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Road Stories on how Married Couples Stop Doing Business Together Lesson #4


Road Stories on how Married Couples Stop Doing Business Together Lesson #4

They say that you’ll never know until you try. This is a story of trying and failing, but then knowing, and ultimately, growing.

Last year, Lloyd and I decided we were going to start working together, under the same business. My business. We had some stories to tell about that along the way. January 1st, 2017 marked the date we decided to make this intentional shift. January 1st, 2018 was our first and only business anniversary, because we’ve decided to pull the plug on this married couple working together thing.

What we are beginning to get comfortable with is that while it felt like a failure at first, in away it can be seen as a success. We have learned new things about ourselves and each other by choosing to do this. And we may have always wondered "what if?", if we had been too fearful of the "heat".  Well, we took the heat, and it nearly cooked the marriage!

How did that happen? Let’s unpack that, and the lessons learned:

Lesson #1:  The Most Efficient Way to Learn is to “Fail”

I realized that I have been living my life for a long time in a tight box.  One that I had created and “felt safe” in.  I have been scared for so long to try something new, risky and “unknown.”  And trying to make a go of us working together was all of that. It certainly wasn’t comfortable the last year and yet, here we are a year later, with more clarity and passion for what we do want than we have been in 10 years of marriage!  So, if I think of this in terms of “efficiency”, we got more out of 1 year of failing than we had of 9 years of staying in status quo.  I loved Will Smith’s video about “failing forward” here:

Lesson #2: “Positioning” Matters when it comes to Job Titles

April Bell Research Group

When we started, we agreed that the “right role” for Lloyd was General Manager & Data Doctor, and our assumption going in is that his savant skills at creating business analytics solutions would easily translate into creating more quantitative Marketing Research projects for us.  And that until we got that business flowing in, Lloyd could run the business operations and manage staff.  What we discovered was this -  what I thought Lloyd’s job descriptions were, was apparently different than what Lloyd thought his job description included.  Interestingly enough, now that we’ve switched gears, and Lloyd is now a “consultant” for the business, I have received more of the work I wanted from him in 2 months than I did in the las 12!  So, I’ll stick with the “consultant” job title all day long – let’s keep that rolling, we have some catching up to do!

Lesson #3: Follow the money.

April Bell Research Group

Shortly after we made the change, Lloyd received some interesting work from a new client doing analytical work. For a while, he was able to do that and help with our business, too.  However, it soon became apparent that it was dividing his attention, and he was not able to fully give himself to our business operations and growth. Despite his client wanting to expand his project, we made the decision to decline the opportunity to give him a clear focus on helping manage, and bring in more research business. In hindsight, this decision didn’t result in new business, although the other path would have. In chasing a new business, we learned the hard way, it’s important to follow where customers are leading you.

Lesson #4: Hold on to what matters most.

It became apparent after awhile, probably after a series of “disagreements”, that this experiment was taking a toll on our marriage. At some point, we had to look up and say, “what really matters most here?”  We both tend to want to do it all, be everything to everybody, and still come out “ahead”.  And maybe that’s still possible but it may not all be possible at the same time.  At least for now, something had to “give”.  We realized how challenging marriage is on its own without intentionally burdening it further, particularly for the sake of doggedly holding to a career choice to build a business together. Love and respect are hard to remember when it’s the end of another long day of working together.

Lesson #5: Be Grateful for the Lessons

There are multiple ways we can look at the lessons we have learned – we can beat ourselves up for taking the plunge even though we were advised not to, we can be mad at each other for not getting what we wanted or needed from the other, we can be sad because here we are starting over yet again with a new plan OR we can just honor where we are and say, “Thank you.  Thank you for the opportunity to learn something new.”  And be at peace with what is.  That’s the lesson - the story I’m going breathe in.

Lesson #6:  Stop Pushing and Start Allowing

April Bell Research Group

I am crazy passionate about all kinds of personal assessments.  In fact, I asked Lloyd to take a Love Languages assessment on about the 5th date! In October, we discovered the Predictive Index assessment and in November, we discovered another assessment called The Harrison Assessment.  Both tools can create a “match” against behaviors of the test taker and the behaviors needed for “the job.”  The PI tool started opening our eyes to something not "quite being a fit", and then the Harrison tool completed the picture. The way we were operating was not a fit for our behavior style preferences.  Now, maybe those who know us best could have told us that without all of the assessments…but there’s nothing like seeing data and having your eyes opened from an unbiased perspective.  That was what helped us understand it was time to stop pushing what we wanted and to start allowing “what is.”  So, on to creating more based on our strengths.  I am more ready than ever to create a life and business that’s right FOR ME.  And Lloyd is more motivated to do that which is right FOR HIM.  Check. 

