TRC is celebrating 30 years in business…a milestone to be sure.
Being a numbers guy, I did a quick search to see how likely it is for a business to survive 30 years. Only about 1 in 5 make it to 15 years, but there isn’t much data beyond that. Extrapolation beyond the available data range is dangerous, but it seems likely that less than 10% of businesses ever get to where we are. To what do I owe this success then?
It goes without saying that building strong client relationships and having great employees are critical. But I think there are three things that are key to having both those things:
I’ve always felt that researchers need to be curious and I’d say the same for Entrepreneurs. Obviously being curious about your industry will bring value, but even curiosity about subjects that have no obvious tie in can lead to innovation. For example, by learning more about telemarketing I discovered digital recording technology and applied it to our business to improve quality.
When we started installed a PC network (very rare in 1987) in our call center. In the 90’s we had hundreds of seats in four call centers, but we realized the web was the future. Not only was it faster and cheaper but it would allow us to conduct complex studies like discrete choice conjoint much more efficiently. These and other changes required that we invest money (and sometimes write off past investments) and go outside our comfort zone, but had we failed to embrace them we likely wouldn’t be here today.
I’ve always loved the adage that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You can certainly prepare and you can do things to increase the chances of opportunity, but that doesn’t mean things will always work out. Just as important is recognizing a lucky break when you get it. It won’t always be what you were expecting. Which brings us back to being curious and willing to embrace change.
A quick anecdote that I think illustrates my point:
When we were getting ready to start the business I contacted someone I knew at a Philadelphia agency to see if they could help with staffing our call center. He suggested we contact the PCDC (Philadelphia Capital Development Corporation). We didn’t think we needed more capital and didn’t really want to go into debt, but we met with them. They explained to us why we in fact needed more money, offered a loan and matching bank financing and also helped us find a place to set up shop.
Six months in our business was much more successful than we’d ever dreamed of and as a result cash flow nearly bankrupt us. If we didn’t have the PCDC and bank funds we would not have made it to one year, let alone thirty. Luck gave us the opportunity to talk to PCDC, Curiosity caused us to take the meeting and Embracing Change allowed us to accept the funds (that we still were not sure we needed).
I am so thankful for this and other lucky breaks that we’ve gotten. I’m just as thankful for the many clients and employees who have driven our success. I’m thrilled that so many of them have stayed with us for all or a good part of this ride AND I look forward to what the future has in store.
Rich brings a passion for quantitative data and the use of choice to understand consumer behavior to his blog entries. His unique perspective has allowed him to muse on subjects as far afield as Dinosaurs and advanced technology with insight into what each can teach us about doing better research.