Most of us think of Research Now as one of the hugely successful companies in our industry. It hosts online survey panels worldwide with 24 offices in 15 countries. Ten years ago, however, the firm’s revenues were around $10 million (more than 30 times lower than today), and roughly twelve years ago it almost went out of business when the dot-com bubble collapsed around them. A bold decision to transform the company not only saved it, but created the foundation for its tremendous growth over the next decade. In this edition of the Transform blog we interview Kurt Knapton, President and CEO of Research Now. Kurt identifies the principles for company transformation that continue to drive Research Now to success.
Do not fear the ‘pivot’. Research Now (originally named e-Rewards) was originally in the advertising space – offering a ‘by invitation only’ program that rewarded individuals for time spent viewing advertisements. While this business model ultimately proved unsuccessful at the time, it demonstrated that online technology could efficiently incentivize targeted groups of people – whether consumers or business executive populations – to open and respond to email invitations. While this doesn’t sound revolutionary today, Research Now was at the forefront of this technology in the early 2000s. The ‘big pivot’ was the movement from the advertising space to the market research industry. The willingness of the early team to step back and objectively analyze its initial failures and to refocus as the market changed were core elements of its ultimate emergence as a highly successful company.
Reinvention is a necessity. One of Kurt’s favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill, “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” This is the essence of the strategy Research Now follows to ensure its sustainability and success; the firm reinvents itself on a regular basis. According to Kurt, the very assumptions on which your company is based must periodically be challenged. A management team must always be able to answer the question “where do we need to move faster and what do we need to do better?” For example, with people spending enormous amounts of time on their mobile devices, the conversion from a tethered to an untethered world is in full swing. Understanding this behavioral change has huge implications for the market research industry in terms of skills of the people it employs and the technology it must develop and harness. As Churchill implied, perfection is no more than the willingness to identify what needs to change and having the fortitude to do it.
Celebrate continuous improvement. This is one of Research Now’s core values. The firm empowers and encourages employees to challenge the company status quo in order to affect positive change. Research Now’s leadership believes collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas lead to business improvement and innovation from the lowest level of the organization to the top. Kurt highlighted one example, a ‘dumb rules contest’. This contest asked employees to identify the dumbest company rules that Research Now had implemented (for whatever reason) over the years. The official killing of those ‘dumb rules’ was celebrated at a large employee meeting, with the result being an ever transforming company.
Embrace new imperatives. Research Now is evolving from a technology-enabled business to a technology-driven business. While this change may appear subtle, the impact is not. Client demand is moving toward a requirement for real-time data. The implication of this ranges from exploring new methods of data collection and assembly, to the increasing demand for sophisticated visual data display. The Research Now team knows that if they do not provide these tools to their clients, others will.
Give employees a reason to be proud beyond business success. Research Now leadership fundamentally believes that successful companies should give back. Among other charitable causes, Research Now is an active supporter of Kiva, an organization that provides microfinance solutions to fight poverty in developing countries. Through its employees and panel members, Research Now has funded more than $1 million of microloans through Kiva since announcing its partnership in September 2012. Getting involved with non-profit organizations can provide employees with a new perspective – again helping to fuel ongoing transformation.
Research Now is a story of a great idea transformed out of necessity, where the willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone, the tenacious pursuit of a vision by its founders, coupled with a culture of continuous improvement and exploration result in business success. It is something the entire Research Now team can be proud of.
Research Now, the global leader in permission-based digital data collection, powers business insights for its clients worldwide. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Research Now’s integrated data collection capabilities enable fast and accurate business decision-making.