Welcome to the SampleCon 2021 Highlights Series. Recorded live in Pasadena, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors, speakers and attendees at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Ted Pulsifer, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at Schlesinger Group.
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Jamin Brazil: Ted Pulsifer, we are live today on the show floor of SampleCon.
Ted Pulsifer: Hi, Jamin. Thanks for having me.
Jamin Brazil: It’s 2021. This is my first live event. How’s it going for you?
Ted Pulsifer: It’s great. This is my first live event in about a year and a half other than a couple select meetings, so it feels wonderful.
Jamin Brazil: It’s just so nice to be able to see people. What do you think about the show so far?
Ted Pulsifer: So far it’s great. This is a perfect time. I just got done hosting a panel and have done some other events we sponsored, and so it’s just been great to switch gears and be a participant and start looking and observing. And it’s been great. Really good conversation. A lot of new faces. I had a panel of three and two of them were first-time SampleCon attendees, which speaks about their growth.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, for sure. What do you think about the pandemic in terms of how it’s impacted you?
Ted Pulsifer: It’s interesting. So we sold our business to Schlesinger and actually finalized that in February of 2020, so I kind of felt like the last person to get a table at their favorite restaurant if you will. And we just walked into that, and then of course didn’t see anything coming. So unfortunately a lot of the plans and everything that we had to collaborate with our qualitative business and our quantitative business sort of got put on hold, the in-person work. But a couple of advantages that we had is a lot of clients in our business that do traditionally in-person qualitative work that were interested in doing digital qual, but “maybe I’ll try it later,” they were all sort of forced to do it immediately if they wanted to hear from their customers. And we also saw the cadence, the need to hear from customers evolve from maybe quarterly to monthly, and in some cases daily. We ran a ton of surveys around COVID and started doing a lot of qualitative events on change of purchase habits, everything, parenting across the board. So we actually saw it as somewhat of a business accelerator.
Jamin Brazil: So interesting. You’ve got a lot of – thinking about Schlesinger as one of the big names inside of the industry from both a size and also from a reach perspective and just the fact you’ve been around so long, how is it working for them?
Ted Pulsifer: It’s great. It’s really interesting because we went from this seven- to eight-year-old startup that was really based on technology and did a lot of work in one sort of segment of the market, which is online consumer and B2B, and then found ourselves part of a 50-year-old organization that was started by our CEO’s mom in her house. And so just to live that experience of the best of the old, the best of the new. And so now our – some of the positives that we have is we’ve got a lot of relationships, a lot of qualitative customers that we can start working with and bring them value from the new companies that we bring to the table. And that’s just been a lot of fun. And then also the flipside is how do we take a company that’s been very successful for 50 years and continue to evolve, continue to invest in technology, continue to challenge ourselves, come up with new offerings? And we’re having a lot of fun doing that.
Jamin Brazil: That’s great. You guys do have – there was a – what was it? It was like two years of serious M&A activity.
Ted Pulsifer: Yes, and we’re not stopping, so yes.
Jamin Brazil: Is that right? That was kind of like my question. So M&A is a growth pillar.
Ted Pulsifer: Yes, absolutely. We’ve got goals to double our revenue over the next couple years, and we’ll certainly try to expand our sales and expand our team. But a lot of that will be through strategic acquisitions, and that’s a really, really fun process to be a part of. Certainly I know Steve would love to talk to you in more detail about that whenever you want.
Jamin Brazil: So the – and I know you’re probably not the right guy to ask the question. But when you think about acquisition, so I’m going to ask it anyway.
Ted Pulsifer: Sure, no problem.
Jamin Brazil: When you think of the acquisition thesis, I’m sure you’re at the table though. Is it predominantly revenue-based or is it sector-based or strategic technology or HR? How are you thinking of it?
Ted Pulsifer: So I’ll touch on a couple relevant points for us when we think about it. I think earnings and revenue and money, of course that all has to work out. It has to be something that adds value, that adds earnings, that really makes sense. We’re not doing a lot of just grabbing customers and that sort of thing.
Jamin Brazil: Totally.
Ted Pulsifer: But at the same time, I’d say what’s more important is that everything is based on strategy. So right now what makes us unique is we’re the largest qualitative firm in the world. And then we’ve expanded it to digital qual. And with our acquisition in addition to doing medical market research and in-person research, now we can do consumer and B2B in a really broad way for the last year and a half. So whatever we add in next is going to be an enhancer, something that adds value to our clients. And we think we’re carving out a pretty good niche of being this sort of one-stop shop for data collection. So if we can talk to our clients and they might need three focus groups, they might need a survey programmed. They might need digital qual. And so the more things that they might need that make sense with Schlesinger, we’ll do. The one thing I’d say that I’ve learned the most from Steve and the other executive team this last year though is that fit matters more than anything. So on top of numbers, on top of strategy, there has to be a really good correlation where there’s a good synergy and the people get along. Because if that’s not there, then usually it’s an uphill climb.
Jamin Brazil: Fit. It’s all about fit, yes, 100%. When you think about your customer, I imagine the growth opportunity is pretty significant within the specific individuals that are buying from you. But are you also seeing the customer persona expand beyond traditional market researchers?
Ted Pulsifer: Yes, we’re seeing a lot of that. In fact, a lot of our buyers from the qual side might not do market research. They might call it customer experience. They might call it customer feedback. They might call it taking surveys, user experience.
Jamin Brazil: User experience.
Ted Pulsifer: So there’s a lot of different ways that different people that matter call what we do in data collection. But we’re also seeing things sort of expand across an organization because like I mentioned before, we might have offered one or two solutions before, make recommendations to other companies. Now there’s a really good chance that we can do it ourselves. And so that’s what’s really fun, is that the size that we are, we have a lot of folks that are working internally to figure out what other opportunities exist within our clients. And then I’d say we also have a challenge which is a great challenge to have, but educating our clients on all the things that we do. You never want to assume that your clients are reading your press clippings and they know that you bought this company and you have this capability. It’s all our job to talk to them and let them know all the different services that we have where we might add value. And that part’s really, really fun.
Jamin Brazil: So the sales pitch has really evolved to the one-stop shop for all of your consumer insights needs.
Ted Pulsifer: Yes. I think if you had to boil it down, that would be a great place to start. The fact is if we can talk to folks that are conducting research, there’s probably a 90% chance that something in our portfolio can help them. And that’s a great thing.
Jamin Brazil: You think that it ends with a centralized hub, and maybe that already exists, where research is stored and commissioned?
Ted Pulsifer: That’s a tough one. I think that elements of that could be, but we still see – well, I guess at least I’ll speak from my perspective on the quantitative side traditionally. We still see so much customization and so many things that are unique to the day and time that I think storing stuff and accessing and syndicating it, I don’t see as much a demand for that with the group that we work in. But who knows? I’m not a great predictor of the future, so I’ll pass on that one.
Jamin Brazil: That’s a good point. I’m not either. Ted, thank you very much for joining today.
Ted Pulsifer: Thanks for having me.
Jamin Brazil: Have a great rest of your show.
Ted Pulsifer: Yes, sir.