About Steve: With over 30 years of market research experience, Steve Schlesinger is a captain of industry, bringing passion and innovation to his role as the CEO of Schlesinger Group, one of the worlds leading data collection companies. From business strategy, team development, and research, Steve has established himself as a thought leader within MRX.
In addition to his role as CEO, Steve is an active member of Insights Association (co-founding the Insights Association CEO Summit), AMA, ESOMAR, and Intellus, while serving on the board of directors of Inspire.com, HR Acuity, and Bibo Barmaid. He is also on the advisory board of The University of Vermont Foundation and Michigan State University Master of Science in Marketing Research Program.
In 2015, Steve received the MRA (Insights Association) Honorary Lifetime Member award for his commitment to outstanding individual service to the Marketing Research Association and the marketing research profession.
Steve is a dedicated philanthropist, acting as a founding member of the Market Research Education Foundation with the mission of unifying, inspiring, and activating the marketing research community to focus its collective resources to educate children and youth worldwide.
In this installment of Executive Insights, Steve sits down with Rudly Raphael to share his personal experiences and perspectives on the market research industry.
If you could travel back in time to 2015, what advice or recommendations would you give yourself? What would you do differently?
I would have moved quicker into growing our quantitative capabilities as well as streamlining our client experience. I think one of the greatest challenges in leading an organization is your view of the future and how you take on risks. When you do this well, you find yourself in a great position. We did this quite a bit on the qualitative front back then and should have moved faster on quant.
How has this year impacted your relationship with customers and employees?
The impact of Covid-19 and our inability to see both our team and clients in person has created a different feel to what we are used to. I believe we have done it well overall, but it still has an impact on that engagement. I do think it is critical to stay connected a bit more, really understand the world they are living in, and that is both professionally and personally. This has impacted people, and we need to be supportive related to that.
What is the first thing you do before you start your workday routine?
Typically take a walk and get an iced coffee – my ritual.
What do you like and dislike about working remotely or from home?
I have been working remotely for a good portion of the week for years, so that part is fine. The challenge is more around when I do go to work now there are only a few people there. And that is only more recently. I miss the social parts of seeing my team – the casual conversations, the water cooler talk, etc.
How does your learning style impact your decision making?
My learning style is centered around reading and talking to lots of different people in my life, both in the industry and outside of it. I am a big believer in having a broad group of colleagues who provide different perspectives from different experiences and then apply that learning to what I do. As for my decision making, it is based upon lots of inputs – my personal experiences, the things I have learned along the way, the feedback/perspectives from others related to those decisions, etc.
Was there an experience that changed the trajectory of your career?
It is hard to point to one experience, but I have to say I have gotten a lot out of my involvement in the insights industry. And when I think about that, I think about my start as a board member of the Insights Association (then called MRA). I learned a ton, met some great people, made some long-lasting friendships, and it helped me get further involved with our industry.
What hobbies and interests outside of work have indirectly
benefited your career?
Early-stage investing, philanthropy, and playing sports (keeps you competitive).
What is your definition of success?
Success can be measured in many ways, and I think of it in that way. It is financial metrics, it is enjoyment, it is excitement in what you are doing, it is looking forward to Monday mornings.
When do you trust your instincts over data?
I rely on data a ton, but there is always the element of instinct that plays into decision making. I would say these instincts play an even bigger role as you grow in experiences. This comes into play a lot when it comes to building a strategy and contemplating the future.
Do you fear failure? What advice do you have for people facing setbacks?
Failure is real, and it is just as important as success. It is another time to learn. I don’t fear failure, and I try to instill that belief in my entire organization. We need to take risks to grow, and with that will come failure.
What characteristics do you value in a team?
I have an amazing leadership team and a great group of advisors that support both my organization and me. They are smart, thoughtful, and hard-working people. We keep things transparent and open so that there is a real environment for sharing and challenging what we are trying to accomplish.
What is your favorite book?
Good to Great by Jim Collins.
What drew you into the market research industry?
My mother – she was in it since I was 3. Not intentional that I wound up here, but I am sure happy I did.
How do you stay on top of the latest industry trends?
I read a ton of daily/weekly e-blogs as well as a number of monthly trades. Of course, conferences and conversations with colleagues also feed me well.
Would you prefer building a home from the ground up or buying a fixer-upper and remodeling?
I have done both, and they are both challenging experiences – they take patience and creativity. I love doing construction projects and can talk about that forever.
If you could step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I have not?
I think you covered this well. The one additional comment I would make is that careers are journeys no different than life is one. It has twists and turns, ups and downs, and I try to enjoy it all. Why not is what I always say.