It’s a Long Way to the Top – building a research career in the 21st Century

August 25, 2015

Whether you’ve been around almost as long as AMSRS itself or are just starting, we feel you’ll find something worthwhile in Teri Nolan’s and my presentation on the first afternoon of the 2015 AMSRS Conference. With me looking back 30 years and Teri looking forward the same, we’re part of the “Passion of Research” session.bon scott swanston We’ll look at….

Developments in three key areas have impacted the industry and career progression

  1. Consumer markets (from mass markets to targeted one-on-one marketing)
  2. Mass media (from single set households to ‘three screens per person’)
  3. Data depth (from surveys of hundreds or thousands to Big Data, Internet of Things and The Quantified Self)

The researcher’s life in 2020 and beyond

  1. Career expectations and changes in the workplace. Disruptions and uncertainty as opportunities
  2. Varied experiences – Jack-of-all-trades, master of one, or a master of some? Work routines and ‘off the job’ learning
  3. Specialists & Polymaths
  4. Re-engineering & re-branding
  5. More boutiques, specialty agencies, so more roles ‘at the top’ for those in research

Professional Development – you don’t know what you don’t know!

May 2, 2012

Having recently assumed the chair of the AMSRS’s Professional Development Program, the first thing that struck me was the enormous range and diversity of subject matter one has to command these days to be a truly effective market researcher. The extent of knowledge required makes it even more important to encourage continuous learning if we are to retain the value of MR as a profession in both the commercial and social sphere.

At the risk of over-simplifying, there wasn’t that much to learn in the late 70s to early 80s. If you were capable of questionnaire design, understood stats and a bit of sampling, could analyse data, and maybe present with some coherence you could work in a research company. Read On..>


The Fine Line between Passion and Pride

September 6, 2011

I spoke recently, on separate occasions, to a couple of colleagues now at major research buyers. Interestingly, both commented on what they saw as a ‘decline in passion’ from all but their most specialised (i.e. smaller or niche) suppliers.

Both felt that, as well as the harder times in the market economies generally bringing everyone down, the organisational changes arising from consolidation in the industry may also be playing a part in this emotional change. In particular, the increased prevalence of personnel policies, necessitated by organisational complexity, was thought to be a key factor. The structures imposed by such were driving the ‘star players’ upwards (to staff roles) or outwards at many of the larger companies in favour of safe but not necessarily inspiring performers. Read the rest of this entry »


Running a Market Research Company: What I Learned Over Lunch

May 16, 2011
Risata Overlooking Steelhead Trout

Image by atl10trader via Flickr

Many years ago now, I was taken out to a long ‘relaxing’ lunch (as was the custom of those days) by a senior industry player. I was just starting out on my managerial career, and I suspect his major motivation was to fish for competitive intelligence, or perhaps to see if I was wanting to jump ship. But, as he poured the second glass, he seemed to decide I was worthy of mentoring and so started to give advice on how to manage a market research company. One bit, in particular, stuck with me. Leaning over he intoned: “look Alastair, making money out of MR is a lot simpler than most realise: all you need to do is hire the best people in the industry, pay them 20% more than they’d get anywhere else, then work them twice as hard as anybody else would.

A little while later, I was about to head off for my first overseas assignment, and at a far more genteel lunch our company chairman also offered some advice. I’d been probing him for clues on cultural factors that might impact my work and he’d been politely indulging me with helpful tips. Then he said “But you know, Alastair, that while all these things are important, there are two more important things in running a research business” . The first he said, was to know enough of finance and accountancy so your finance director could not pull the wool over your eyes (he put it more politely than that!). The second thing was to “recruit a team that is not like you, that compensates for your weaknesses, and will argue with you in an intelligent, rational way. If your team are all like you, and always agree with you, then sooner or later the company will be in trouble“.

Read the rest of this entry »


When Worlds Collide – Surviving M&A and Thriving

April 5, 2011

Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. Read On..>


The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not: Our Pick of The Top MR Trends

March 8, 2011
Talk Nerdy To Me #2

Yeah Right. What's The Really Hot Talk? Image by Constantine Belias via Flickr

Last year there seemed to be such a plethora of posts (including some of ours) about the top trends in the market research industry that we thought it was time for a break.

But when Tom Anderson of Next Gen Market Research came up with the idea of a whole lot of NGMR bloggers simultaneously blogging on the top 10 issues the MR industry has to consider in coming years it seemed too much fun to miss. Here’s our views then — to be fair we’ve dropped out a few of the more totally obvious “top 10” and maybe elevated some we think are important but often overlooked — but we’ll be interested in hearing what you think (and do look up the others posts via Tom’s blog or on Twitter at hashtags: #NGMR #5Hot5Not).

Let’s start with our 5 “Not Hot”.

  1. Reining in HR. After years of imposing restrictive salary structures and job description demarcations along with their depiction of creative staff as being ‘high maintenance’, senior management finally abandons the tedious tenants of HR orthodoxy and starts treating imaginative and innovative researchers in the same way the top advertising agencies treat their best art directors and copywriters. In some cases, they even get a place at the top table again!
    Read the rest of this entry »

Skin in the Game – in Praise of Employee Equity

February 7, 2011

A recent Research blog by my ex-boss, Nick Sparrow, founder of ICM, extolled the virtues of offering equity to agency staff. In fact, it was Nick who taught me in the early 80’s how to sell research based on its benefits not its features (which given my statistician’s focus at the time was a revelation!)

Nick expounded his vision of a business “run solely for all the people employed” where a company is best run, and gives the best service to clients, when the people feel a sense of ownership. It’s interesting to note that two of the UK’s ‘thought’ leading agencies (both of whom have won Agency of the Year) Brainjuicer and Truth appear both to have embarked on similar ownership structures.

Although, ICM was owned by 10 shareholders before its sale, Nick was interested to see research businesses go further and make all employees shareholders. Here the clients benefited as their interests were best served and reinforced by the servicing team who in turn profited from satisfied, returning, regular clients. Read On..>