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Is your market research firm SMALL enough to “DO IT ALL”?

June 2, 2011

Upon completion of a live, final presentation where I outlined the findings of a fairly complex, multiple phase research project, a top executive of the firm commented that it was nice that I “did it all”.  I assumed he meant that I had covered the issues comprehensively.

However, in a later conversation I learned that he was comparing my management of the total project to the performance of the large market research firm that managed their previous qualitative project. “Doing it all” was a reference to my personal involvement in all aspects of the project from start to finish. 

The image accompanying this post is titled “personal leadership” and suggests the type of focus that I believe a small firm can provide more fully, easily and consistently than a large one.

Being fully involved from the start to the finish of a project  is not unusual for me. As the principal of Next Step Consulting I am the study designer, moderator and analyst of all my projects, as well as the direct supervisor of all the vendors I hire to support me. As a result, in my final presentation I spoke as clearly and knowledgeably about the recruiting challenges related to the project as I did to the mindset of the participants and the impact that my clients new product will likely make when it comes to market.

In contrast, I was told that my client’s previous vendor, a large market research firm, did not have a single person who “did it all”. They had a project manager, several different moderators, and a supervisor, who made the final presentation but who did not observe all of the research. My client complained about the disjointed nature of communications with the company, the need to educate so many people about their business, the wide range of expertise of the moderators, the limited knowledge of the final presenter and the fact that no single person had the complete picture.

Frankly, I am worried about the future of my sole-proprietor model in a world of increasingly larger market research firms that are making exclusive arrangements with the increasingly larger firms that require qualitative market research services. I feel encouraged though by the “doing it all” comment, the contrast between the service of the large market research company compared to mine and the fact that I was chosen by my client to conduct this most recent study.

I have always viewed the work I do as a craft and each project as a custom designed work of art. As far as I know, great art always has an individual, the artist, guiding the effort. Similarly, each aspect or phase of a project presents challenges and opportunities and I feel that I am always creatively molding the process to ensure the best possible outcome. I have a vision for each project that encompasses the objectives, methodology and logistics in ways that ensure an excellent outcome.

I cannot imagine not “doing it all” because I believe that without full involvement I will be less effective.

Because Next Step Consulting is so small, a client can count on a singular focus on their objectives because literally, there is a single person who is hands-on executing the project from inception to completion.

Now, in truth, I don’t actually do it all myself. I don’t make the recruiting calls or prepare the conference rooms or type the transcripts or cook the meals we eat while traveling. Instead, I work with a select group of subcontractors, other vendors with whom I have long-standing relationships and who I know from past experience perform with a high level of integrity and excellence. In most cases these vendors are from companies small enough to focus intently on the objectives that I communicate to them. I work with these individuals closely and true everything, as best as possible, to the vision for the project.

Do you have a qualitative market research project that requires effective leadership, a personal touch and a visionary and experienced market research vendor to help you to conceive it and then to carry it through?

Wait… don’t all qualitative market research projects fall into that category?

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