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dallas market research

Road Stories on how Married Couples go into Business Together Lesson #3

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Road Stories on how Married Couples go into Business Together Lesson #3

Working for my wife has its challenges. In my last blog I talked about how it’s particularly fun when you quickly discover that your new role involves knowing the subtleties of what and how your wife likes her coffee. You will be getting a lot of that for her until you figure out how to bring in some bacon.

What’s positive about being married and working together is the flexibility. Although things get crazy at times and the ride is much less predictable, there is more flexibility in scheduling time off. Gone are the days when I had to disappoint her with the response that I can’t take an opportunistic four-day weekend, because I’ve used my corporate accrual allotment of vacation year-to-date. Like a lot of corporate terms, it’s hard to know what that means exactly but it’s safe to say that you’re screwed.   

I’m learning to be more grateful for the times that we can sneak away.

So, in this post I wanted to simply make that point, and share some photos I took of our trip we took to Cancun for her “birthday week”. Thank you, Marriott reward points!

Enjoy!

Boy that water is a pretty blue.

Boy that water is a pretty blue.

And the sunsets are stunning above the sea

And the sunsets are stunning above the sea

April was pretty darn relaxed

April was pretty darn relaxed

And able to spend quality time with Autumn

And able to spend quality time with Autumn

My daughter thinks she is Moana

My daughter thinks she is Moana

And did her happy dance every day of the trip

And did her happy dance every day of the trip

April’s perspective:

When can I go back?

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How to Love Spring Cleaning

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How to Love Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again. There’s something primitive in the sense we get come springtime. Maybe we’re just wired this way. Spring brings with it a desire to clean house, to get rid of the stuff. The stuff that has magically survived the selection process and found what seems to be a permanent home in our garage, closet or pantry. We used it before, a long time ago, and it would really come in handy if that time ever came again. Yet it hasn’t, so it just sits and waits another day.

Here at ABRG, there are two things that describe us well: we love research, and we love learning about how to be more efficient (try running a thriving boutique research firm with four people and you’ll understand why). Recently, we had the opportunity to do both. While in an ideation workshop with a client, we conducted a practice brainstorming exercise on the topic of spring cleaning. To get people geared up and in the mode of ideation, we typically have them practice on an off-topic, non-business subject that’s ripe for multiple ideas.

The topic of spring cleaning fits well, so we asked them to come up with as many ideas they could on “what’s a creative way you could attack a spring cleaning exercise”? To set the stage we give them some guidance on how to keep coming up with ideas:

Lightbulb
  1. Land on something, and think of other solutions
  2. Wish list it – what could I do if….
  3. If you feel that you can’t relate, think of who you could ask
  4. Work individually first, then as a group
  5. When you’re stuck, move around or talk to someone

The answers were creative, practical, and fun!

A good ideation generates multiple ideas without judging them on whether they are good or bad, because sometimes the crazy ideas lead to break-throughs of innovation.

  • Live in a hotel.
  • Open a bottle of wine.
  • Make the kids do it.
  • Buy stock in cleaning companies.
  • Ask Alexa.

Some responses had themes of minimalism, which ironically asserts that happiness is achieved in life by having less, not more. The less stuff we fill our space and lives with, the more we are open to things that really matter – time with family, focused effort on our passions, appreciation of our surroundings. One blog we follow at ABRG is Becoming Minimalist. If you follow the thread of minimalism you’ll recognize these suggestions to overcome decluttering:

  1. If you haven’t used it in three months/one year, throw it out.
  2. Does it bring you joy?
  3. Don’t start reminiscing.
  4. Would it be that hard to replace?
  5. Have I worn it in 2 months?

Some ideas had efficiency in mind, how to get through the emotionally tough nature of the process in a way that works. At ABRG, we follow Asian Efficiency and have gotten a ton of great advice through their resources over the past few years. There were some good ideas on how to best go about it:

  • Go room by room.
  • Clean as you go.
  • Hire people and give them each a room.
  • Go through the out-of-site, out-of-mind places.
  • Make someone else go through your stuff and throw out anything that doesn’t look good.
  • Buy storage bins with labels – prioritize what you store, and once the bin is full throw out the rest.

This year, we’re going to make this painful process more fun and efficient by tossing in a few of these ideas. We hope you pick up a few tips that help you, too!

 

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What do Teenagers and the QRCA Conference have in Common?

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What do Teenagers and the QRCA Conference have in Common?

