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The Transformation Series: Interview With David Sackman, CEO of LRW

There’s no other company like Lieberman Research Worldwide in today’s marketing world. Founded nearly 40 years ago with the goal of driving real business impact for their clients using more of a consulting model than most MR firms, they’ve held to that vision even while evolving how they deliver it.

That vision has guided their growth into one of the largest privately held marketing research consultancies in the world, with over 300 employees in 7 offices on 3 continents and a position in the Top 25 of all MR firms in the world.

It’s probably not overstating it that of all the companies I’ve showcased in this series so far, they are the best example of a company that has transformed itself for success in a rapidly changing marketplace. And it’s that track record that has earned CEO David Sackman an interview with us.

I have a bit of unique insight into how far this company has come in embracing innovation and driving change within their organization. About 3 years ago I began a dialogue with Scott Luck, who has played a central role in crafting the innovation strategy for the company. At first we were simply trading notes on interesting tools or companies we were seeing in the marketplace and what the future might look like with the changes we were seeing, but after a few months Scott invited me out to spend some time with the entire leadership team at the LRW headquarters and share with them my thoughts on where they were as a company, where the industry was likely going, and how the two could be aligned. In preparation for that I was given pretty significant access to their team to better understand who they were, what they could do, and most importantly where they wanted to go as a company. I then went out to LA and spent a whole day doing a workshop with their team based on what I had learned and my recommendations.

I saw a company that had built a thriving business by focusing on the high-end of the value chain; they were more skin to an “insight consultancy” than a market research firm since they had largely moved away from data collection being a core driver of revenue.  They didn’t have an entrenched interest in pushing a specific method or tool set based on internal infrastructure investments; instead they could be “methodologically agnostic” and instead focus on answering the critical business questions of their clients. Their investment was in people and smart thinking, not tech. However, they did indeed like tech and were exploring many relationships and tools to leverage advances in technology to help deliver on their primary goal.

In short, they were doing exactly what I have recommended most MR firms do for a long time, except they saw the writing on the wall and started positioning their company years before hand.

As a consultant it was a bit of a conundrum; other than exploring how some new technologies might be used by them, they were already doing a lot right. There just wasn’t much value I could add other than affirmation, and some suggestions to change-up their marketing activities to let the world know more about their thought leadership, which they have done with gusto lately.  The perception that they were not actively embracing innovation to deliver business impact has been aggressively reversed. Their very active participation in the MR social media community and in events, and especially their pushing the boundaries on the use of Virtual Reality and behavioral neuroscience to take research farther than it has been completes their transformation from a well-respected and solid, but not particularly exciting, MR firm into an innovative next generation insight consultancy.

In my conversation with Dave I think you’ll get a glimpse into how this transformation has occurred and who’s driving the change. Dave has truly come into his own as a transformation leader in the industry and I expect that as he and the company engage more and more with the industry as a whole he’ll be one of the singular voices that stands out for many of us as someone who walks the talk and has the positive results to back him up.

Here is my interview with Dave. I hope you enjoy it as much as he and I did. There is much to be learned here for everyone who is working to transform their business to success.

Oh, and if you’re going to be at TMRE, it sure sounds like the LRW booth is going to be the place to be!


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