While we may create something together in the future, we know this time, we will do so with open eyes and more awareness of what we both want and need from it. 





Art of Data Simplicity


Art of Data Simplicity

I recently made the leap from the corporate side. After 15 years of helping people understand and solve problems with their data, I decided that my profession would be more enjoyable as a consultant, where I would be able to see a wider variety of challenging work. That’s certainly been the case!


Like a lot of people, I’m amazed at how the data world has grown. The amount of data and the tools available are impressive. I wish that I had some of these tools available to me when I started my journey, but then again, I wonder how much of that would have mattered. Like a photographer who gets better through the process of just shooting more pictures, a data person gets better by just analyzing data – whether it’s on a spreadsheet or a sophisticated analytical platform.

Which brings to another theme I’ve seen in my 15 years, and has recently gotten worse: people forget the power of simple data. It’s a syndrome that’s common and has blown up with the increase in data and tools. Many organizations rush to gather as much as they can and purchase tools to understand it - afraid they will not be competitive without it.  What’s more likely than not, though, is that they wind up with mismatched pieces or tools that don’t play well with each other.

I’m reminded of the book Data Smart, that walks the reader through the basics of data science through follow-along exercises in Excel. By doing that, you understand the data at it’s lowest level, and get what the statistical method is doing far better than if you had used a sophisticated drag-and-drop software. Great read.

Another great read on that topic is Data Science for Business, which does an excellent job of explaining the “so what” and “why does it matter” behind different statistical methodologies. What you method you choose to follow shapes whether or not you’re going to get a result that means anything.

In thinking back on it, my whole data career has been around getting people past this, creating things that are simple and actionable and move them forward quickly. It’s not just a technical exercise. Like qualitative marketing research, the approach that’s used makes all the difference. “Garbage in, garbage out” is often what got people to that place to start with, so empathizing and getting to the right question is a necessary first step.



Ladybug in Hand


Take customer experience for example. There are a lot of great tools out there, from Qualtrics to Medallia, and more and more companies have staff dedicated to CX. However, what most of them can’t answer is “what effect will this campaign have’, or “what is the value of converting a passive to a promoter’? They are not getting at the “so what” behind the data, because they are relying on the system-fed metrics that their platform provides.

Getting past that involves the right mix of business and technical know-how. One without the other produces limited results. 

Would you like to know more about what ABRG can do to help? Read this paper on our capabilities and case studies.


Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Stereotyping is a natural human tendency. Brands are stereotypes. When you think of Disney, what comes to mind? Nike? BMW?

Brand stereotypes create reality. For example, Coors - cold activated cans, Rocky Mountains in the background, frosted bottles. You've seen all the commercials. They create the idea in your mind that Coors' beer is actually colder and more refreshing than other brands. They are tapping into your unconscious and making you believe it.

Stereotypes resist change, but CAN change. In research studies, most people won't change their minds, even after contact itself. Those ideas are so deeply embedded in their minds, that actual proof which negates it, doesn't affect them. However, a few of those who came in contact, actually did change. In order to change your brand's stereotype, you must first make small, significant changes to tap into your consumer's unconscious.

The interactions must feel cooperative. If consumers feel you have the same ideals/goals they do, you will see positive change. For example - Guiness. Not a beer you normally associate with sports. If you saw a commercial of a bunch of guys sitting around watching sports, eating chips and drinking Guiness, nobody would believe it. In this commercial, they associate themselves with loyalty, friendship and having the same values you do, which sets the context for their desired change.

You must drive change with the right type of contact - it must feel authentic. Stereotypes are part of who we are. Find out how people see themselves and how they see your brand. You will then be able to align the two and position your brand the way YOU want people to see it.

Bottom line for market research professionals. Think of your brand as a stereotype and strive to understand the full stereotype. Then you will be able to affect change.

Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? #TMRE13

Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? #TMRE13

Steve Landis and Andy Smith spoke about opportunities to help grow your business in Where Have All The Good Ideas Gone? In this rapidly changing world of consumers, there are more products and options available than ever before. So, how does a company make it in this cut-throat market?

