Ep. 219 – Our Official 100th Episode: Life Lessons and Market Research Trends

Welcome to the 100th episode of the Happy Market Research Podcast! In this episode, Merrill Dubrow, CEO of M/A/R/C Research, interviews Jamin Brazil, Founder and CEO of Happy Market Research. The two take a look at the benefits of producing a podcast, market research trends, and life lessons.

Find Jamin Online:

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Find Merrill Online:

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Website: M/A/R/C Research 

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www.happymr.com

Social Media: @happymrxp

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This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate. The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe. Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.


[00:00]

Good afternoon, everybody.  My name is Merrill Dubrow. For those of you who are tuning in to see Jamin Brazil be the host of the Happy Market Research Podcast, we’re going to change it up a little bit on today’s show, which is the 100th Podcast of the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My name is Merrill Dubrow, and I’m President and CEO of M/A/R/C Research, and I actually am going to put the host on the hot seat.  And we’re going to interview Jamin Brazil.

[00:27]    

Super excited about this.  

[00:29]

Great.  Thanks, Jamin.  As I am and everybody else.  But before we get into even a little bit of Q&A and put Jamin on the hot seat, I just want to tell everybody that this could not be made possible without G3 Translate.

[00:42]

This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate.  The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the world.  Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please visit Nancy at G3Translate.com.

[01:10]

Jamin, how are you today, sir?  This is a big highlight for me.   

[01:14]

For me, it’s a huge highlight.  I’m super excited and honored that…  We should also level-set: Merrill has been on the show two times.  He was my very first podcast, which was published as Number 105, and then we had him on earlier this year as an update, kind of post-transaction as he acquired M/A/R/C Research.  And now, he and I have been long-standing friends in the market research industry. He said, “Hey, has anybody ever interviewed you on the show? And I’m like, “That’s never happened.  That’s crazy.” And at the same time, we’re coming up on our 100th show; in fact, this is the 100th show for the Happy Market Research Podcast.

[01:50]

Well, let me tell you something.  The pleasure is all mine. I listen to your podcast when I work out, when I drive home.  And I want to thank you for allowing the opportunity to be on, I guess, in some way for a third time.  So, let’s just get right into it. The 100th episode – Wow! – of the podcast.  Just talk a little bit about the motivation behind starting the podcast.

[02:12]   

The motivation is different than where I ended up, where I am right now, and then where I’m going with the podcast.  The challenge that I had exiting FocusVision is there’s a fair amount of restriction around what you can and can’t do in the industry.  That’s just very normal part and parcel whenever there’s a transaction; you’re partaking in that transaction selling a company. So I was fairly limited for about a year and a half after exiting the CEO role of FocusVision.  When I thought about what can I do to be able to maintain engagement and brand inside of the space, video, vlogs (really popular) that takes a lot of effort and learning. Podcasts seemed to me to be the thing that would be the fastest and easiest way for me to be able to engage with my peers and insights leaders across the space.  So, that was really where I started my journey back in… It was June of 2018.

[03:08]

Wow, that’s interesting.

[03:10]      

Yeah, the next part, though.. This is the thing that I think is really remarkable about podcasting.  My background… I love, I’ve been consuming podcasts really for about ten years now, and they occupy a space for me when I’m commuting.  I spend a ton of time in the car. And there’s a lot of data that’s being substantiated, talking about the relationship that is built between the host and the consumer, the listener.  It’s almost like a… It’s a little different that it is even in a radio context, and I don’t understand all the psychology and the reasons why, except that the content is chosen specifically by that particular listener.  There’s a lot more personalization, I guess I would say, around what it is that you’re consuming and that plus the fact that you’re occupying somebody in an entertaining way, and they’re, hopefully, learning something. So there’s a much greater level of engagement that you’re creating with that audience.  So there’s this like brand impact.

The third thing that I want to mention about the power of podcasting and why I’m such an advocate of every single market research company out there starting one or being on one and that is SEO.  Organic SEO is gold in this day and age. When you think about how do I, as a market research company, engage the new researcher, the 22- to 28-year old, who probably has between one and five million dollars worth of annual budgetary spend.  How do I make sure that I’m top of mind in that demographic? And I can tell SEO is really an important element to that. You’ve got to be discoverable. And so, what podcasts do is, if you transcribe those podcasts and build them out inside of your website and then, of course., do linking on Linkedin, then it creates this great kind of lifting of your overall SEO and will help other companies that are looking for businesses or solutions that you provide to benefit from and find you quickly.      

