I started thinking about a new website and my first-time blog almost a year ago, at the onset of COVID. I recall that “Hey, the world is coming to an end, might as well put this message in a bottle now” as my mindset at the time.
I isolated. The economy missed a few beats. Projects got canceled. Some got done at cut rates. Yet I and we all adjusted to a new normal. It did give me time to think, however.
I have had an odd career. When I was a kid growing up in BF rural Idaho, they told me “you can expect to have 5 or 6 careers,” which sounded quite funny to a truck driver’s kid surrounded by farmers.
But they were right. 1) I held an analyst job in a Federal agency. 2) I was research director for a huge association. 3) I was managing editor for a couple publications. 4) I held upper-management-ish jobs in a big retail trade association and an even bigger healthcare society. 5) I founded a reasonably successful dot-com. 6) I headed one of the largest charity direct mail fundraising operations in the US. 7) I was account supervisor in a mid-sized marketing agency.
8) Then I turned 40 and became a consultant. And I chose to focus on … research.
I still remember how jarring the shift was in the first few months. I went from having 15 staff, at least 8 meetings a day, maybe 100 emails of significance I had to respond to … to no staff, no meetings, a couple meaningful emails a day.
And yet I’ve always been busy. Looking back over the past 16 years and a freelance life before that and I’ve churned out maybe 500 studies with 420 clients, the equivalent of writing maybe 120 books on member and attendee behavior, engagement, industry issues and performance. It’s fascinating work because of the differences across each industry and profession you serve, it’s bearable because the similarities between you mean the same methods work well time after time.
I still can’t quite get over the feeling that I’m your nerd, the statistician who sits on the end of the bench maintaining the shot chart, but I also have enough experience doing what you do, and doing it well, that I don’t mind the supporting role. I learned from being a journalist, leader, analyst, and marketer that research works best when you maintain a real-world perspective. Focus on finding out what you don’t know but need to, then fill in the gaps, and make sure you understand the implications.