Welcome to the MRMW NA 2019 Conference Series. Recorded live in Cincinnati, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Will Krieger, VP of Research America.
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Will Krieger, Research America, MRMW – He and I got to spend a few minutes together talking about how Research America is improving overall insights deliveries into their customers. Another piece of our conversation, which I actually thought was really interesting, is that M&A strategy that Rob Porter has put together with Research America to drive 16 successful acquisitions in just a five-year period of time. I can give you a hint as to what the solution is: It’s all about core values, fit, and culture. Enjoy.
My guest today is Will Krieger, Research America. Will, thanks for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Thanks for having me.
So, we’re live today at MRMW in Cincinnati, Ohio. Have you been to this show before?
I have. First time was last year.
OK, got it. And are you from… I know Research America has an office here, right?
We do. Yeah, we’re in Blue Ash. If you know Cincinnati. So, northern Cincinnati. And I am from Cincinnati. I’ve been here, born and raised in Cincinnati, which is not at all uncommon in the Cincinnati area.
Yeah, I had an employee from here. So, my previous business partner, Jayme Plunkett and I, hired out of his graduating class out of Stanford. And one of them, Alex (I forget his last name now), but was native Cincinnati. And one of the things I found out about the community is, it’s kind of like if you’re born here, you stay here.
Exactly, and I’ve stayed here.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s great, though.
Family’s a big part of that.
Right. You’ve got the whole family here. It’s hard to break away from that.
It’s about those core values, I think, too, right? You have like the similar world view on what’s important and that helps at a corporate level or support that at a corporate level is… If you go to a different environment, they might not think that those same values are important, and so driving you to do different behaviors that aren’t supportive.
Very true, very true.
Which is nice about Research America, thinking about that business as… I know Rob Porter, the CEO, very family-oriented individual. That’s nice to have that little consistency.
Absolutely. Every company that we’ve acquired (maybe we’ll get into that) has that same kind of set of core values, if you will: Collaboration is a big one; integrity; several others. We all have the same set of core values, which helps us mesh together as a team.
Yeah, I love that. And that’s one of the things I’ve been picking up more and more with successful companies, is that the intangible, the community that’s created inside of the organization is more important that the assets that are sold. And my these is that (and this isn’t like some Ah-ha moment that anybody’s going to have; this is well documented) is that the one piece of intellectual property that we have that keeps us differentiated in the marketplace is the relationship with the customer, right? And if you can drive that relationship internally, it’ll naturally be an extension externally.
Mh-hmm, I agree. I would add it’s the relationship with the customer and the relationship you have with one another, right? In order to do your best work, I think it’s critical to have a team that can really gel well together, come up with great ideas, be able to think on behalf of the client.
Yeah, I totally agree with that point. So, tell me what’s going on at Research America. Wait, so how long have you been there?
Yeah, so, I’m from one of the companies that was acquired. We were acquired in September 2016. So it’s been about two-and-a-half years.
Yeah, that’s awesome!
Yeah, it’s great. I’ve really been enjoying it. So, the quick story is 16 acquisitions in five years.
That’s very fast.
That’s a lot of acquisitions in a short amount of time. For the most part, they’re full-service consultancies that have been acquired, kind of in the boutique firm-size: so plus or minus ten people; so high-touch, high-consultative approach to research. We also have our own field arm of the business as well. So, what’s new? That’s what’s new really. I mean it’s constantly evolving. I think of myself – I was just saying to somebody – as a solutions consultant: not just kind of taking in and “Here’s what I’ve done” or “Here’s how I’ve approached it.” but “Here is what our full suite of companies and offerings has.” and ultimately what’s the problem the client has and what solution can we provide to help them.
I love that. I don’t know if you heard one of the earlier speakers, Gayle of Four Square. Dude, I mean… on point, right? And she talked about don’t be in love… actually, the way she said it was, “Be in love with the problem, not the solution.” And I think that is so on point with what drives positive business outcomes.
I agree completely.
As soon as you start, as they say, “Everything is a nail to a hammer… That is such as losing proposition in today’s marketplace. You have to be willing to not care about your framework and your offerings and your products and say, “This is the customer’s need. Can we meet it? And if so… If not, then just help point them in the right direction. Talk about value creation, right? Do you have a favorite, recent customer story or anecdote that maybe is top of the mind?
Yeah, this is the research nerd in me. Don’t know how exciting it is, right?
I can promise you that for the audience, it’s exciting.
I’ll go for it. We acquired a company just last year, Parker.
And where’s Parker based?
Parker’s based in Cincinnati, so we’ve essentially doubled our Cincinnati office size through that acquisition.
Congratulations. That’s a huge… I mean that’s awesome.
Yeah, Parker is a phenomenal team. And again, back to the values: we meshed together immediately. So, they have a solution; it’s called Precision Point; it’s a quant to qual platform. So, this was done in person. So, all of my background is qualitative and quantitative but traditional stuff: so focus groups and then moving into a survey or online bulletin board, moving into a survey. This is quant to qual in real time. So, you’re watching people come in. In this case, they were looking at a product and evaluate it on an iPad. We see data in real time and can choose a sub-group of that larger set of consumers to then do qualitative exercise with, focus group. So, it’s all happening in a two-hour session. But what was really interesting to me, and I really didn’t expect it, was watching the backroom. If you kind of close your eyes, think about being in the backroom of a focus group: you got people checking email; maybe someone is writing some notes. We try to create some more activation in the backroom, but in this specific project, people were on their feet, looking at the data come in.
That’s so awesome.
They were talking about it; they were pointing at it. It was constant. So, I think it was a lot, took a lot of energy, but it was incredible to see the engagement and activation of what they were learning really happening all in real time.
That’s super unique, first of all. And the second thing is your depiction of the backroom is accurate. I’ve moderated focus groups for whatever before the dinosaurs were around it feels like, and normally the level of interaction in the backroom is not high. Maybe I’m a bad moderator. [laughs]
No, I think that true.
But on the other side too, right, when I’m in the backroom, you kind of see the same thing. It gets kind of monotonous and boring for a while, honestly. Have you thought about…? Have you guys somehow documented that thing, that product, that experience that you created that was so dynamic and interactive?
We talk about it.
That could be such a great white paper, honestly. I mean that should be a presentation-circuit type of opportunity. The lack of engagement in the backroom is a big problem. Like that should be where the co-creation is taking place and the buy-in and all that sort of stuff. I mean that’s a huge white space, I think.
I mean everyone talks about activation of insights, right?
To me, that happens in the moment of the research, not necessarily in the report that doesn’t really tell the full story.
Not at all. Exactly.
And we’ve done a few things even with focus groups that create, kind of get people out of their seats, get them thinking in the moment about what they’re hearing, and help them listen actively. Yeah, I think that’s a great idea: some kind of white paper on that would be great. If you could sort of prove that this type of activation in the backroom leads to some…
I wouldn’t even worry about… Honestly, I would just worry about the first white paper, and the presentation, I think, would be super interesting is… (This is me imposing it; so, probably everything is wrong but… I would read it.) What does that experience look like? I would just talk about that one experience that you created. How was that so different? And then describe the interactions on the back side. Maybe even, if they’re willing, client quotes type thing, etc. But that could be super cool.
Great point. I’m taking that note down.
Yeah, yeah. For sure, for sure. So, if somebody wants to get in contact with Research America about a more engaged experience, how would they do that?
Yeah so, the best way would be to reach out by email: willk@ResearchAmericaInc.com. We’re on LinkedIn, Twitter.
Great. We’ll include that in the show notes also. Will, thanks for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.