[05:20]

Wow, that’s interesting, and that’s pretty impressive.  So, I remember when I started a blog, and I wrote a blog for ten years three times a week – posted on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  And I had a lot of metrics and numbers and best practices. So, we would send out an email blast on Tuesday at 11 o’clock. I would keep the post to about a little less… 282 words.  I was going to say a little less than 300, but actually 282 was kind of our average. And I would track how many comments and how many hits. Let’s talk about some best practices around the podcast and even some surprises that you’ve had over the last ten months that you didn’t think of.  But really if somebody wanted to start a podcast as well, Jamin… I remember all the mistakes that I made on my blog. Can you just share some of those best practices and some pitfalls to definitely stay away from?

[06:13]

Well, first of all, I remember when you first told me and this goes back maybe four years about the blog that you were posting and your Linkedin activity.  I actually applied the principles that you had there, which is consistency of delivery, to my podcast. So when I launched Happy Market Research, the intent was to release two episodes a month.  We actually have done a lot better than that. But it was all about the consistency of making sure the interview pipeline is full and making sure the production cycles are on point, and then making sure that the social media posting that’s around each podcast is effective and being followed like a religion, right?  I mean that’s the core of it. So the first thing I would say that you’ve got to do is maintain rigor around just being consistent with the delivery. Consistency is more important that quality; it’s more important than, quite literally, any other KPI because as soon as you miss a week or two or three, then all of a sudden you can start falling out of people’s attention, and then you lose that listener.  So you want to maintain that engagement, get something out there even if it’s only for a few minutes

The second thing that I learned actually the big learning for me – and this is a great hack that I hope the listeners will pay attention to.  If you go to a conference, it’s a great opportunity to do on-site interviews with even other exhibitors. If you do that and you don’t have to be part of the conference or you don’t have to have their permission to do this, you can just walk around and do it.  There’s a couple of companies that have actually been doing this for a few years. Some use video, and some use audio. Then what you do is write a blog post as soon as that event is over, and you reference each one of the people that you interviewed, whether it’s just a snippet, quote or whatever.  And I should also say it doesn’t have to be video or audio: it could also be just long-form blog or short-form blog. And then reach out DM, reach out to that person or people that you interviewed and say, “Hey, listen. I wrote this post or did this podcast or did this blog. Feel free to push it on your channel.”  And now what you’ve done is you’ve really created this like massive growth opportunity to your personal network and brand that is really, really hard to do in an inorganic or different approach.

As soon as you start doing that, you’re going to start knocking on other doors that you otherwise you wouldn’t have access to.  I can give you one example. I haven’t actually done the interview yet, but the CMO of MasterCard has been responsive to me on Twitter.  And those are really, really difficult people to be able to get in contact with, but if you are consistent with the delivery and you start incorporating other people in the conversation, (in other words, it’s not about me; it’s about them.) all of a sudden, you’re adding value to the equation, and people want to have those conversations with you, and you’ll be easier and easier to move up-channel to perspective buyers.  I don’t have anything to sell them, by the way, either; it’s literally just adding value to the audience that I’m having ‘cause he has a lot of information that probably all of us would care about.

[09:34]

Alright, bud, let’s level-set for a second on one of the things you just said.  And this, I think, is an important aspect of it ‘cause you know I really am a networker to the nth degree.  You may not have something to sell him today, but that could change in a week, a month, or in a year. And the mere fact that you have that connection, there’s no reason to draw upon it in next two years, three years, or whatever it is.  And I think that’s important.

[10:01]

That’s such a great point.  I think that value’s delivered really two ways by successful companies.  One is it’s got to be people first, and you know this as a CEO and owner of a business.  You’ve got to invest in your people because the better they are, the bigger the lever of your organization to create impact in our world (market research or consumer insights), right?  So that’s really important, but the other part of it is this notion of karma or whatever you want to call it. The more that we add value to relationships, then the better our personal network is and the more, at some point, that comes back to you, whether it’s through referral that they might make once you do have something to sell or there is a potential transaction in play or whatever.  So I’m always looking for ways that I can add value as opposed to ways that I can extract value. Extraction happens but if you think about like from a sales… and I’m a sales person, born and bred. From a sales lens, if I go out with an “ask” and I don’t have the value part of the equation, I’m probably not going to actually, ultimately, have a transaction, and I might even hurt myself. But if I can really love the pain that person is experiencing and that’s where my focus is on, that pain, then it becomes really easy to understand, “Do I have a product or service that maps to their pain point?”  If the answer is “Yes,” let’s talk about that. If the answer is “No,” who in my network does and let’s facilitate that conversation. And I don’t even get like a piece of the transaction in those, right? It’s just like, “Let’s facilitate the transaction” and then both parties start loving me. So, I think that there’s definitely a self-serving element to this intent, but as long as it’s operating from a place of, and this is hilarious but, selflessness, (So you have this like tension, right?) then the better off you’re going to be.

