One researcher says enough’s enough

Editor’s note: Ron Sellers is founder of Phoenix-based Grey Matter Research LLC.

After nearly a quarter-century in the research business, I have finally come to two very important conclusions: 1) I can’t do it all; 2) That’s okay.

You see, I’m told daily by various e-mails, ads and social media posts that I’ve got to do more. I need to learn about mobile MR, eye-tracking, social media sampling and a host of other methodologies that are changing our industry. I need to have a fabulous Web page for my company. I have to do search-engine optimization or all those potential new clients will never have the chance to see our site in the first place. I need to blog more and read more industry blogs. I need to be more active on LinkedIn and build far beyond my paltry 250 contacts. I need to attend various industry conferences and sign up for Webinars. I need to be better at sales. I need to leverage social media, tweeting and Digging and Facebooking ‘til I drop, because that’s where the real action is.

Oh, and somewhere in all of this, I also need to get my client work done, run the business, go to the gym, raise a daughter, maintain a happy marriage, take care of my mother, stay in touch with old friends, be an informed voter and eat more fiber.

I think this all finally hit me when someone told me that the company Web site does not work properly on one of the many browsers that are available to Web surfers. My first reaction was, “Great, I have to figure out what’s wrong, consult with a technical guru and get this thing fixed now. How did I let that slip through the cracks? Maybe I should finally buy Dreamweaver and have a pro develop the skin. I need to start researching that this weekend.”

But then something happened. I was already sitting in a hotel room a couple blocks from the White House, speaking at a conference thousands of miles away from my family. I had made some good contacts at this conference and was planning how and when to follow up with them, given the fact that I was on the road the next week moderating in three different cities. Oh, and trying to get a quantitative report finalized for another client. And planning a publicity campaign for the company. And responding to a number of RFPs. And lamenting that I had fallen behind on reading my industry blog posts. And needing to respond to a couple of LinkedIn connection requests. And thinking of the stack of Quirk’s I just haven’t gotten to quite yet. And trying to figure out how to fit in the vehicle clinic if that project comes through, along with the branding research for the sports team, and …

I finally said, “Enough.” I’m tired of going to bed each night frustrated at how many things are still not done. I’ve had enough of feeling like I’ve failed somehow, because even though my business was profitable and my clients were quite satisfied, I could have done more. I no longer want to leave a conference lamenting that even though I made three new valuable contacts, I could have made four or five or 10 new contacts. I don’t want to feel like I’m being left behind because I’m not an expert in every new methodology that’s out there today (and may not be out there tomorrow).

No matter the size of the company you’re in and no matter whether you’re on the supplier side (like me) or the client side, you can always do more. And you can always put more pressure on yourself to do more and feel more like a slacker or even a failure if you don’t.

In this industry, you need to do a lot. But you also need to come to grips with the fact that you can’t do everything.

All of these activities have merit. I do need a great Web site, I learn a lot from Quirk’s and I do want to learn more about eye-tracking. I just can’t do it all today and I probably can’t do it all tomorrow, either. And I’ve had to learn that’s okay.

I have enough pressure from clients who delayed their decisions by two weeks and now want to accelerate the timeline, from vendors who need feedback right away and from a four-year-old who wants to know why daddy has to fly to Chicago this morning instead of playing Legos with her. I don’t need all the added pressure I put on myself to do more, learn more, connect more, accomplish more. I need to push myself to grow and learn and excel but I also need to establish limits or else nothing I do will ever be enough.

Why am I writing all this? Because I constantly see other people doing the same things I fell prey to: doing more and more and more – and all the time feeling worried or guilty that they’re not doing still more.

If this doesn’t describe you, then I congratulate you on having at least this part of the business figured out. And I apologize for wasting your time with my own complaints. But if what I’m writing here resonates with you, don’t wait until you’ve been in the business 25 years to figure out the two things I did. You can’t do everything. And that’s okay.

So all you folks who want to convince me that if I don’t sign up for your Webinar I’ll look clueless about the Next Great Thing all my clients are going to clamor for … well, for the moment I’ll just have to take that risk. To all of you bloggers trying to push me to increase my social media presence before all my business is stolen away by companies that are following your guidelines, you’ll just have to wait. I’ve got focus groups to moderate, a tracking study to build and too many contacts I haven’t personally spoken with in too long a time. Your ideas have merit, I’m sure. And I hope to get to them soon. But I’m not going to worry if it’s not today. I already put in my 12 hours – enough’s enough.

I’ll try to prioritize what’s most important and attack those things as soon as I can. As for the other stuff, hey, I’m only one person and I have a life. And if I don’t Digg my tweets to the point my Google is optimized (or whatever it is I’m supposed to do), I refuse to feel like a Yahoo!

Now please excuse me – daddy’s got some guilt-free Lego-playing to do.

This entry was posted in Focus Groups, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Research Industry Trends, The Business of Research. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to One researcher says enough’s enough

  1. @Ron, Let me help you. You can cross off “being an informed voter” from your list. Economists have established voting has zero utility.

    Seriously though, you are quite right. It’s all about focus, and I admit I could use help with it as well, but I’m starting to get better. While I did name this group ‘Next Gen Market Research’, my interests areas outside of traditional research really are focused on data mining (both structured and unstructured/text) and how this relates to both surveys and social media.

    I am not really too interested in eye tracking, neuroscience, mobile etc. unless it explicitly impacts my primary interest areas above. You absolutely don’t have to nor should you focus on all these things. Pick one or two of the ones that you really believe in and are passionate about and follow them.

    While I believe a lot of the new techniques out there (including and especially in “social media research”) are total bullshit and will never achieve wide-scale adoption, I am also completely certain that hoping to make a good living on surveys and focus groups in the future would be a stupid move. To me, it’s about big data, and linking our current ‘opinion bases’ research with actual behavior and ultimately $!

    Anyway, no need to think about it too much. World ends tomorrow anyway (


  2. Pingback: NGMR Meme Submission from Quirk

  3. Nice to see this post also inspired an NGMR Meme for the competition! :)

  4. Serghei Dascalu says:

    Thanks, Ron, for sharing. To make your point even more poignant, after reading the piece I hovered my mouse above the “share” button. A small window popped up, reading “share with your friends” and a big list of services, among which GOOGLE TRANSLATE!!!
    For the record: No, Google Translate is not my friend!

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