Ep. 564 – Transitioning Into a new Career with Joe Mulvaney, Senior Vice President of NA for Qualitative at Schlesinger Group

Today I’m joined by Joe Mulvaney, Senior Vice President of NA for Qualitative at Schlesinger Group. 

Schlesinger Group is a technology-led data company that delivers a broad range of qualitative and quantitative research solutions to connect human answers to business questions as a single point of access to your worldwide audiences. 

Prior to starting joining Schlesinger, Joe founded Quotus, a research operations company. He also served as Senior Vice President of Operations at Ipsos and Sr. Manager – Competitive Intelligence at Procter & Gamble. 

Additionally, he is a Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Cedarville University. 

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This Episode is Sponsored by:

The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the #1 ranked insights and analytics graduate degree in three formats: 

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NEW FOR 2022: 

If you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their 3-course certificates: Insights Design or Insights Analysis. 

In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build toward your graduation.

If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSMU’s programs at: broad.msu.edu/marketing.

HubUX is a research operation platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 
For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit hubux.com.


Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody. This is Jamin. Today, we are joined by Joe Mulvaney. Senior vice president of North America for qualitative at Schlesinger Group. Schlesinger Group, as all of you know, is a technology led data company that delivers a broad range of qualitative and quantitative research solutions to connect human answers to business questions. Prior to joining Schlesinger, Joe founded Quotus, which is a research operations company. He’s also served as senior vice president of operations and Ipsos, and senior manager of competitive intelligence at Proctor & Gamble. Additionally, and this one is near and dear to my heart, he is a mentor and entrepreneur residence at Cedarville University. Joe, welcome to the podcast.


Joe Mulvaney: Thank you, Jamin. Happy to be here.


Jamin Brazil: The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in marketing research program, delivers the number one ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats. Full time on campus, full time online, and part time online. New for 2022. If you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their three course certifications. Insights design, or insights analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build toward your graduation. If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSU program at broad. msu. edu/marketing. Again, broad. msu. edu/marketing. HubUX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video addition questions and surveys. For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit HubUX.com. It is an honor to have you. I saw your note on LinkedIn or your update on LinkedIn regarding your transition to Schlesinger I want to say about a month ago. I thought that was so interesting. That you as a founder, you started Quotus in 2018 I believe. You had wrapped that up and then decided to move back into corporate America. I wanted to start and pull back because you left a really good, actually a very prestigious job at Ipsos as senior vice president of operations. Why did you leave that job to start Quotus?


Joe Mulvaney: It’s a great question. I think it was two-fold really. One was the desire to always start my own business. To see if I could start it, run it, keep it going, make money in it. Always something that was a goal of mine that I wanted to try and do. But the Quotus aspect of that was in my time at Ipsos, I saw really a need in the qualitative industries specifically for good project management service. For independent moderator, independent researchers, or smaller research firms that didn’t have the resources of the bigger firms like in Ipsos or Kantar. Talking with folks doing my own market research, really saw that as a need for folks out there. Having led the project management team at Ipsos, I wanted to give project managers the opportunity to grow their careers in that way. And be able to choose their clients, choose their projects that they work on, and take more ownership of their side of market research. That’s really what drove me to starting Quotus. It was a success and really had no desire to close it until Schlesinger came with this opportunity.


Jamin Brazil: Got it. The opportunity presented itself from Schlesinger. Why did you decide to take it?


Joe Mulvaney: Couple of reasons. One was when I started Quotus in 2018, obviously pre-pandemic. The industry looked completely different than what it looks today. The industry is moving very fast and has continued to move very fast towards a digital DIY tech focused industry. Versus there was more hands-on and project management I think was more of a need prior to the pandemic when you had a lot of more logistics involved in the research. You had folks traveling to certain cities. You had folks needing tech set up in facilities or outside of facilities. There was a lot of vendor management that project managers have to take care of. A lot of that has changed. A lot of tech partners in the industry have upgraded their systems to be more DIY. At the same time, they are starting to offer project management services within their own businesses. From their economies of scale, it was more of a strain on me kind of the small guy. But more importantly, I think was the opportunity to join Schlesinger and just the amazing team that we have there. And that I get to work on a daily basis with some of the top minds in our industry, and some of the folks that have been in other companies like myself that have joined Schlesinger and brought years of experience. The chance to collaborate with them and to help make their team even better than it is today with my experience, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Definitely happy to be there.


Jamin Brazil: For me, at HubUX which is a small research operations platform with some services layered, I could probably uniquely relate with you. You go from a big company where you are interacting with lots of people. Many of them very senior. May have been in the industry 10 plus years. To kind of your own fiefdom where you are the senior person. Then there is this vacuum or for me anyway, desire to connect with other people at a peer level on a day-to-day basis that you just lack.