[11:56]

Now, I think it’s an important point.  Alright, but we’re going to go way back in the day before you were the man at FocusVision, before you were the founder of Decipher, ‘cause obviously anybody who meets you knows very, very quickly knows that you have entrepreneurial spirit to the nth degree, right?  If that was an Olympic sport, you’d get the gold in a heartbeat. But here’s my question: Where did that come from? Was that your grandfather, your great grandfather? What that your parents, your siblings? Did you have a paper route when you were a kid? Did you mow lawns?  Where did you get that amazing entrepreneurial spirit? ‘Cause my belief is I don’t think you can… I’m not so sure you can teach that. I don’t think you could just plug somebody out randomly and say, “OK, you’re going to have entrepreneurial spirit.” So, where did you get that?

[12:46]  

That’s a great point.  I actually have thought a lot and done a fair amount of research on this subject:  Is entrepreneurship DNA or is it a function of your environment? I think it’s both.  My grandparents were entrepreneurs on my mom’s side. My parents both entrepreneurs. You know my dad had a full-time job, which provided benefits and a consistent income, but he always had a – whether it was a small family farm or some sort of side thing going on.  So I definitely think it’s a learned behavior. You know we didn’t grow up with very much money, my sister and I. And so, if we wanted things, we were required to figure out how we were going to make enough money to do that, right? And so, I was the kid that walked around the neighborhood once a week in the summertime, asking if I could mow your lawn.  That was literally part of my narrative. I saved enough money so I could buy a car by the time I was 15 years old and then wound up driving it, of course, maybe a little bit earlier than I should have. But it definitely had some perks in that way. I’ve been traditionally self-reliant, and I put “self” in quotation marks ‘cause I actually don’t think anybody is self-reliant.  We’re all… I’m very thankful I live in a country that allows me to have the freedom to able to do the things that I do and have a support structure, whether it’s family or friends and co-workers, etc. We are a product of our environments, absolutely.

I really knew that I had the gene when I was in seventh grade.  So, my parents… I grew up in a real small rural community, predominantly Hispanic, about 75% Hispanic, and most of those people were migrant workers because of the nature of agriculture in the Central Valley of California, I should say, is exactly that.  And so, seventh grade I was first on the bus and last off; it was about an hour commute each way. During that time, you get to know the 48 souls or whatever the number was that day on that bus, right, and including the bus rider. So you got kind of bored, whatever.  This was before cell phones, Merrill, if you can believe that. Once a month, my parents would take my sister and I into a bigger town, Fresno. There was a mall. I would buy product at a surf shop, and I would then take that product back on the bus, and I would wind up selling it at about a 3 to 1 ratio.  And I literally would build out on paper, I built out my sheet of inventory: costs, number of things, what was selling?, what wasn’t?, where’s the maximum margin? I was really funny for a seventh grader to be able to do all that with literally zero training in any of that. What gross margin was or customer acquisition costs or anything like that.  So, it was really interesting… It just made sense to me that there was a way to be able to make money and add value to products earlier on and I just have carried that with me my entire life in the form of a side hustle. And that was actually, as the CEO of FocusVision, one of my challenges was having that discipline of not being able to do any sorts of investments inside of our space or side hustles or anything along those lines.  Obviously, as initial founder and owner in Decipher, that was treated in that same mentality of entrepreneurship. So, yeah, it definitely started early for me, and it was some combination of like DNA and family, I would say.

[16:32]  

That’s great.  It’s amazing to me.  You know when I look back on my career, Jamin, I had a number of people who helped me along the way, guided me, mentored me – people like Marianne Schafer and John Bonney and Sanford Schwartz and Jim Frederickson, who really probably gave me an opportunity to sort of reach for a position and really gave me the opportunity to probably maximize my potential.  Who were some of the people in your career who really helped you along the way, who taught you, who you trusted, who gave you the advice and pointed discussions frankly, when Jamin, as a 26-year-old kid, didn’t want to hear. Anybody jump out at you?

