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Reinventing Research: An Interview with Dave Sackman

What does the future of market research look like? Find out what one of the industry's leaders view for the future holds in this interview.

LRW has grown from $5MM to over $150MM under Dave Sackman’s leadership. Given that record of success, I sat down to talk to with Dave to get his perspective on the state of the industry and company, along with his outlook for the future. Dave offers a bold vision for what is possible.

JC: For many, a new year is a fresh start. What are you optimistic about in 2018?

DS: I am, personally, insanely energized by and optimistic about our vision, about what we’re trying to accomplish here at LRW. Our goal is to build out our capabilities, services and organization to help clients transform their businesses, and, in doing so, we will be changing market research and the role of what we call consultative data analytics.

I used to think that we were reinventing market research, but I really believe that we’re helping to reinvent data analytics and marketing. The core of this reinvention involves the intersection of deep human understanding, sophisticated analytics and smart consulting to build better businesses.

JC: You offer a bold vision. Is it doable?  

DS: This is a big vision, one challenging to achieve but well within our capabilities. It will require us to be smart and collaborative and to look at our clients and their business challenges with fresh eyes. To accomplish something extraordinary, you can’t rely on status quo. You must see the world differently, be bold and be right!

Achieving this sounds like fun to me – not the “go to a comedy store” kind of fun but the “climb Mt Everest” kind of fun. I enjoy the pursuit and achievement of something really challenging… that requires hard work… over an extended period of time… with a group of people who I care deeply about… that few others could achieve. This is hard work that requires a full team effort, but when we get to the top of that mountain… oh what a view, oh what a sense of accomplishment, oh what a sense of self and of purpose.

JC: How do you see the LRW custom business?

DS: We will continue to nurture our custom business to fuel dynamic growth. We’ve traversed from a small, $5MM local/regional market research company to now being ranked among the largest market research companies in the world. By the end of 2018, I believe we can achieve $200-225MM in sales. We’re proud of what we have built and the growth we have achieved. We have done this by thinking big and small at the same time. Big ideas with small bets to smartly throttle up innovations. Small client teams backed by substantial resources. Client service like a small boutique firm, yet offering deep expertise and capabilities like the large global firms.

Our custom business is at center of who we are. We will then round out our offerings with deeply integrated acquisitions that help pay off our bigger vision.

JC: What have you learned in the last year that will inform LRW this year?

DS: In January 2017, we laid out a vision for our company along with an organizational structure that included three divisions for the business — data access and collection, which we call Access; consultative market research, which we call Perspective; consulting and implementation, which we call Action.

JC: When thinking about the market research, what advances have we made as an industry?

DS: The industry is finally appropriately applying technology to develop new capabilities. Most are using technology to make research faster and less expensive. Some are focused on storytelling and visualization. We have to be diligent here. Many talk about AI and data science but few have the skills to deliver.

This is an interesting time of transition. I continue to believe there will be a bifurcation of the industry with most companies playing on the low value-add end of the continuum, offering good quality, fast, less expensive research systems. There will be only a few companies at the other end of the continuum offering highly sophisticated data analytics, great consulting and possibly even help with implementing recommendations.

JC: With all of the new advances in AI and machine learning, how do you feel technology will change the way we do business in 2018?

DS: Technology can play a much bigger role in enabling the achievement of our vision. We hired a new CTO to help us find ways to use machines to help us work more quickly, less expensively.  This will allow our incredibly talented team to unleash their creative, analytic and strategic capabilities to help clients achieve exceptional performance. I’m most excited about using technology to improve the intellectual process that can fuel our team.

Most in our field are using technology to automate, bringing increased speed and lower cost to basic research. I believe we can use true AI and Deep Learning to aid our intellectual contributions, adding speed and lowering cost to the sophisticated work that we specialize in.

JC: We all know you are passionate about Virtual Reality. Tell us what’s happening with your other venture, appliedVR.

DS: We frequently hear that appliedVR is the leader in the medical virtual reality space. We fine-tuned our vision and our purpose. We are very focused on helping solve the opioid epidemic in America, aiming to use virtual reality to address pain, both physical and emotional.

The stats on opioid usage and addiction in America are alarming. For example, the United States accounts for about 5% of the world’s population but nearly 75% of all prescriptions written for opioids. One day in the hospital on opioids leads to about a 6% likelihood of addiction. Seven days on opioids in a hospital leads to 15% likelihood of addiction and 30 days leads to a 50% likelihood of addiction. There is a great need here, and I believe wholeheartedly that appliedVR can help.

Our independent clinical studies in several top 20 research hospitals demonstrates that we can get a 52% reduction in pain using our acute pain and anxiety product. Results are even stronger among patients suffering severe pain.

We’re very excited about launching our Acute Pain product. We are beginning our search for fundraising for Series A capitalization. We’re proud of our success to date, with 185 accounts in 42 states and 7 countries with 400 pain kits. More shall be revealed.

JC: What are you expecting from LRW employees in 2018? What advice would you give for them to excel in their careers and meet their goals?

DS: I am very excited about the great character and quality of our employees, who have taken up the challenge of rapid growth. I hope they embrace the bolder vision of defining what consultative data analytics is to really help our clients. This is the hardest working group of individuals I have ever seen, and I hope they recognize the potential career opportunities with this bolder vision and rapid expansion.

JC: Thank you, Dave.

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