 I recently had the opportunity to attend my first Qualitative Researcher Consultants Association (QRCA) annual conference. I don’t typically consider myself the conference type but I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet people in our industry and learn about the hottest trends. In these situations I usually find myself being overly skeptical thinking I won’t learn as much as I hope to or make connections that will be beneficial to our business. The fact that my boss (April) was also attending made me feel slightly better about sitting in a room full of strangers that I would soon need to be friends with. 

The primary purpose of me attending the conference was to assist April as she gave a presentation to her peers; however, I ended up walking away feeling like I got much more value out of the experience than I expected. April’s presentation (A Framework That Works: Design Thinking + Montessori Principles to Elevate Your Practice) went off without a hitch – which immediately made months of hard work seem like one of the most rewarding tasks we completed last year. You never know how people will react to new material and the moment you see the excitement and passion in the faces, it makes it worth every revision we made.

Design Thinking Exercise

What surprised me most about April’s presentation was how engaged the participants were. When you’ve been reviewing the content for 5+ months leading up to the conference, it’s easy to forget that this content is new for most viewers. During the presentation, she conducted a Design Thinking exercise that required participants to partner up and “build” a prototype of their idea. I was amazed at how serious some took this exercise but loved their willingness to engage with a stranger as they learned about the Design Thinking process. I think it made the awkward “eh, I have to work with someone I don’t know” situation fun and entertaining for most.  

Teen Press

Another highlight of the conference was the Keynote Presentation – Teen Press: A Wild and Precious Perspective – given by John Boettner & Friends. This was an unforgettable experience that brought a unique perspective to the work we do and the world we live in. John, the Chief Enchantment Officer of Teen Press, discussed how he turned a middle school communications class into a group of teenagers interviewing some of the hottest celebrities on red carpets. Not only did they engage with celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence, Oprah, Clint Eastwood to name a few) but they also interviewed some of the most interesting living Americans (for example, the commander of the Osama Bin Laden mission, a woman who held President Obama’s hand across the bridge in Selma, and a young Rwandan who lost his hands to genocide). 

Teen Press teaches kids how to listen to peoples’ stories and ask honest questions – although they’re sometimes difficult to ask and answer. By pushing the kids to conduct pre-interview research, they entered their interviews with a sense of confidence that many times shocked the respondent and made them more likely to engage. This program inspires kids to think: “if I can talk to the CEO of Patagonia, I can do anything”. John’s presentation was such a welcomed breath of fresh air in the world we’re currently living in. These kids don’t care who voted red or blue, they just want to know about people and what makes them different. The kids weren’t there to judge the interviewee, and the interviewee wasn’t there to judge the kids. They were both there to learn. These kids are so admirable for their dedication and openness to learning about others. Something I strive to do myself – in and out of research. Who knew you could learn so much from kids?

Here is a short clip on Teen Press, but if you have some extra time I highly recommend watching the full Teen Press video (~30 minutes) to get the full experience of how great these kids and this program is. 

So while I still don’t consider myself the conference type, I’m so glad I attended. I walked away with a perspective I wasn’t expecting – if you go into these “uncomfortable” situations with an open mind, you are much more likely to learn more than you initially thought and meet some really interesting people. I guess sitting with strangers isn’t so bad after all. 

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Road Stories on how Married People go into Business Together

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Road Stories on how Married People go into Business Together

After telling some of our close friends over the holidays about our plan for Lloyd to join the business, and seeing their wide-eyed worried expressions, we decided we should probably talk about how we might work together…and stay married! 

Success Is

April’s perspective: I approached our “vision of how we will work together” in the same way I plan any other work project. Thinking about: “What do we want to accomplish?”  “What are the tools we could use to help the discussion flow?”  “What does success look like?”  “What is the agenda?”

We packed ourselves up and headed to a location away from home with all of our materials – flip charts, post-its, magazines and markers.  Our objective was to create a shared vision for the company and what our roles would be. 

Over the years, I’ve discovered several sources to help with vision/strategy planning; all of them are great in different ways. The first exercise was to review each and come back together to align on the best approach. Some of the sources we had available were:

  1. 90 Day Year by Todd Herman

  2. Lara Casey’s Powersheets

  3. Self-Authoring  

  4. Marie Forleo

  5. Lululemon’s Vision Worksheet

I was excited and optimistic when we got back together. Books and materials were all over the table, and I could tell this was going to be a good conversation. Lloyd started first.  He said “so what I’ve discovered is that our word for the year should be ‘intentionality’ and I’ve identified two main areas that we need to focus on to be more productive.” All the air went out of my sails, and I sat there for several long seconds trying to grasp at how I would respond, because he clearly did not stick to the plan of aligning on the best approach but instead, jumped to a conclusion!

intentionality

We had to stray from the agenda for about 10 minutes to work through this style difference, but we made it to the other side.