Change your ways. The changing marketplace is forcing companies to change their way of measuring success. It's not longer acceptable for survival to be the main goal. Your main focus MUST be growth - growth = success.

Traditional measures don't link to growth. Old ideas that may have worked before, are no longer relevant in this day and age. What makes a good idea? Those that will grow your business, not those that will just boost sales. Ones that may seem crazy at first, but will benefit your company in the long run.

Live from #TMRE13 Fast Future: The Rise of Millennials

Live from #TMRE13 Fast Future: The Rise of Millennials

I had the pleasure of listening to David D. Burstein talk about his book, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping our World. Our generation is the largest one to date and the first to have a globally connected culture and set of ideas, not confined by borders.

With 96% of our generation having daily and regular access to the internet, our possibilities are limitless. We are coming together with a sense of community all over the globe and are becoming empowered to push the limits and affect global culture.

60 years ago, our grandparents were most likely married by age 21, buying homes and starting families. Very strange for someone like me, 25 years old in 2013 and focused solely on my career, with no plans for marriage or a family in the near future. Women especially are changing society norms by questioning what truly makes them happy and becoming familiar with what they really want out of life. 

In the next five years, 100% of our generation will own a smart phone. With technological advances and a rapidly changing society, the future will rely heavily on keeping consumers more engaged than ever before. 

Live from #TMRE13 Consumer Behavior & Consumption Across Media: The Digital State of Play

Live from #TMRE13 Consumer Behavior & Consumption Across Media: The Digital State of Play

Remember the days when you put down your pen and paper, turned off the TV and enjoyed what you called "computer time"? Listening to that dial up internet static was something I looked forward to all day because it meant I got to explore and "play" on the computer. I'm sure you remember the AOL running man icon right? Classic.

Fast forward to 2013 and you'll find that there is no such thing as "computer time" anymore, because computer time is ALL the time. Your phone is not just a phone anymore, its become your life - its your email, your calendar, your notebook and your entertainment. Everything you need in one small portable device and the world at your fingertips.

We are constantly connected and usually in several different ways. Have you ever found yourself walking through a store, shopping for groceries while talking to your mom on the phone while browsing your phone's calendar to let her know if you are free for dinner tomorrow night? I have. 

According to Yahoo's Tony Marlow in his presentation on Consumer Behavior & Consumption Across Media: The Digital State of Play, our brains are re-wiring themselves in order to help us navigate our digital lives, which is why younger people are significantly better at multi-tasking. This explains why my grandmother can't seem to figure out what a "tweet" is or how to "tag" someone on Facebook. She wasn't wired for this kind of activity.

I won't hesitate to admit I would be LOST without my phone and I get anxious when I don't have it right next to me. Makes me wonder how we ever functioned before cell phones and the internet. And I certainly don't know how we ever survived without iPhone's handy navigation!

Live from #TMRE13 Putting a Finger on the Fans' Pulse

Live from #TMRE13 Putting a Finger on the Fans' Pulse

 If you didn't notice all the buzz about Miley Cyrus's VMA performance this year, you might be living under a rock. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were littered with comments about her performance for days after the awards were over. Whether it's good attention or bad, it gets you talked about. So is this really just annoying newsfeed junk or marketing gold?

Christopher Chen and Stephanie Gomez from Universal Music Group shared with us how and why they track these comments in Putting a Finger on the Fans' Pulse.

Universal Music Group takes on the task of tracking this buzz - whether positive, negative or neutral. They track more than 3 million social conversations on a given day, between Facebook, blogs, forums, Twitter, you name it. Anything from a risqué performance to a funny YouTube video could trigger chatter like this. Not only does this gossip get you noticed, it has the potential to put your company on the map.

Earlier this year, Jay-Z and Samsung teamed up for an exclusive pre-release opportunity for Samsung Galaxy users ONLY. His new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail was available for free to those users 72 hours before it was set to release to the public. He announced it during the NBA finals in a 3 minute commercial - guess what my newsfeed blew up with that day? I don't know about you, but as an iPhone loving Jay-Z fan, I was quite tempted to switch to Samsung! Here's the story: Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail lands today for Samsung Galaxy owners

Live from #TMRE Social Media and Nascar: Driving Product Sales Together

Live from #TMRE Social Media and Nascar: Driving Product Sales Together

What images come to mind when you think of Nascar? Fast cars, screaming fans, cold beer and a good ol' burger are a few of the essentials that make up a perfect day at the track. It just wouldn't be the same with a glass of wine and a salad - buzz kill. Kevin Thomas, VP of Strategic Marketing for Roush Fenway Racing gave an exciting presentation on how performance of their cars can increase sponsors ROI over time.

