As the congratulatory notices began pinging me from LinkedIn contacts, it dawned on me that this May I am celebrating 12 years as a self-employed confidant consultant. I left the corporate world for various personal and professional reasons and for the most part, am pleased with my decision, despite the lack of a consistent bank deposit that most of you enjoy on the 1st and 15th of every month.
Personally, 12 years ago my kids were at the cusp of their teenage years. While lots of moms I’ve known thought it was vital to stay home and bond with Junior when he was young, I felt my kids needed me around more as they grew older. (OK, in all fairness, neither of my kids ever felt as if they needed me around unless they wanted money or a ride, so it was probably MY need to be around them that changed my career direction.) Working from home and selecting clients with projects that melded well with my kid’s schedules seemed to be the perfect marriage of latchkey prevention and my own sanity preservation. (And speaking of a perfect marriage, did I mention that my husband was also travelling three days a week for several of those same very busy preteen and teenage years?)
Professionally, I had done the corporate thing for a long time. Big companies, small companies. Client side and vendor side. I had both bought and sold research services since the early 80’s so I felt supremely qualified to hawk my goods, mostly with the message that you could get the same level of work done by me as you would have gotten if you hired the companies I used to work for. Only now, with much less expense and many fewer hoops to jump through. I was (and still am) on the clock 24/7, and as most self-employed folks will tell you, working harder and often more hours than before, usually under the cloak of darkness. But because it’s on my terms, it doesn’t seem quite as grueling as some 9 to 5 jobs, plus, no hour long commute in traffic!
However, because I sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements on virtually every project, I am not able to list most of my more prominent clients on my website. The work I do is behind the scenes, in the shadows, often on a sub-contract basis, making it impossible for me to brag about all the wonderful products and services my research has helped to shape these past twelve years. But I can list some of the types of qualitative and quantitative research projects I’ve done while wearing my consultant cap, in hopes that you can see I am quite qualified to do the same for you. For example:
- An international white board manufacturer wanted to conduct new product development and usability studies among teachers across the United States
- A national master planned community developer wanted to conduct research among prospective buyers and prominent area Realtors to determine what neighborhood features and elements in a home were most important. Because this was done across several markets in the US, we were able to compare and contrast regional similarities and differences
- A small two-man company developed a cutting edge product for use on construction sites. In order to obtain investor backing, they needed hands-on testing in simulated settings by various tradesmen, proving the product worked well and would fill a need
- A developer and operator of luxury destination resorts sought feedback among recent visitors to several properties. Some projects involved measuring the customer satisfaction experience while other projects tested interest in real estate and investment opportunities
- Several regional and national home builders have used my research services to conduct exit interviews among recent visitors to their communities, evolving into SWOT and competitor analyses
- A glove manufacturer sought feedback on new designs among several hard to reach industrial end users
- A door lock manufacturer wanted to gauge interest in various models of keyless electronic products that would work with existing home operations systems
- A fiber manufacturer wanted a segmentation study of their existing and potential customer groups in order to develop targeted communications campaigns
So yes, I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years. I’ve asked about everything from how they hold a hammer or wear a glove to how they buy a home, how they like to vacation or how they liked the restaurant they patronized last night. If it can be asked, I’ve probably asked it. And then turned those responses into actionable answers for my clients, all the while keeping everyone’s identity a secret.
Except mine. I’m Sally. Sally Markham.