in-person and tabulation/coding. We are always talking to other companies about different opportunities.

Peggy O’Connor

My best decision was to keep up with the technological changes in our industry and expand into new related areas of business

John Heakin

I know this is really trite and soapy, but marrying my wife was really one of the best things in my career. Maureen was an End User client of mine back in 1977 when we began dating. She was a young Field Director who was trying to learn the ropes. So I would work with her and I’m sure she benefited from that in many ways. On the other hand, she was great in explaining the whys and wherefores of the client side, so I was well served by that. Socially, it was enormous. Frankly, a lot of Research Suppliers treat field service people rudely, although I have to say that the Presidents of those companies were generally very congenial and complimentary to me throughout my career. After I married an End User, that all changed. Standing beside Maureen guaranteed polite and respectful treatment, and invitations to many events I would not have been invited to otherwise. So people who would not have bothered, got to know me, and that helped the Heakin family as it was an advantage our competitors did not enjoy.

Ken Roberts

To start this business in partnership with Sandy Cooper.

Merrill Shugoll The best decision I ever made was going into my family business to diversify its services. I like being an entrepreneur. It’s challenging and fun. The highs are definitely higher and the lows are definitely lower.

Ann Tancredi-Brown

The best decision I have ever made was to agree to become a partner in Gazelle.

As a business leader how do you measure success?

Carl Iseman

I measure success both qualitatively and quantitatively. Increasing sales, improving bottom lines and increased productivity are good, but only short term measures. Our reputation with clients and in the profession, the level of satisfaction amongst my employees and clients are much more important in the long term. High ratings from our clients, both on the Impulse survey and in our internal customer satisfaction programs are really what define success for me. Happy and productive employees who grow with our business and increasing numbers of clients who refer new clients to me are what we strive for….the bottom line is a direct result.

Michael Halberstam

We measure success against our strategic and financial goals for the year as well as a set of internal performance metrics. These are somewhat fluid. We also continually look at how our clients and competitors are doing. Finally, we have a customer satisfaction survey that goes out via the Web, after each project. Each month we look at these scores, analyze the results and respond/act accordingly.

Ken Roberts The growth of my people, the growth of our business, and respect among our peers.

John Heakin

Satisfaction in a job well done. But the national recognition we have received for a lifetime of dedication to excellence through MRA committee work (now 35 years) and financial rewards have been more than I ever imagined.

Merrill Shugoll

  1. We are successful if we have been able to maintain high levels of client satisfaction over time, while remaining profitable. I evaluate this through client satisfaction studies, weekly analysis of cash flow reports and monthly analysis of our financial statements.
  2. We are successful if we have been able to create a work environment that staff find intellectually challenging and personally and professionally rewarding. I measure this by obtaining feedback from employees and by measuring our turnover rate and the longevity of our staff.
  3. We are successful if our company is able to sustain its targeted contribution goals both in trade and tangible dollars to the performing and visual arts community across the country.

Peggy O’Connor

The obvious one is monetarily but of equal weight is the development and retention of your key employees.

Ann Tancredi-Brown I measure success by the trust our clients place in us and by our long term client relationships which have enabled us to grow and change, hopefully in step with the industry. I also measure success by having the clients and resources to employ a hard working and motivated team.

Are there certain qualities that you look for in people you are hiring?

Carl Iseman

I always strive to employ people who have a dedication to learn and improve while doing all they can to be a team player who subscribes to our basic objective that they’ll do whatever it takes to insure that our clients are enthusiastically satisfied. We look for people who have established track records while also looking for those that appear to have the desire to excel and the potential.

Michael Halberstam

I normally look for several things. What experiences do they have? Are they friendly? Is this someone is want to interact with on a regular basis? Is this someone who can learn how we do things? Are they committed to high quality? I will typically talk and meet with a senior level candidate four times, under different circumstances (Lunch, in the office, dinner over the phone) before making a decision. Senior level candidates will also be required to meet with our COO and perhaps another partner.

John Heakin

Enthusiasm. Professionalism. Integrity. Experience. Commitment. Loyalty. I want people with a sense of style so that all my stakeholders will see we are a professional organization. We have very high standards for maintenance of our facilities, dress codes and employee behavior, to communicate that belief.

Merrill Shugoll

  1. A candidate’s human values (e.g., honesty, work ethic, commitment to their job and to their colleagues, willingness to accept responsibility, willingness to collaborate and share knowledge, etc.)
  2. A candidate’s current and future career aspirations
  3. A candidate’s academic background and work experience
  4. Willingness to travel, if needed
  5. A candidate’s technology skills
  6. A candidate’s current level of knowledge and skills to determine competency for the open position
  7. A candidate’s client service skills, willingness and ability to nurture existing client relationships
  8. A candidate’s ability to respond intelligently to a series of scenarios they might encounter on the job
  9. A candidate’s willingness and past experience with mining new business
  10. Reasons for wanting to leave their current position and what they like best and least about their current position
  11. A candidate’s creativity, talent and past success in developing new services/products to increase company revenues

Ken Roberts

We try to find the folks where research is in their blood – where it is a passion and not just a job.

Peggy O’Connor

The qualities I look for when I hire are fairly straight forward. Work ethic, excellent diction, minimal accent, enthusiastic manner, honesty, reliability and the able to speak their mind regardless of the circumstances.

Ann Tancredi-Brown

I look for people who have high quality standards and work ethic, usually at a very senior skill level. I try to determine whether or not they will be a good team player.

Stay tuned for part two of A Presidential Point of View

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