[17:26]

Yeah, there’s two people:  One was a guy name Dick McCullough, who was the founder and CEO or President of MACRO Consulting, which is the company that hired Jayme Plunkett and myself, Jayme Plunkett, of course, being one of the other co-founders along with Erwin Andreasen, of Decipher.  And so, in ’94 I started a business; it was a website consulting company where I’d just create website for companies in the Bay area. I hated the sole proprietorship journey; I didn’t have the expertise to actually pull it off. So, one of my customers was this gentleman named Dick McCullough.  They actually hired me to set up a website and do some other e-commerce things for them. And I told them, “This is going to be the last thing that I do, and I’m going to go get a job.” And he was kind enough to extend an analyst position to me. I thought it was interesting, took the job, and within literally three days, I knew that market research was for me even though three days before that, I didn’t exactly know what in the heck market research was.  (I thought it was marketing with an extra word.) I owe a lot; I owe everything to him really for being willing to take a chance on a math geek and programmer like myself.

The other person that for me comes to mind is one of my very first clients at Decipher, and that’s a gentleman named Mark Sass of Summation Research out of Cincinnati.  He was a huge supporter of me earlier on. So, when you start a business, you really don’t have anything, right? I mean you don’t have any credibility; you don’t have any software; you don’t really have any infrastructure.  It’s all just risk. For somebody to say, “Yeah, OK, I’ll spend with you.” And he was willing to step out and trust me that I was going to be able to build the software in the timeframe that I needed to in order to deliver to his customer, which is, as you know, a really, really risky proposition.  I over delivered on that relationship, by the way. And he still, he still… I just had dinner with him when I was in Cincinnati for MRMW couple weeks ago. So, we’ll be livelong friends.

The other person is Steve Carr, who was formerly on Intuit, makers of Quicken and QuickBooks.  He was my No. 2 customer. Having a big brand like that coming along side you when you start a business and then an agency relationship coming along side you, it just makes all the difference in the world in your overall confidence.  And I was very fortunate that both of those individuals were willing to take a chance on me and then let me get through my… You know ‘cause when we started Decipher, it was all bootstrapped. There were zero dollars from outside capital invested in it.  So it was a lot of just terror, going through that process. Yeah, I think that those two people really stood out to me. And, of course, my business partners: Erwin, who I’d mentioned; Jayme; Kristin Luck, later in that journey; and then all the fantastic customers and relationships that I’ve had.  And even more recently, Rogier Verhulst was the first… Well, him and Edwin Wong were the first people to be material insight professionals inside of major brands, Buzzfeed and LinkedIn, to be on the Happy Market Research Podcast. And having their names there created a tremendous amount weight for and credibility in our space as, “Oh, wow, maybe I should tune in.”  I saw big leaps there as soon as their… becoming easier and easier to get other brands on the podcast.

[21:11]

That’s great.  Oh, that’s exciting.  Let’s talk about that for half a second.  Let’s go the podcast by the numbers if you don’t mind.  We know how many podcasts you’ve had. How many downloads?  How many hits do you have, would you say? Do you know?

[21:27]

Yeah, so we’re 30,000 total downloads across episodes.  The number have been trending up, thankfully. Every week is a little bit better.  There’s never been (and this has surprised me actually) there’s never been this like waterfall moment where, all of a sudden, thousands of people like jump on an episode.  It’s quite literally a grind of incremental improvement. Right now, episodes are around plus or minus 500 per (you know downloads per episode) and that happens usually within three or four weeks, but what’s really interesting is we’re seeing stuff that was recorded awhile ago like picking on Edwin Wong for a minute with BuzzFeed.  So, with that particular episode, once a new listener finds the podcast and they actually see the volume of content available, they’ll go back in time and listen to those other episodes.

So the shelf-life on podcasts is really remarkable; they’re this great evergreen content that you and your marketing team could leverage to pull people into your whatever it is, your thesis, or about the company, or personal brand or what products or what have you, right?  It’s a really interesting… It plays a lot differently than webinars, which I’ve done hundreds of webinars as well at Decipher and FocusVision. In that framework, webinars tend to be very time-sensitive. And so, as soon as you’re done with the promotion, it’s kind of like off the… loses the visibility in the marketplace, functions a little bit more like a long-form blog, I guess, in that way.  But podcasts are weird: seems like they just continue to grow over time based on the interests of the listeners.