Roush Fenway Racing knows just how to draw in the fans and give them what they want, which is why they are one of the top companies to sponsor. It's not about the price, its about performance. Their creative approaches to PR have proven to not only justify a company's sponsorship of their own hot rod, but the ROI usually exceeds expectations.

Take Cargill for example - a new sponsor of Roush Fenway Racing and looking for a unique approach to market their brand. In addition to increasingly good performance of their car, they went a step further to engage fans at the track - good ol' cookout at the track, offering burgers to fans using their new finely textured beef. Not to mention, the opportunity to meet Ricky Steinhouse Jr.!  

The results they saw showed that Cargill was more than just "paint on a fast car". Not only did they see spikes in beef sales after races, they saw increased sales over time as racing performance increased. All while having a great time at the track, enjoying some great food and meeting famous drivers. Not too shabby for a hard days work!

Learning My "ABCs"

Learning My "ABCs"

I never truly understood the meaning of “going from 0 to 60“ until I got to know April. That phrase is now the definition of my life every day, every week - and I'm loving every second of it!

This summer, April hired me as her Chief Wrangler, which is just a really awesome way of saying office/project manager. I was thrilled to be putting some of my strongest skills to work - I excel in organization, planning and keeping everyone calm, all in a super fast-paced environment. On top of that, we were working out of April's home. It's always an adventure when you are sharing an office with 2 dogs and a toddler running around. It was never a dull moment.

Although we all enjoyed our afternoon breaks to play with April's adorable little girl, the three of us were growing busier by the minute. In August, we decided to get a space of our own - a really cool, loft-style space in the West End with wood floors, exposed brick and a great view of the city. As an added bonus, we are in the same building as one of our long-time clients!

My first few months have been full of training, researching, assisting on projects and keeping track of ever-changing schedules. April, Mayuri and I are always on the go, while trying to coordinate our schedules and keep communication lines clear and open. Work days have been more on the longer side lately, which isn't so bad when your company promotes Friday afternoon fiestas! We always try to keep things fun and interesting!

Despite all the madness, there are some really exciting things happening in our company with some great opportunities ahead of us this fall. I can't wait to see where we are in the next few months and to help our company grow. I've had to do some adjusting on my part, since I've never had as much responsibility as I do now. However, I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a unique and talented group.

The next few months are sure to be a wild ride. Keep tuning into our blog and you will hear all about the exciting upcoming months and the everyday happenings in a small, yet extraordinary/dynamic company.

Growing Without Pain

Growing Without Pain

They say if you're not growing, you're dying (I don't actually know who says that besides my Dad who repeated it often)….but these days, I'm definitely living because I'm growing!

I wasn't planning on growing. In fact, I emphatically said to many people that I don't WANT to grow my business!  But I started to change my perspective after reading EMyth late last year. Since then, I've been noodling on their ideas about purpose, vision, blah, blah, blah. The primary message of that book (for me) is that when you get clarity on what you want out of life, you can get clearer on what you want out of your business...and when you get clearer on that, you begin seeing how so much of what you're spending your time on is not getting you more of what you really want

So what I really want is to have long-lasting relationships with awesome clients. And to conduct really cool research with them so that we're all learning…and growing. 

And to do that flawlessly, I am finally realizing I can't do everything by myself. I need help.  Wow, I said it. And, a few months after deciding this, I DO have help…in the form of 2 full-time employees. And, it's awesome. Yippeee!!! I know not everyone has awesome employees but I can honestly say that for all the waiting and grumbling about having them, I am pretty darn blessed, lucky, whatever you want to say. Because I found 2 who are extremely bright, responsible, and passionate, and they're helping me grow in ways I wasn't expecting.  

Meet my new team:  

Mayuri Joshi, 

whose official title is Research Magician because she's helping me magically turn consumer learnings into insightful stories with recommendations. 

And Talia Short, 

who is my Chief Wrangler and manages the important details that make or break a project as well as my daily office happenings. I'm loving their fresh passion and hard-working spirit.

AND, I've been working on defining a business plan amidst a busy research season and found this slideshare powerpoint, which has provided more motivation and information about how to go about taking a business a small business to the next level from Adele Barlow.

Now, back to work and on to more growth!