Just about a year ago Alex Hunt assumed the CEO role at PRS IN VIVO, charged with driving transformation and innovation at the venerable leader in package testing. In this interview, we check in a year later to get his perspective on the journey so far, what he has learned, and what the future may hold.
This is a great tutorial for change agents charged with leading businesses through the ever-changing insights & analytics environment, and I encourage every current and aspiring leader to give it a listen. Here is the interview.
Alex is always a pleasure to speak with and the interview is chock-full of good stuff, but two exchanges really stand out that gives a good perspective on effective leadership and on embracing change. Here they are:
Lenny Murphy: So, what’d you learn Alex?
Alexander Hunt: Gosh, I think that any progress that PRS IN VIVO has made is absolutely not about me. I think our team is absolutely incredible and it’s frankly a privilege to work with them and many of our clients. The one thing that I’ve really taken away from 2019, and as we move into 2020, in my role, it’s frankly because I’m not an expert at any single thing that we do. They perhaps let me have a little bit of input on a great many things and it’s just the support and really help to get behind some of the really great people we have within the business. They’re the ones that are really driving us forward and it’s the team that deserves all of the credit.
Lenny Murphy: You see yourself as a cheerleader for the organization more so than the quarterback?
Alexander Hunt: I think it’s a little bit of both, we have such massively talented people and really empowering them to deliver is absolutely key. I will say though, one shift in the industry in recent years is that it is adapted to new and in many ways more classical models of management. There’s been an influx of capital into the business and with that comes a higher standard of professionalism and getting in place many of those foundations that drive successful strategy execution a key. And so I think in addition to empowering people it’s making sure that they have the right processes and great frameworks in place in order to deliver and I think in 2019 at PRS IN VIVO, we balanced both of those things really successfully.
Lenny Murphy: What are the things that you’re excited about from that transformation of the business perspective?
Alexander Hunt: I am immensely excited by continuing to execute strategy, with the senior leadership, we developed at the tail end of last year as the framework for 2020, and the good news is that there’s really no change in direction. If anything, it’s an acceleration of many of the things we laid the groundwork for last year. We are on a journey to move from traditional market research into Behavioral Science Consulting in a digital era, and expanding what we offer clients to encompass the whole shopper and product experience. That’s a massive switch for the organization. But we have a clear plan beneath it to deliver against each piece.
There is a three-pronged approach, (or three elements) of a massively exciting shift for our staff and for our clients and for me personally in 2020. On one level it’s expanding our product portfolio, as you very kindly referenced we launched a lot of new services that were successful last year; this year our new service launches include qualitative, which is going to be launched as a new operating unit on January 29th. So we have that coming up and are incredibly looking forward to that. We’re going to be expanding our AI Pack screening offer in the early spring and then moving to a virtual reality offer, offering fully immersive virtual reality in the early summer. Yes. It’s a really exciting year from a product portfolio standpoint and we have some of the best minds in our innovation team in the industry. It’s incredible and Emily and her team have really done a phenomenal job. So that’s our product portfolio.
The second prong of our strategy is the digitization of all our conventional in-context and shelf work. We’ve made massive strides digitizing both the data collection and the reporting during 2019 and made some really substantial investments in our ShopperLab Network that will continue into 2020. Our network of ShopperLabs should really be the best in the industry and the client feedback we’ve had on the locations that we renovated has really been an endorsement for all of the effort from the team on that front.
And then finally, Behavioral Science. You know I’ve been a proponent of the power of Behavioral Science for years. It really has been the core of our industry for a long time and it’s been an immense privilege to join a company that’s got such a heritage in behavioral research. Many people don’t know that PRS and IN VIVO were both pioneers in Behavioral Science long before it was called Behavioral Science. From pioneering eye-tracking all the way through to behavioral experiments in the early IN VIVO ShopperLabs. So what we hope to do in 2020 is really take Behavioral Science to the next level and tied to the revamp of our technology-driven labs, try to create new ways of purely observational behavioral research without any questions.
So, all in all, it’s going to be a really busy but incredibly exciting year for the business.
It’s a unique opportunity to ride along with a young and new CEO as they implement a strategy to drive growth in a legacy business while also transforming it to be future proof. We’ll continue to check-in with Alex periodically to see how the journey is progressing.