[23:19]

Ah, that’s great.  So, I pride myself on being up to speed in terms of the insights research community and talk to a lot of people from a networking standpoint, but I think you’ve got me beat.  You seem to really have a pulse on the industry, the people within it, the strategies, the direction that a lot of these companies are going. Is there a company or person, Jamin, that really impresses you today, that may have nailed it with their strategy, with their company direction, that your ears perk up a little bit more when somebody from that company says something or that entrepreneur from that company says something?  Anybody jump out at you? Or a company or a name?

[24:08]

I’ve been really interested in what’s happening at Kantar this year.  They have gone through a real (and pardon my language) shitshow with all the issues at the top, thinking about like WPP.  So, there’s been a lot of tension, I would say, there, and maybe even mismanagement – certainly distractions. And I feel like the rebrand of Kantar has been really well-done. Kind of like the consolidation of Millward Brown, etc., into this unified front.  I personally, when they announced their doing their own research automation solution, I think that is really smart for a company like that to execute on. They’re well positioned in the marketplace to be able to take advantage of it. So, anyway, I think that’s actually really interesting.  The other company that I’m looking at right now is Ipsos, which, I know, is completely counterintuitive. You think about these smaller kinds of startups.

But Ipsos has been around for a long time, a really long time.  They’ve gone through a lot of pressure with the move of companies going from traditional trackers to more of these like pulse-based products.  And they’ve recently hired a head of global insights: George is his name. You can find him on LinkedIn. He’s from outside of the industry. I had the opportunity to meet him.  He’s not going to be on the podcast, but he’s been kind enough to introduce me other people only because he’s a little bit, I think, shy. But I have a lot of respect for the leadership in Kantar to recognize that they need to be able to invest in innovation and strategy and that’s exactly what George is responsible for.  I’m really bullish on the big guys right now. They’ve just gone through so much transition; they’ve weathered the storms. I think in a lot of ways they have or are doing a good job of right-sizing the businesses so that it’s matching what the new customers’ needs are.  And I think there’s a lot of humility that’s now been injected into the big boys’ businesses. Looking at it from the other direction, companies that are doing it well, I’ve got to say I’m really impressed with what Dave’s done at Voxpopme. His business… I don’t know how big it is but I would say guessing it’s between five and ten million dollars of reoccurring revenue, which is a meaningful business, a software business at his state.  That’s really… And they’re going through big growth. It’s hard taking a new… taking video on as a legitimate business because it’s completely different price points, I think, than certainly I had. At Decipher, it’s a lot lower. Completely different play. How does it fit in corporate budget? These are really big questions.

And then Andrew at Remesh, what he and Gary have built inside of that company is also very exciting.  I think they’ve done a hell of a good job of positioning themselves as different. I think the next phase for both of those businesses is going to be…  If you’re inside of a brand and you have an insight, you still think about, “OK, qualitative and quantitative,” meaning survey or focus group or IDI, right?  So then the question becomes, “If I’m going to do one of these other methodologies like a Remesh session, where’s that dollar coming from? Do I have to do a survey still?  Do I have to do an IDI still?” And if the answer is “No,” then I’m competing with that existing dollar. If the answer is “Yes,” it’s a new dollar; now, I’ve got to increase my overall budget and that’s where the juice is really worth the squeeze.  So I think as those types of companies and technology, in general, does a better job of addressing the budgetary dollar and positioning themselves against existing spend, you’re going to see a big opportunity for increased land grab.

[27:58]

Now, that’s great.  And those companies are all impressive and doing some really, really good things.  I will admit that mentioning two of the larger research companies that’s kind of on your short list is interesting, and I’ll have to pay more attention to them.  But let’s talk about this for a second. Obviously, there’s so much content in the insights research world right now. It’s unbelievable. I pride myself, Jamin, on being a resource.  So let’s build five or six resources for people that… You know, what do you read on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Whether it’s online, the old-fashioned magazine, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s a podcast, what are the six or seven things, whatever the number is, that you are doing to keep informed on this industry that really is moving at lightspeed right now?

