CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Tim Hoskins – Quester

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Tim Hoskins, President of Quester. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

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This is Jamin.  I’m with Tim Hoskins, Quester.  He was one of the presenters here at CEO Summit in Miami, 2019.  I’m honored to have him as a guest. Very inspiring story. How many years have you been going to the CEO Summit?


So, this is my fifth year.


Fifth year?  Ok, so what keeps bringing you back?


You know every year I walk away learning something different, whether it’s a big idea, formulating my own strategies and big bets, using every single person here that is well-respected in the industry as almost a sounding board to toss ideas off, see their reactions, their facial expressions, get advice.  It’s also a great time of the year to just re-energize you, what you’re embarking upon for the rest of the year.


So, strategic view?  Is that part of it? And then it sounds like maybe some real tactical, some practical things you’re able to take back home?




Got it.  So far, we’ve had a great set of guest speakers.  Is there one highlight for you? I know we’re halfway through the conference only.


I think that the session that we just listened to with Camille and the way that they transformed their company, not out of something they had to do but something that they saw into the future and what they wanted to do.


And how many…?  That took years, right?


2013 is when they started it.


And so, five years and that’s Gongos Research? Or just Gongos? Yeah, Gongos Research.  I’ve actually been a big fan of that company. I remember when they very first… I literally remember when they started.  

I want to pull out something from your talk that I thought was really interesting.  And that is the development of self-awareness as a CEO ‘cause we go through really difficult… we go through great seasons, and we’re really smart during the great seasons.


Oh, yes.  


And then, as they say, even a turkey can fly in a tornado, and then, all of a sudden, when the difficult times hit.  How did you stay motivated during the difficulties of being a CEO?


I think a big part of it was we looked at the data that I shared and just the rapid growth that we had from 14 to 15, 15 to 16, 16 to 17, and even 17 to 18.  At some level, you become very, very confident of who you are as a leader when you have those metrics and that growth. When we ended up having our setback in 2018 in January, hearing that news, it was a time of self-reflection.  It really was a time where I had to look myself in the mirror after hearing feedback from our employees, from some of our clients, and ask myself, Was I the leader that I thought I was. Am I the leader that can take the company through kind of the turbulence that we’re going to embark upon?  And, if not, what type of a leader do I need to become? What are my values?” Even reassessing some of those values. And taking a good hard look into the resources that are available. I think that every good leader pulls in from many different inspirations to formulate that solid foundation to build upon.  I would say that in 2018, I became the leader that the company needed, right? And it’s also I can look back on it and say, for the first time ever, I actually became the leader that I wanted to be as well selfishly.


So, we have quite a few CEOs that tune into this show.  What is one hack or skill, thing that you would recommend they apply to their business to create positive business outcomes?


So, I’m a big believer in founder’s mentality and Tim Urmston introduced it to me and I saw the profound effect it had on his company and just talking with him and seeing from the outside looking in.  For us personally, just being able to understand what does it take to get to scale insurgency. And then layering on top of that how do you motivate all of your employees to get on board and move in the right direction together?  As human beings, we all need that kind of solid piece of motivation that we’re all working for. And I think that, as a business, we put things out there like mission and values, and we assume that, because everybody nods their heads and shakes their head in that room that everybody is on board.  But, when they go about their daily lives and their tasks, do they always have that in mind? And if they don’t, that means that it’s not a mission; it’s not a value that everybody really resonates with. Founder’s mentality helped us get back to the company and what made us successful back in the early days.  And that was fun. We kind of recentered who we are and who we want to be and that remains the focal point for every single day and all of the decisions that we make in the moment and for the future.


One of the challenges as a CEO is there is so many different initiatives that we feel like we have to be driving all the time.  You might have a major customer loss, or a major customer win, or a major opportunity that presents itself, all of which seem like they take a lot of focus.  Given the speed of those things happening in business today, it can take our… you know we could talk about something that really important like core values and then two weeks later, think everybody’s on board and start talking about this new big opportunity in front in of us.  Really, they might not even have heard that we’re talking about core values over that period of time. It’s important that we apply the discipline of, even though we see what needs to get done, that we apply the discipline of pulling back and going slow so it lets everybody catch up.


Absolutely.  And you know I think that the other thing that happened is that we became, as an organization and as a company, so enamored and so motivated and so focused on growth that some of the other areas that are so… the building blocks to sustain growth and to fuel growth, we thought that everything was moving in the right direction because growth was happening, but this was the…  it was one of the most challenging years, but it was the best year, and it was the best thing that ever happened to our company since I’ve been there.


So, Merrill has this great saying:  “Profits hide problems.” I think you’re right; revenue in a lot of ways we think of it the cure-all for business, but, listening to your story…  For listeners that might not have the context, you had a major customer loss or contraction of revenue and that caused you to refocus the business and, while year over year, it doesn’t look great, if you think about December over December, very positive growth trajectory.


Absolutely.  And even in our projections and conversations that we’re having with our clients about where do we fit in within our learning plan, we have more opportunities, and it’s going to fuel significant growth this year.  While we look at 2018 as something that was challenging, it was absolutely necessary to prepare us for the next three, five, ten years plus. I believe that, in hearing from our clients and hearing from my colleagues, we all have that solid foundation to build on, and we have the right metrics and KPI’s in place to make sure that we’re not just looking at growth,  we’re not just looking at month over month, year over year, but we’re looking at all the different facets that fuel growth and sustain it as well.   


So, Quester, AI company.  Maybe could tell us a little bit about what it is you guys do.


Absolutely.  Quester is a strategy, a research and consulting company.  Our wow-factor or the unique factor is that around early 2005, between 2005-2010, we started developing the industry’s first and only Artificial Intelligence Backed Moderator.  The respondents are actually engaging in chat-based or voice-based conversation with AI versus a human moderator, which allows us to scale qualitative into larger sample sizes. But where a lot of clients are leveraging us is taking traditional quantitative and qualitative phases of research and combining them together into one hybrid solution.


That sounds fantastic.  And one of drums that I’ve been beating over the last 24 months, really two years, is… you think about what research is, quantitative research, specifically a survey, is a conversation at scale.  If you and I were a small flower, let’s say, we don’t need to do a survey because we’re talking to our customers every day. But, if we have 100 flower shops, all of a sudden, we got to do a survey because it’s a conversation at scale.  What’s interesting about artificial intelligence and machine learning and sentiment analysis and all the fantastic technology that’s come about in the last decade, is you can take qualitative data and process it so it literally is a conversation at scale.


Absolutely.  And I don’t…  everybody is enamored by the technology in our approach, but so much of the magic in what we do really is on our analysts; we have a team of quantitative analysts, marketing scientists, as well as linguistic analysts.  We do things with qualitative and unstructured data. We quantify it in a way where businesses and consumer insights departments can present a finding that is qualitative in nature, unstructured in nature, but present it with the same confidence that they do quantitative information because they’ve talked to a representative sample size, they’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of their consumers.  Now the insights look a bit different because it’s not just a data point with no depth. It’s a data point with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories, to support it. And that’s really the magic happens because our clients are finding that it’s… yes, here’s the strategy that we need to move forward with, but here’s the context (the full consumer context) that provides those guardrails to strategy implementation.  That’s kind of the area we’re getting into more and more is not just stopping at the insight production but taking it all the way through insight execution.


Very interesting. My guest today, Tim, Quester.  How do people get in contact with you?


You can call me: 515-509-1975 or email me at


Tim, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you very much.