After getting past my initial reaction, I knew what he said was exactly what was needed for the business - he’s very proficient at coming to solid conclusions quickly, and doesn’t feel the need to review every angle before deciding. This is exactly the skill we need … although it wasn’t what I expected from an exploratory vision exercise.

Lloyd’s perspective: It didn't take long to see that there were similar patterns in these different methodologies, so let’s just cut to the chase here and identify the big levers that are going to move the needle for us most. Boom, done!

Married Couple working together lesson #1: we need to be open-minded toward the other person’s way of thinking. We have different strengths, and our approaches are not the same but can be complimentary when we have patience.

Stay Tuned….more lessons to come…

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What I Valued Most about a Boutique Agency's Values

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What I Valued Most about a Boutique Agency's Values

Going in to my internship at April Bell Research Group (ABRG), I didn’t know what to expect. I liked that ABRG was part of a Women in Business (WIB) cohort in Dallas because as an Economics and Math major, I see myself in business. What I didn’t know was how interning at a Marketing Research boutique agency would correlate with my strengths, interests, and plans for the future.

April Bell Research Group

What I discovered during my internship with ABRG is that I had found a place to combine my strengths with the company’s values, and it was a great experience!

Learning for Growth

“Learning to grow” was one of the values practiced continuously at ABRG, and I was lucky enough to be a part of applying this learning process. 

Specifically, many of the projects I worked on this summer involved growing ABRG’s online presence. They included the following:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    • SEO increases your ranking and visibility in Search Engines, predominantly Google. I learned and executed my learnings about SEO on ABRG’s website in hopes of propelling ABRG’s online presence.  

  • Affiliate Linking

    • April and her team enjoy sharing with other women, small businesses, researchers, etc. what they have learned.  And many online resources encourage sharing by creating a way to earn a small commission for services and products they believe in.  Her favorite affiliate to share is Asian Efficiency’s productivity content– specifically their Ritual Course has been the backbone of a lot of the team’s growth over the last year.

  • Online Courses

    • ABRG has been asked by researchers the past few years to teach specific moderating and facilitation skills. I worked on researching the technical ins-and-outs of creating an online course so that when the time comes, ABRG can move forward with launching a successful course for researchers!

“Pit Crew” Teamwork

It’s clear that April & co. work well together as a team.  They often refer to themselves as a “pit crew”!  The company-wide effort to re-do ABRG’s website this summer involved a lot of teamwork. Everyone’s strengths were utilized for different parts of this project and we relied on each other to understand the bigger picture. The video below is the inspiration behind how ABRG aspires to work together in the most efficient manner.

This Summer, teamwork looked like:

  • Being OK with Not Knowing
    • Sometimes asking for help is hard, but I found it beneficial to our overall goal because I learned more when I asked. This new definition of teamwork – the one open to asking for direction – has reframed my thinking about asking questions and given me a new perspective on collaboration.
  • Getting Unstuck Together
    • A lot of the online work I learned about was not only new to me but also to ABRG. When none of us knew how to do something or what to do next, we brainstormed. This helped me because it provided direction to move forward. Recognizing that being “stuck” is part of the process to move forward early on this summer helped me be successful at ABRG.
  • Meeting Participation
    • Having everyone else’s perspective as well as my own at our meetings helped move along projects effectively and efficiently. Thus, teamwork is also about being open to other’s perspectives AND offering my own ideas, which helps a project be as successful as it can be.
April Bell Research Group

ABRG utilized teamwork to raise the bar on what it could do for its new website and yielded successful results.

The projects I worked on this summer had many values instilled within them. The values of “learning to grow” and “pit crew teamwork” have taken on new meanings for me and were key to the positive experience I had in my internship. Because these values were at the core of ABRG, they were also instilled my mindset and my work, and I feel like I flourished this summer. 