[28:54]

You’re right about it moving at lightspeed.  It’s crazy. You and I were both at IIeX in Austin last week, and there were 75 businesses that I counted on the show floor exhibiting.  There might have been more or less, well, certainly not less. I know I at least counted at least that many. There was more exhibition there than I’ve seen before, and just a lot of companies I had not heard of.  So, it’s real interesting seeing how many new people are entering into the space. And that kind of takes me to what I’m seeing as a macrotrend. You know the Qualtrics acquisition is just elevated the overall visibility of market research, really for the first time in my career inside of the money, whether it’s VC or private equity.  So, I anticipate that we’re really at the beginning of a J-curve from a valuation perspective, which, hey, congratulations maybe to you and your acquisition of M/A/R/C. I think that that timing is, was probably worked out to be perfect.

But, in terms of where I go, what I read, every day I read – I’m religious about it – MR Web.  I’m sure you know Nick over there. That’s a really nice fast… He usually highlights four stories, something interesting.  Here’s another hack for the audience. Get on Twitter or LinkedIn (either one’s fine.) And as soon as he posts the people that have been recently promoted or hired for new roles, you can just DM them and say, “Hey, congratulations!”  It takes like two to three minutes to kind of change your headspace, craft the notification so that it’s like two sentences. I tell you what: if you do that, you’ll start expanding your network. If it worked for you, Merrill, as a sales guy, I would never not do that; that would be something I would do all the time.  

It’s such a great way to connect ‘cause again it’s one-sided; I’m not selling you anything; I’m just saying, “Congratulations”; and I’m paying attention.  The other place that I gather all my information really from is conversations. I try to go out of my way to ask a lot of questions; I feel like a do a pretty good job of asking questions and being inquisitive.  And I feel like a do a good job of just shutting up and listening, which has actually been a learned skill for me through podcasting. It’s a lot of MR Web and then, obviously, I’m fortunate to have a deep network, and I’m regularly, daily interacting with insights professionals.                

But the majority of reading that I do (and I read quite literally a book every two weeks, so about two to three a month) is centric around outside of the industry and, usually, something about business.  So like I just finished re-reading Predictably Irrational.  I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that or not.  For me, it’s a top book, talks about our decision-making processes as human beings.  Dan Ariely, I think, I can’t remember his last name but, anyway, it’s a fantastic book.  I consume at a regular pace – and, again, a little off topic – science fiction. So, people want to know what I’m reading, I’m happy to…  feel free to let me know. I did just finish a really big, big book on that subject called Battlefield Earth.  It’s a crazy long…  I think it’s the science fiction book ever written actually.  My wife couldn’t believe it. It’s like a freakin’ tome. You know kind of the normal B-school stuff, I usually refresh on that, whether it’s Innovator’s Dilemma or Crossing the Chasm.  I’ll read those, gosh, once every year probably; I’ll skim through them again, just kind of refresh where my head is.  I’m a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk. Although I don’t listen to his podcast, but I do read his material and try to tune into his vlog occasionally as a can.  That’s another go-to resource for me.

[33:05]

OK, that’s great.  No, that’s important.  So, let’s take a stop down memory lane for half a second.  If you had to pinpoint one, and only one, mover decision that you made that really defined your career, that it took off, that it was just Wow!  Is there anything that jumps out that you can share with the listeners today?

[33:33]

I mean without a doubt for me, it was when we acquired Kristin Luck’s company in 2007.  So, she had left OTX, and her and Shelley Zalis had started that business and sold it. Patrick Comer was part of that as well, part of the OTX mafia, now the founder and CEO of a small company called Lucid.  So, when Kristin left, she started a business Forefront Consulting, had about half-a-dozen or dozen actually employees that she brought on, built some interesting technology, but at the end of the day, Jayme and I both knew that we were strong introverts, and we needed marketing expertise.  

[Kristin, we thought, completed the visibility in the market; so, we did that acquisition and then it just like immediately benefited the overall business from a growth and a vision perspective plus, in the middle of that whole process, about four years later, she wound up starting a business called Women In Research or WIRe, which is now a part-and-parcel with the industry, right?  You can’t go to an event without connecting with Women In Research. She has actually done a lot for elevating the conversation of equality and accessibility and diversity inside of market research – all in the context of better business outcomes and a better world. I think, without a doubt, when we cemented that acquisition and then wound up rolling it out, which took about three months, that was just like a game-changer for myself in terms of headspace changed, trajectory changed, just overall visibility changed.  It was a big win for us.

