Interview with Gary S. Laben, CEO Research Now SSI - English Version

We will not Compete with Agencies

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Gary S. Laben, CEO Research Now SSI
© Research Now SSI
Gary S. Laben, CEO Research Now SSI
The merger of the two panel operators Research Now and SSI raises many questions. The CEO of the newly created company, Gary S. Laben, answers some of them exclusively to planung&analyse. The good news: the newly formed group does not want to compete with full-service institutes, but rather show new customers new ways of optimizing their marketing activities through direct access to the voice of their customers.

Mr. Laben, congrats to the successful merger and the job as the head of the new company Research Now SSI. It was a merger of equals. When two people move in together and share one household, some things become superfluous. So, what are the main things, you have to get rid off in the next month?
The Research Now SSI merger is a merger of equals: Two industry leaders bringing together highly complementary capabilities and operations for the primary strategic objective of growth. While we are now assessing certain areas where there is overlap, the intent of the merger is to build and expand. Now that we are united, our range of data and technology is unparalleled in marketing research services and we intend to maintain and innovate upon our unique suite of offerings. That said, in the future we will not need duplicative operating systems such as finance, production and delivery systems. We are now working to harmonize them and because it will take some time, duplicates will not be eliminated within a month.

How many people will lose their jobs? The industry estimates around 400. I think this will only count for the US? How will the situation in Germany look like?
As stated above, our merger is a strategic one, focused on growth possibilities based on mutual and complementary strengths. With the coming together of the two companies we expect that there will be some overlap in roles , but our goal is to retain the best talent in the industry. And, we expect that with our focus on expanding beyond the market research industry, the merger will create new opportunities and result in the creation of new roles.

Will Chris Fanning, CEO of SSI, also remain with the company? What position will he be holding?
Chris will continue to be involved in a new role, as strategic advisor to the Board. In this capacity, he will assist both in helping the integration efforts as well as providing guidance on our future strategy and direction. SSI has launched its new SSI Suite this autumn, some of these are DIY tools. Similar to Research Now, who recently launched such a tool on the market. The same applies to instruments to improve the quality of surveys. Will there be a battle between the systems after the fight for jobs? Or will both systems continuously be used?
We have planned for the merger for some time and are implementing a highly disciplined integration process to ensure a transition to a unified organization and a unified set of tools as seamlessly as possible. We are currently assessing our product and service offerings, and our customers will be the first to know of any changes. We are committed to providing customers with high levels of service, data quality consistency, and value in a highly coordinated and well-communicated way.

What about the basic services established by Research Now in India and SSI in Romania? Who will have to leave?
SSI already maintains both Indian and Romanian locations, so we will not be choosing one of these countries over another. Each location provides very specific services, both regionally and globally. We will continue to provide customers with high levels of service, data quality consistency, and value. If we make any changes to how we deploy services, our employees and our customers will be the first to know.

You say you offer marketing services that show insights based on the actual voice of the consumer. With such a platform, you want to offer new customers new ways to optimize their marketing performance. However, this will put you in strong competition with your existing customers, the market research agencies. Right? Don't you worry about trouble in the industry?
Our intent is not to duplicate what market research agencies provide or to compete with them. They offer many capabilities that are unique and valued by their clients. Our goal is to offer more choice of services based on quality data that is both broad and deep and innovative technology that can complement and augment their offerings to their clients. In terms of insights based on actual voice of the customer, we are looking beyond the research industry to the broader marketing services and advertising services companies. Marketers and advertisers – who are struggling to deliver on the promise of big data and to deliver personalized messages and offers in real-time that -- have been looking for a better way, based on data. The missing link has been the absence of verified, opted-in data from real people. Our data – deeply attributed – integrated with various other kinds of data can yield new sources of insights based on real-time consumer sentiment.

Bob Lederer, insight expert of the industry, estimates that the new company has a turnover of 630 million US dollars and believes the two owners are looking for a buyer for this big panel provider. How do you deal with such rumors towards your employees?
We do not comment on speculation, whether external or internal.
Gary S. Laben
is CEO of the merged panel provider Research Now SSI. Previously, he held the same position at Research Now Group, Inc. since March 2016 and has more than 25 years of experience in market research and data analysis. Prior to that, he held various executive positions at Wunderman Inc. and Knowledge Base Marketing Inc.
The decisions made (name of the company & selection of CEO) are part of the first steps. What will be your next steps towards successfully merging not only the company but the corporate cultures?
In many ways the two companies are already culturally rather similar. And for good reason: There are many employees who have worked at both companies over the years. Creating a successful culture following a large company merger, however, is not about trying to preserve every cultural value from each previously separate company. Rather it is about creating the culture you want to see emerge from the combination of the two organizations, and that is one of my first priorities.We all are extremely excited about the singular value proposition of Research Now SSI. The very positive feedback I have received from our employees and customers is creating great energy and a promising start to building our new culture and our future together.

Mr. Laben, thank you very much for the interview.

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