How did you get there? Jim Whaley

Great to hear from Jim Whaley, CEO of Global Insights Leader OvationMR, who is on a mission to inspire practitioners and purchasers of insights that It’s a Great Day for Discovering Why!

I usually start by admitting that I’m a market research brat, a second-generation nerd, and that I come by it honestly. My mom being a Burke Executive, I spent my teen years doing lots of MR jobs from taste test setups, to working in the call centres learning how do it right like they do at Burke. After university, and a 7-year stint at IBM, which included doing research, I started my own research company at 30.

My first years in research had me travelling the country doing everything from interviewing farmers about how they managed weeds, and manufacturing plant engineers about how they could better leverage automation on their production lines. From there it progressed to building larger scale quantitative models for forecasting demand and pricing elasticity. I love the problem solving. Both solving the customer issue, but to also design the campaign. Everyday in insights is a different challenge, I like keeping it fresh and research delivers.

I was working at a large market research and statistical software supplier and responsible for account team who serviced enterprises and MR agencies. There was a particular product many enterprise clients were using to solve the CX and EmployeeX functions, but it was basic and inadequate, so we were brought in to offer them the MR Web Survey solution, which was too complicated and expensive. I had found a partner who had created something new and innovative (early Enterprise Feedback Management). Long story short, I left the current company and took a position with the EFM firm with the intent to broker a partnership deal (and potential acquisition). We had the CEO and the Chairman of the company (that I had just left), fly to our headquarters separately to see our solution, and both were very impressed and thought the product was superior. But the deal never went through because I overlooked a key sponsor on the delivery side. Even though I was right, I did not have the right sponsorship I needed to get the result I was looking for. Going exclusively to the top for sponsorship is not always the answer. That is something that I have never forgotten.

Learn and practice the fundamentals of field (data collection, coding & editing, and validation) for some period of time early on and it will serve you well.

Learn to speak the language of finance. People that have decision making authority in organizations have P&L responsibility. The two go hand-in-hand. Every recommendation you make as a researcher should have some impact on the profit and loss of the business and ultimately the balance sheet. When storytelling, make sure you are relating it to the business.

Embrace diversity in your teams to bring varied perspectives and insights to the table. Inclusive research practices ensure that diverse voices are heard and represented in decision-making processes.

All souls are created equal however, the difference between winners and losers in the marketplace are those that consistently invest in themselves. This scales to organisations. Invest in continuous learning. The pace of change in market research is rapid. Encourage a culture of perpetual learning and professional development within your organisation. Stay abreast of emerging trends, technologies, and methodologies to remain lead sled dog.

Forming strong allies and partners is a critical skill successful people learn early. It’s so easy to get lost in a sea of inspiration and I have my share of great mentors and sponsors. An easy standout for me is my long-time friend and business partner Dan Coates, President & Founder of YPULSE, a youth insights and content platform. Dan is an amazing researcher and invests in young diverse talent which has always been reflected in his hiring. Besides being one of the brightest and creative people I know, he is incredibly generous and loyal. Dan has always called on me when he was making a big move and needed a solid partner. He has been with me though good times and not so good times, having my back. He was a big catalyst in the formation of OvationMR. I would like to think that I have done at least half as much to support him as he as done for me.