[35:23]

Wow, that’s exciting.  One of things that I read a couple, three times a week, is something called The Players’ Tribune.  It comes out daily. It’s written by athletes about athletes. And there’ll be some interesting articles that’ll come out this week on the NFL draft of people who were in the Green Room and didn’t get drafted and what are they feeling, what are the sensing, the emotions they went through.  Let me ask you a weird question. What would an older Jamin say to a young Jamin? Today, what would you have said to your inner self 20 years ago, Jamin?

[36:03]

That’s a real interesting question.  I think I’d tell myself, “Be fearless and action trumps everything.”  I really believe that us as human beings are limited only by our capacity to imagine.  So, you see this with these stand-out stories and personalities like Oprah Winfrey, for example, who came from inside of the system, abused, quite literally nothing to a global icon.  The same thing with Obama and these other fantastic personalities and people I have tremendous respect for. I think that what we really struggle with as human beings is limiting our overall capacity and I think a part of that if just a fear of, as soon as you say that, then it means that you can do it, right?  So, now it’s about action. So, yeah, I think for me it would be those things.

If I could rewrite – we all have regrets; I have regrets – if I could rewrite my history, the thing that I would have done differently at Decipher would have been have had a much bigger vision for what that platform could have been.  In hindsight, being 20/20, I can see all the steps as to, if that vision would have been there, then we could have attained something much greater. I’m not trying to belittle the platform; it’s a freakin’ amazing platform, etc. etc. Really the one constraint that we had wasn’t competition; it wasn’t access to the market; it wasn’t total addressable market.  It really was just the size of the vision. And you know what’s interesting about that, Merrill, is it’s hard to build a billion-dollar company; it’s hard to build a million-dollar company. They’re both 12-hour days; they’re both seven days a week. So why not just decide, “I’m going to build a billion-dollar company”? And so, that’s the framework; that’s the thing I think I would have told myself.

[37:59]

That’s interesting.  So, in the past few months, I go to Florida a lot to visit my mom and, unfortunately, my dad was sick.  So I was going a lot more regularly than normal. And while I’d been done there, I’ve taken up a game called Pickle Ball.  I know and it’s a real game. It’s kind of a racket game that they play in a miniature tennis court, but I’ve been playing…  They’ve built some courts here in the Texas area, and I’ve been playing a little bit. So I played with a buddy of mine, and he came over and said, “Hey, do you want to play?”  And I played with like 16 guys and just didn’t want to embarrass him. I tend to be a pretty decent racket-sport guy. And I played, and we did pretty well. And we were talking afterwards and he said, “You know you really, really played well.”  And I said, “You know if I really want to get better I think I have to do three things.” He goes, “OK, what are those three things?” And I said, “Well, I got to serve a little bit better. I got to have patience, a lot more patience than I do because it’s a tiny court, and if you drill the ball, it’s going out.  I may only go an inch over the net but it’s still going out if you hit it really hard. And the other thing is it’s a finesse game. So, it’s a doubles game, but it’s a finesse-angles game.” And the reason I tell you that boring story is my question. In my opinion, having self-awareness is the most important thing that you could ever have in your life.  If somebody said, “OK, what’s the one skill you need to be successful?” I think it’s self-awareness. And you kind of touched upon it when you said, “You know if I had to do it all over again, I would have done this, this, this.” But here’s my question: I would say that a lot of people struggle with self-awareness, Jamin. But I know just in our discussions and listening to you today and a lot of the in-depth discussions that we’ve had over the years, I know you have a self-awareness.  You have this perception, and you know who you are. You’re comfortable in your skin where everybody’s not. What advice do you have or how do you get that self-awareness? Because not everybody has that, and it is so critical.

[40:14]

I think like the hack there for me ‘cause I certainly didn’t have that most of my life.  It’s been something that I intentionally cultivate. And someone told me once, “It’s OK to get your way and not be right.”  (I think it was my wife.) The hack there is you don’t have to be like, “It’s my idea.” You see this a lot in conversations, especially in the context of like a professional, in a boardroom, or meeting with your executive team, or what have you.  As these conversations start, specifically around strategic direction or whatever, as the adage goes, “Every dog got to pee on the tree.” You wind up having this whose idea was it or whatever. And, as soon as I started peeling that back and saying, “It doesn’t have to be ‘my’ idea; I just have to make sure it’s the ‘right’ idea that is going to be the bet that we then place to win.”  And so, the core of that stems from humility. If you can be open-minded to other people’s points of view as opposed to just having to talk and wait until the other person’s done talking so that you can then talk again, then I think it really can go a long way to understand… You know the other part of it too… Someone once told me… Most people don’t know that I have a theology degree under my undergrad.  I thought it was an important question so I wanted to do some deep digging there. And, as I went through that process, I wound up spending time… I lived in the Philippines and also Hong Kong.