By: Cecilia Esquivel, 2016 ABRG Summer Intern, Emory University

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

ABRG BLOG

Jeffrey Johns of Northstar consulting recently presented on “Using Insight Innovation to Re-Invent a 247-Year Old Institution” at the 2016 QRCA Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research. His investigation piqued our interest and made us want to dig deeper to understand his methods and findings. The Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy  is one of the most significant and unique visual experiences in the world due to the combination of works from emerging and established artists. However, since its inception in 1769, the structure of the exhibit has remained largely unchanged. But for the upcoming 250th Summer Exhibition, London’s Royal Academy intends to make changes that incorporate the needs of a new generation of visitors as well as other trends from our changing world.

Consulted for their expertise on customer-related research, Northstar was brought in to help The Royal Academy as it moves forward with its redesign. Northstar’s undertaking of this project was unique because The Royal Academy had never consulted with researchers before, thus making the collection and presentation of findings original and unfamiliar. In fact, Northstar’s insights were reflected in the 247th Summer Exhibition in 2015 and visitor volume and art sales were noticeably higher; a good indicator of the impact they will have on the 250th anniversary. The study itself was unique because of its short timeframe and methods used, unlike those commonly used in ethnographic research where experiments are long and data collection is extensive. Northstar’s goal with this immersive research was to provide consumer insights that could make the Summer Exhibition more popular and enjoyable.

Northstar conducted its research within the institution and yielded 16 hours of data and 400 photographs. Their qualitative, ethnographic approach included methods such as listening in on visitors’ conversations, observing gestures/interaction of visitors with art, and conducting ‘non-interview-like’ conversations with visitors. The research uncovered trends such as “Visitor control”, “family”, and “divergence” which rose to the top across many exhibit visitors. But how does this help the London Royal Academy? What do these trends mean? “Visitor control” meant that visitors liked that they weren’t guided through the exhibition and were free explore on their own. “Family” referred to the fact that the exhibition has become well known to families who have made visiting the exhibition a tradition. “Divergence” showed that the combination of both emerging and establishing artists is a positive for the exhibit because it reflects inclusivity. By understanding these trends, the Royal Academy will have a better understanding of what is needed for the redesign of the Summer Exhibition.

Northstar’s innovative research methods provide d actionable insights for an institution that did not formerly utilize qualitative research. Utilizing qualitative research may be something that the London Royal Academy will continue to do given its increase in art sales and visitor volume since changes reflecting the trends of control, family and divergence were made. Entering uncharted territory was a success for Northstar because this unique methodology resulted in positive outcomes for their client; indicating that innovative methods could be advantageous and should be implemented in other non-typical areas.

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Millennials vs. Generation Edge

Millennials vs. Generation Edge

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.05.03 PM

I came across some interesting research from The Sound over the weekend – the differences between Millennials and Generation Edge and how to market to them. First, let me define. Millennials are described as those born between 1981 and 1996 who grew up during the dotcom boom and the global warming crisis. Generation Edge is the group born between 1995 and the present, who have only known a world on the edge of collapse (economic, political, environmental and social). The research describes how vastly different these two generations are, and I found it very interesting. Unlike Millennials, Generation Edge is being forced to grow up quicker than their predecessors and they know that nothing in life is guaranteed. The last quote of the deck was especially interesting from a marketing standpoint - "Marketing to Millenials resulted in an endless quest for brand authenticity. Generation Edge will be engaged by another 'A' word. The alternative."

The generation after Millennials are NOT like Millennials: We call them Generation Edge

from The Sound.

Safely Connected...How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place

Safely Connected...How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place

I was excited to hear about some amazing new technology from AT&T that is currently in the early testing phases. Stefanie Elder delivered a presentation about How AT&T Is Using Consumer Insights to Help Seniors Age in Place.

There are over 40 million seniors in the United States. Most of them face the reality of having to move into an assisted living facility at some point in time - only a few are able to stay in their homes with full time care. AT&T found that the vast majority of seniors would much rather stay in their own home yet lack the care or help they might need.

This is where AT&T is stepping in with Digital Life - a security system and home automation that includes video monitoring and sensors that will make it possible for seniors to stay put in their homes. Some of the most innovative features will utilize sensors - one of which will keep track of when the person gets out of bed and alerts someone (via mobile technology) if they don't. Monitoring for the system will be available 24/7 via web or app access.

They are currently testing this technology, in partnership with Burke, which is available to AT&T employees and their families. They are collecting feedback from seniors and their caregivers who are in many different situations - giving them a broad range of ideas and possibilities for the future. With this new technology, the future of seniors is looking pretty bright!