We gathered in the Ballroom; the largest of our Cluedo-themed conference rooms. Some ate donuts with audacious names and toppings, the occasional Froot Loop® falling to the Berber below. Others fiddled with mechanical pencils, mapping out the week’s to-dos. One man calmly adjusted his chair at the front of the room and checked his proximity to the conference phone.
The meeting consisted of two items:
- Introductions to new managers
- A brief discourse on the direction of our firm
It wasn’t as if the ship was headed back to port or anything. We were still going to be the same company after the meeting as before, but our bearing was in need of adjustment. The research waters were changing, privateers were plentiful, and to continue to be successful was to be proactive.
Capable members of our staff had been moved up the ranks and charged with the daunting task of creating continuity throughout the organization to go along with more efficient and effective practices. The new world would be more ordered; it would create sufficient opportunity internally and help us provide an ever greater service to our clients.
You see, we had become a company of companies, and we were missing out on tools, techniques, training. We were also missing out on each other. Walls had to come down. Why were they up anyway? Who’s over there? Barbarians? Mongolians? Huns? Far worse: analysts and research managers. Dangerous people indeed.
Going forward we would focus not only on giving our clients fantastic research but giving each other a chance.
If you’ve been around research much, chances are you’ve heard the term “trusted advisor.” That’s not to say it’s bad or cliché. It’s just common. We all want to be more than a vendor. In fact, I cringe a little when I think of myself as a vendor. Sure, in the truest sense of the word that’s exactly what I am; I supply a service. But that makes the process seem so impersonal.
Let me assure you: it’s personal.
We stand behind our work. We work nights and weekends. Sometimes we put research in front of things we shouldn’t, and it’s hard for outsiders to see why.
The research is part of us. The measurement is a reflection of our tenacity. The campaign or brand or product is just as much our baby as it is our clients’. And we want our clients to see that. Feel that. We need them to know that we’re interested in more than reporting results. We have a burning desire to find the answer. Ultimately, we want to be trusted, and we want to maintain that trusting relationship over a long period of time.
An Aside on Honesty
Trust and honesty go hand in hand, but one must remember that honesty can be brutal…
As a young analyst I was once barred from using the word ‘abysmal’ to describe a client’s ad campaign. In my defense, I was pretty green, and the campaign was a complete train wreck. And it was no secret. So I broadened my vocabulary, opened a thesaurus, and found a gentle way of telling the client exactly what they already knew.
It wouldn’t be the last time I was admonished for calling a spade a spade, but in time I learned to mix honesty with empathy. After all, it’s our baby, too.
One Company Indivisible
Back in the Ballroom empty donut boxes were gathered up and set aside to be recycled. A half dozen or so remaining confectionaries would be transported to the kitchen. Most of us headed back to our respective desks. Back to work.
For the few that lingered there wasn’t a lot of discussion. No questions or comments. Just an affective calm. Things would be different going forward. Good, but different. We would be forced out of our shells. We would improve. We would learn. We would come together to do more. And we would do it better. For the client, for each other, and for the research. Because, honestly, we love this stuff.