Well, in the Philippines, there was a group of us that lived together for months.  (I think it was like six months.) There was this guy, and I won’t tell you his name.  There’s no way it could get traced back; that’s how old I am. But just in case. So, there was this guy, and he bugged the hell out of me; I just couldn’t stand him; he just bothered me to death.  Like we’re in the poorest of the poor: you’ve got like street urchin kids. And this guy is worrying about his Vanilla Ice or whatever rapper he was trying to persona. And so, anyways, I met with the director of the unit and said, “He’s really bothering me.  What do I do?” He said, “Jamin, you want to make sure you learn from him whatever it is that you need to learn from him; otherwise, you will have to meet him again, and you won’t ever be able to move past this person or that lesson that you need to live.” And I’ve recognized that in myself where I’ll have these like…  You know I’ll go through something and I don’t learn my lesson. And then, sure enough, it might be a year; it might be a month; it might be ten years. But you go through that same exact thing, swap out the nouns, and you have the opportunity to learn. And so, I think it’s really about trying to like the players in our lives, whether they’re good or bad.  It isn’t about judging that. It’s more about learning from them as much as you can and, if you can become that sponge – even if it’s something to say like, “I don’t want that” or “This is a bad behavior; I need to make sure it’s not in my life.” That’s an OK outcome, but you need to be damn sure that you’ve learned everything you can so that you can then move past that stage and on to the next learning.                   

[43:39]

Yeah, there’s a valuable lesson there.  And I was talking to my son over the summer, and he was a lifeguard.  It was the first job he had. And he came home one day, and he said, “I hate this job, and I hate the boss.”  I’m like, “Well, tell me why.” And his reasons were very thin. And I said, “What you don’t understand is there’s learning there.  I promise you you will not like every one of your bosses that you have in the next 30 years, OK.” When I ask people what percentage they’ve had are really good bosses, solid bosses that they learned a tremendous amount of positive from, the answer is proverbial less than 30% and, typically, in the teens.  So that means, put that in perspective, 7 out of 8 bosses are not that good. But there’s tremendous learning within that, assuming you allow yourself to learn, and you absorb. And, like you said, be a sponge and look when you’re a boss you don’t want to do this, this, this. And I think there’s just tremendous learning.  I really do.

[44:48]

I love that and I will kick the horse a little bit more.  That point you’re making is so perfect, and the way that you said it is perfect because, if your son can grasp that now as opposed to complain, that’s the up side.

[44:59]

By the way, he can’t.   Just so you know. The beauty of that word is “if he can.”  And the answer is I can interrupt you and say not even with a smile on my face – with a disappointing look – he can’t.  He just can’t. He can’t grasp it.

[45:15]

So, this is the part where like you can’t…  That’s why I went back to like the hack of… You can’t be like, “OK, I’m going to cultivate self-awareness.”  You have to figure out what you actually do in order to make that happen. And so, the converse is complaining. So if you find yourself and you’re complaining a lot about your circumstances, the people in your life, whether it’s your boss or whatever, then you know you really need to take stock in yourself because, at the end of the day, everybody’s got the same life like for the most part.  Everybody’s got the same band of life. And so, you don’t get to blame anybody for where you are or what you have or how you feel, except yourself. And, as soon as you start there, as soon as you can get to that spot… It’s not about the market; it’s not about the customers; it’s not about the product; it’s not about my peers, my team. As soon as you can own that, 100% own that, and move away from excuses and complaining, then I think that’s like the spot that’s perfect because from that you can build anything.  

[46:19]

Well said, well said.  Jamin, this has been an honor and a privilege to be the host today and to actually interview, I guess, the host of the Happy Market Research Podcast.  I cannot thank you enough.

Again for all the listeners, this episode is brought to you by G3 Translate.  The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe.  Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please contact Nancy at G3Translate.com.

[46:59]

Jamin, again, thank you so much.  I’ve gotten a ton out of this. Without question, all of your listeners will get a tremendous amount out of this.  Here is success and happiness for the next 100 episodes in 2019 and beyond, and thank you for allowing me to do this today.  

[47:15]

Absolute pleasure, Merrill.  Thank you so much. So, what an honor.