Joe Mulvaney: Absolutely. I had the chance to actually work with Eric and your team on a project or two. It was fantastic. You guys have a great platform. You are exactly right. It was a hard choice to make and deciding to do I continue to stay running my own shop or join this bigger organization. But knowing I feel like as much as starting my own business and starting Quotas and going through that for four years. I’m happy to say in the black, all four years. Grew the business through the pandemic. Really stretched myself in terms that I didn’t think was possible. But I looked at the opportunity as Schlesinger Group too as another challenge for myself to get out of my own comfort zone, and to continue to push myself in new ways.


Jamin Brazil: The topic of personal disruption is something that comes up periodically. In fact, Harvard Business Review has done a few important pieces on this specific topic. In a lot of ways, we all seek growth even though growth inherently requires change which is painful. How much of that drive for personal growth was why you started Quotus? Excuse me.


Joe Mulvaney: A lot of it. It’s one of those things that I think a lot of us have inside of us to- it’s that what if question of can I do this or what if I did this? What would happen? Could I succeed at this? I think one of the biggest surprises for me in starting Quotus was truly learning what I was truly capable of. We are more capable of what we give ourselves credit for, I think. In starting Quotus, the biggest fear that I had was how am I going to sell it? I’m not a salesman. There are people out there that are better at sales than I am. But just being myself going out, creating relationships which is what a lot of our qualitative industry specifically but really across the market research world is built on relationships. Just focusing on my strengths. Focusing on those things and not going into it like I have to sell this. No. I went into is as I just want to create a relationship with this person. See if I can help them. Maybe they can help me. Before you knew it, I was making money and things were great. But that aspect of truly pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone. That was something that was very enticing, but also a little scary.


Jamin Brazil: What was the biggest surprise or some of the biggest surprises that you found in running your own business?


Joe Mulvaney: One was definitely finding out what I was truly capable of and finding out things that I didn’t think that I would be successful at. Be it sales or be it just managing each aspect of the business. Because as you know, when you start your own business, you are the sales guy. You are the accounting guy. You are the finance guy. You are the procurement guy. You have to do all of those things. The biggest surprise was just having confidence or believing in myself that I could do it. Then seeing that come to fruition was fantastic. Another surprise was just how or lack of a better word, how friendly the qualitative research industry is. I got a lot of support from folks that I didn’t even know before starting Quotus. Some of those folks just really pouring into me, giving me advice and help along the way was a fantastic surprise that I was not expecting.


Jamin Brazil: It is a remarkably supportive community in the qualitative space and the quantitative space. I think market research in general, one of the things that I found remarkable is that we are friendly. There are some assholes, but we are generally speaking, we are a friendly bunch. Anybody that stays in it certainly seems to fit that bill. I’ll also say the Schlesinger Group, and they are not paying me to say this. But having worked with them for many, many years. In fact, two decades. There are some really nice people over there as well. Steve Schlesinger has built with his family and private equity company, it’s just absolutely remarkable and exciting to see where they are going to keep taking.


Joe Mulvaney: You are exactly right. I think that was part of that surprise that I was talking about. Was some of the biggest supporters that I had come from the least likely group of people that I didn’t expect. The folks that I thought would be there and some of my what I thought would be the biggest supporters, they weren’t. That’s just one of those things that as an entrepreneur you just have to keep being you, and you have to put your head down and just trust the process. And continue focusing on your goals not worrying about what the people out there are doing, or who is supporting you, who is not. But you are exactly right. The industry is filled with a great group of people. They are happy to see everybody else succeed which is fantastic.


Jamin Brazil: Totally. You are stepping into a new phase. A new job which I always think of that as this exiting a room and walking into another room is my metaphor. What advice would you like to give your 10-year younger self?


Joe Mulvaney: Wow. Great question. I think the first is just confidence. Trust yourself. Trust yourself. Trust your gut that nine times out of ten, your gut instinct is going to be right or at least that’s what I found. Chase your goals. That was one of the things that hesitated on for a while. I ended up starting Quotus in 2018. I started thinking about it in 2015, 2016. It took me a while to really make that jump and get out there and do it. But I’m happy that I did. I think some of the advice that I would give to myself is just trust your instinct. Go for it. That applies to you said 10 years. My wife and I we’ve been together eight years. One of the pieces of advice I would say is ask your wife out sooner. Start that adventure sooner too because that’s the other piece. Without her behind me, without a strong partner behind you. I don’t know how successful it would have been. But knowing that I had her encouragement and confidence behind me every day, that was a huge help.


Jamin Brazil: I have one last question for you. What is your personal motto?


Joe Mulvaney: Be authentic. Be yourself. That’s who I’ve always tried to be. Just tried to be honest and be authentic with people. Not try to be somebody that I’m not.


Jamin Brazil: Our guest today has been Joe Mulvaney. Senior vice president of North America for qualitative at Schlesinger Group. Joe, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Joe Mulvaney: Thanks, Jamin. I appreciate it.


Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, have a great rest of your day.